Tip: Making Homework Fun

All of us remember those painful days from our unrequited youth of homework.  Maybe it was the seeming never ending story of World War II, perhaps math problems that warped our very being, or the memorization and repetition of spelling words.  Having put those days behind us, it’s so easy to fall in the trap that we’re too busy to help our children through their own mind-bending exhaustion.

However, why not embrace it and take it as an opportunity to have fun and teach our children coping skills while we’re at it?  While my oldest son has homework each and every night that is exhausting and my youngest has weekly homework packets, both are opportunities to have fun.

Make it a team sport

Nothing screams solitude more than sitting in your room while your sibling is running through the house like a maniac, and your parents are laughing at the events of the day.  Humans are social creatures.  We love relating to others, and having others relate to us.  “Misery loves company” is about sharing our experiences.

When the children have homework, try to line up their time to do homework together (if you have more than one).  If one has more homework than the other, this is a great opportunity to have “quiet time” or “productive time”.  Let them increase those reading skills, learn how to program, or engage in a crafting activity.  Don’t stop with the kids.  Take the opportunity to catch up on those pesky administrative things in your life, like bills or clearing out emails, in the same are as them.  Also, consider having a regimented time for this, so it’s just part of your culture as a family.

The goal is both for the kids to know that they aren’t alone, but it also extends into richer communication with everybody helping out when work is especially intense.  There are few things as heart warming as hearing your children root for one another.

Break it to make it

Marathon racer catching cup of water

Homework can take time.  Often times, it can feel like an endurance race.  Just think about how hard it was to write a one page essay on your favorite book for the first time.  I remember sitting at my IBM PCjr (yes .. I just dated myself) trying to type one page for hours.  Just like anybody running a marathon grabbing a cup of water along the race, kids need breaks to.

Feel out a pace with them and make it something that clears their minds.  Oftentimes when we start a homework session, there is a negotiation.

“I’ll give you ten for forty”, I say

Holden replies, “How about ten for thirty?”

“Tell you what.  Ten for thirty-five”, I’ll negotiate down

“Deal”, Holden will accept

He’s negotiating the amount of a break that he gets for work completed.  We end up agreeing that he’ll do 35 minutes of focused work, and will get 10 minutes of completely free time.  That’s time that is not used to clean off the table and time that is not judged by me.  If he wants to play Minecraft, he gets it.  He will have fulfilled his end of the agreement, and thus gets time to clear his head.  While I have not written about it yet, this also gives him a voice .. important for a (pre-)teen.

Breaks don’t always have to be associated with time.  Sometimes, it’s just progress.  My youngest, Archer, gets a packet of homework on the weekends.  Like any seven year old, when he sees a page full of math problems, exhaustion sweeps his body.  The bargain we sometimes make is, for each problem done, he gets a minute of free time.  After he agreed to it, a smile crept across his face and he slammed through them all.  “Do I get 40 minutes?”.  Yes.  That’s the agreement.  Maybe it’ll be 30 seconds for each problem next time, but this gave him that self-motivation to fly through his work.

In fact, when kids have time for breaks, it turns out, they don’t also take them, but it keeps them in good spirits.  Just like that marathon runner, they can measure their progress and the homework doesn’t seem never ending.


No homework? You still have work, kinda.

Homework is a good reflection on the day or week of learning.  Just because they don’t have homework, it’s good to use the time to reflect on the day.  In a later post, I’ll cover reward systems rather than allowance, but for this discussion, just realize that the kids get rewards for good behaviors and chores.  That said, whether they have homework or not, the children have an opportunity to get rewarded for “homework”.

If there is no homework, make it a point to discuss their day.  For Archer, who admittedly has a much lighter homework load, he has to tell me at one thing he learned during the day, and one thing he enjoyed from the day.  This is a great conversation starter, and make him enthusiastic to talk about his day.  Also, it usually reminds him of the reward system (covered in a later post), so he can earn some of his coveted Poke coins.

It’s easy to look at homework as that thing that has to get done before having fun.  Hopefully, these tips help turn homework into a positive, fun, and family bonding experience.  It has definitely changed the way my kids look at homework, and even I look forward to our homework time.

Until next time, happy fun parenting!

Tip: Why Make Discipline Painful?

Like many parental practices, discipline is one of those where you setup core principles, but also have to adapt as your children grow older.  For instance, physical discipline is off-limits in favor of time outs and taking treasured toys away.

While these are still the primary forms of discipline, I’m also now forced to recognize that I’m raising a pre-teen.  Holden (my oldest son) is about to become 13 years old. While excited for him, I’m already counting down the days before I’ll be sitting in the passenger seat of a car with him, or meeting his first date.  Yes, I’m white-knuckled terrified, but I digress.  The traditional forms of punishment are quickly becoming archaic in our lives.

Instead, when I need to discipline, I think of three primary objectives .. yes, I actually think about these and do not just throw out some canned punishment, like taking his phone away:

  • Take a breath – Despite feeling frustrated, never discipline feeling that way.  Take a deep breath.  These are kids .. they laugh, they smile, and they sometimes push those buttons so well.
  • Be original – Try to think of a creative way to make a point to not rely on the same punishments.  This can actually be a little mental game of making the point in an unexpected way.  This is really at the core.  I try to think of punishments which may actually make the child think, or even make them feel involved, so they can internalize what they’ve done.
  • Keep to your guns – When thinking of how to discipline, be ready to completely follow though.  If you’re going to take something away for weeks, be ready to follow through.  Despite approaching discipline from a good place, it still needs to be centered in authority.

