Since most of my work as a Behavioral Therapist is done with children, I will address avoidance behavior in children, specifically homework avoidance. However, we all experience avoidance behaviors. So, what is avoidance behavior? Avoidance behaviors are behaviors we engage in to avoid situations that bring us discomfort or cause stress. We use this behavior to escape from difficult thoughts and situations.
Children who exhibit avoidance behavior with homework typically have difficulty getting started with it, also called task initiation. Some children avoid getting started because it is not a preferred activity, or it’s perceived as too difficult while others have skill deficits that lead to difficulty with task initiation. Avoidance behavior with homework usually looks like problem behaviors when children are asked to complete their homework.
There is no single strategy that works for all the same way, but surely, we can help children with homework avoidance by exposing them to diverse activities, social-stories, skill building, and improving their self-confidence. Some strategies that appear to work to ease the way into changing the avoidance behavior pattern and re-structure their perception, is to lower task difficulty. Since homework is assigned by the teacher, as parents you can decrease the task difficulty, by providing more support which will gradually be faded. Please remember changing behavior is a process, not done with a single action in one day. Understanding the root of the avoidance behavior, helps the parent and the child cope with the challenge.
Social stories are a great way to open conversations with children. The book “The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water” teaches children to try things, and to take a challenge, even when they seemed hard. Crafts are also great tools for conversation starters and hands-on learning. While working on the craft, we can help the child thru the process and improve their feelings of accomplishment or finishing what they worked for despite hardships.
Feel free to contact me if you need further support tackling problem behaviors when completing homework.