Many teens are motivated by the high grade they hope to earn as a result of doing a quality job. For teens who are not motivated by grades, look for other rewards to help them get through their nightly homework.
WORD TO THE WISE: Any incentive system should be TEMPORARY, and teens should know this in advance. The only exception to this is parental praise, which should always be used for a teens’ efforts. Incentives can be dropped once the teen is in the habit of being responsible for completing their homework.
The simplest incentive system is reminding the teen of a privilege they earn when homework is done. This system of withholding fun things until the drudgery is over is sometimes called Grandma’s Law (“First take out the trash, then you can have chocolate chip cookies.”). Having something to look forward to can be a powerful incentive to get the hard work done.
The easiest and most effective incentives are the privileges that your teen wants most after school, such as watching TV, playing video games, surfing the internet or talking on the phone. These are usually effective because most kids want them and most parents can control access to the TV, PC and phone.
If your teen is in their homework place on time and puts effort into completing their work, then they earn the right to whatever privilege you agreed upon. If they resist getting to work when they are supposed to start, or they just sit there for an hour without putting forth effort, then they do not earn that privilege for the evening. Some experimentation may need to take place until you find the combination of privileges that your teen responds to.
More elaborate incentive systems involve more planning and more work on the part of parents but in some cases are necessary to address more significant homework problems. More complex incentives systems include a structure for earning points that could be used to “purchase” privileges or rewards or a system that provides greater reward for accomplishing more difficult homework tasks. These systems work best when parents and teens develop them together. Giving teens input gives them a sense of control and ownership, making the system more likely to succeed.