One example of a creative punishment that came to mind was during a walk through the grocery store.  The kids had not had as much sleep as they usually get the night before.  Archer was out of sorts while Holden was obsessed with his phone occasionally popping out like a little prairie dog to poke at his younger brother.  After a couple times of asking Holden to stop, I decided it was time for one of those wonderfully satisfying parental moments.  I had Holden hand his phone to me, and then went on to give it to his brother.  I went on to tell him that he’d get it back when Archer felt like it, so it may be worthwhile to be nice to his little brother.  Both children smiled about it, Archer snapped out of his mood, and both of them got along better for the remainder of the day.  No tears, no yelling, and better behavior. Win, win, win!

To be fair, I also don’t come up with all of the punishments.  When they complain about their punishments, I leverage one other tactic which helps the situation.  Both boys have a voice in their punishment.  This may sound absurd; however, it actually helps them switch roles to understand why they’re being punished.  Oftentimes, this is as simple as explaining my point of view, then asking “If you were me, what should I do?“.  Ironically, most of the time, they give a punishment that is even more harsh and are willing to follow through.  By the way, I rarely hold them to their own punishments, but it does help them understand.


Until next time, happy fun parenting!

Tip: Productive vs Fun vs Both

This week, I have the boys once again for summer vacation.  The last time they were here, we instituted a new policy while I worked.  Like most parents, I frown upon overindulging in video games when they are with me.  As such, we now have the policy of thirty minutes of “fun time” for thirty minutes of “productive time”.


The Con

I could say that our balancing act is that written up in books, but really, I’m leveraging what is probably best described as “strategic manipulation”.  This could also be described as the con, or loosely as Jedi mind tricks.

1. The Bait

“Fun time” is anything goes.  The kids are able to play Minecraft, dork around on their iPad/iPhone, watch TV, or anything that they wish.  This is so enticing that the kids fall for it each time.  They will do anything to feed that little Dopamine release in their brains.

2. The Price

“Productive time” is defined as anything that is not video games, movies, or TV.  In our world, this includes:

  • Board games
  • Piano practice
  • Reading
  • Coloring
  • Activity Kits (like Kiwi Crate – picture above)
  • Mindstorms
  • Chess via ChessKid or Chess.com
  • Believe it not, baths and teeth brushing

Basically, they have a lot of flexibility as long as the kids are working their brain, their hands, and, fingers crossed, interacting with one another.  Please note, this is not without effort on the parent’s part.  I make specific trips and perform research to find new and interesting things to keep the kids involved.

3. The Switch

This is the critical step.  The “productive time” needs to be interesting enough to the kids that the lines between “productive time” and “fun time” blur.  Once they’re having fun with the productive time, then they stop needing video games for that Dopamine release.  This does take time and does take involvement, but is critical.  You cannot just hit up Michael’s for some crayon or buy some board games, and go about your email or cleaning house.

4. The Payoff

Now, that we’re two weeks into this mode of operating, I can say that the kids are having more fun, they’re interested more than ever in trying new things, and getting along better.  They actually spend more time wanting to do those productive things than video games.  While they had previously argued and competed doing video games, they now try to work together when playing video games.

Is everything peaceful?  Not by a long shot.  I have a 7 and 12 year old, but I’m proud of my boys that they are now seeking out fun in new ways and working together more.


Be sure to look for our review of Kiwi Crate coming soon.

Until then, happy fun parenting!

A New Stereotype

We’ve all heard it some time in our lives “she (or he) is the fun parent“.  It usually leaves an impression that they aren’t doing their parental duties, or maybe they’re too busy being a friend to their children than a parent.  These are the labels that the “fun parent” carries with them.

About a year ago, I found myself welcomed into one of the most painful brotherhoods for a loving dad .. “divorced fatherhood”.  Being a parent when married is completely different than being one when you’re single.  When you’re married, both parents tend to complement one another and balance is found in some way.  When divorced with kids, you start off with everybody saying that you shouldn’t be the “fun parent” and all the while trying your best to fill the needs to children (and yours as well).  The kids need a “real parent”, right?

Fast forward to current time, I’ve learned many things along the way.  The most important thing is that you can actually instill generational values, teach boundaries, get homework done, shop for clothes, cook dinner, and have FUN doing it.  Whether finding ways to teach kids a lesson in keeping calm, founding new traditions, or turning vacations into fun, educational getaways, there is fun to be had everywhere .. both in fun activities, but also in the parenting itself.

I’m starting this blog as a way to share those ideas, tips, review products/activities/places, and have fun with it.  My story is personal with probably some unique and shared circumstances.  Regardless, this site is for you if you believe parenting should be fun, and want to embrace a new stereotype for “the fun parent”.

There will be many posts to come.  Also, please follow on Facebook and Twitter.  If you have content you’d like to add, reach out to me to become a writer for the site.

Thank you and have fun parenting!