What Does Homework Have to Do with Conscientiousness?

Did you know that conscientiousness—the desire to do one’s work well and to do it thoroughly—takes a temporary dip in late childhood and early adolescence? However, a study that followed 2,760 students as they transitioned through grades 5 through 8 suggests a way to avoid this dip. Specifically, they found that students who “thoroughly and meticulously” completed their homework did not encounter a dip in their conscientiousness. Instead, they actually exhibited an increase in conscientiousness. In other words, students who invested effort in completely their homework showed greater conscientiousness in 8th grade than in 5th grade. Peers who did not invest in homework showed a decline.

“So what?” you might ask. Well, the benefit of conscientiousness reveals itself in higher incomes, better health, and healthier relationships in adulthood. So, developing this skill as a child and young teen has long-term benefits. That being said, how can you help your child become more diligent in completing their homework? Here are five ideas.

  • Remember whose homework it is. The homework is your child’s responsibility, not your responsibility. Allow them to do their own homework and suffer the consequences of not doing it or doing it haphazardly as well as the consequences of doing it thoroughly and well. Let them the freedom to enjoy the fruits of their labor. This will help them grow a greater sense of autonomy and competence as well. Don’t rob your children of this chance.
  • Your child or adolescent may benefit from a routine time and place in which to complete their homework. Pick a time that works best for them and your family. That may be immediately after school. Some children, however, may need a break after school and complete homework better after that break. Also, pick a place where your child can complete their homework with minimal interruptions. Determine what works best for your child and your family. Then establish a flexible time and place in which they can complete their homework.
  • Appreciate your child’s effort in completing their homework. Acknowledge that they have taken time out of their day to do their homework when they could have been playing outside, watching tv, or playing a video game. Don’t go overboard with the appreciation and praise. Simply observe their effort and their dedication and acknowledge it. Everyone loves a little recognition for their effort.
  • Separate homework from watching TV or playing video games. Don’t watch tv or play video game while doing homework. Your example will provide a strong example in this area. If you sit in front of the TV while reading for work or completing a work task, your child will learn that doing homework in front of the TV is ok. Teach by example.
  • Make homework fun. I know…it sounds crazy, but you can make homework fun. Provide a favorite snack. Turn the homework into game. For instance, you might make it a race that combines time, correct answers, and neatness to achieve a final score. Or you could turn homework into a bonding experience by completing your work tasks in the room where they are completing their homework. You get the idea. Be creative and make homework “fun.”

Five ways you can help your child become more diligent in completing homework…which will translate into greater conscientiousness with all its benefits.

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