School has started and homework is not too far behind. Every night millions of children will face the task of homework. Sometimes it may go smoothly. Other times, tantrums and tears may ensue. You may bribe, or cajole, or demand. And no one has an enjoyable evening. While challenges will inevitably arise, here are some tips to avoid those homework headaches.
- Allow for rest time after school: While some children may want to do their homework right after school, or after after-school activities, most will not. Think about yourself…after a full day of work, would you want to start in on more work when immediately arriving home. For children, school is a full day of work. Allow your child to have a snack or set amount of play time prior to starting homework.
- Create a homework schedule: Have a set time for when your child does homework, taking into account #1 above. Having a consistent schedule allows your child to know what to expect when. Children thrive on routine.
- Have a homework spot: This is another aspect of structure and routine and will help your child know what to expect. Having a homework spot ensures a quiet, distraction-free place for your child to focus.
- Help your child make a priority list: Some children have difficulty knowing what assignments to complete first. Again, children do well with structure and routine. So help your child to set priorities for what they want to tackle first, second, etc. This also helps your child learn organizational skills.
- Recognize your child’s study style: Some children will want to complete the easiest or briefest work first. Some will want to tackle the most difficult work first. Some children are visual learners; some are auditory learners. Some children may need breaks while studying. Creating a study plan that is conducive to your child’s study style will decrease frustrations and challenges. And remember, your child’s style may be different from your style; as long as it is effective, that is okay.
- Encourage your child to try: When learning new things, everyone, even adults, can become frustrated. Your child is continually learning new concepts and ideas, so expect them to encounter challenges. While you can and should provide help, as well as check your child’s homework, you first want to encourage them to try before jumping in to the rescue. If they do not try, then it is unlikely they will learn the new skill, or at least it will make learning much more difficult.
- Avoid hovering: As stated above, when necessary, help your child with their work yet allow them independence. Hovering over them may make them nervous or more likely to turn to you for help more quickly. Your child needs space to work on their own, at their own pace.
- Do not finish your child’s homework: If you finish your child’s homework for them, you deny them important learning opportunities. If they procrastinate and do not get their work complete, then the natural consequence is an incomplete on the assignment. If your child forgets their assignment at home, do not rush it to school for them. Rather, they will have to turn in the assignment late. Experiencing such natural consequences makes it more likely that your child will not make the same error again, or at least not as frequently.
- Ensure homework does not interfere with sleep: What do you think is more effective…studying an extra hour or going to sleep at a reasonable hour? It is the latter. At some point, exhaustion sets in and taking in new information becomes impossible. And with less sleep, your child will be less focused and more irritable the following day, negatively impacting performance. This is particularly important, although difficult to understand and implement, for teens. So ensure your child gets enough sleep, at least most nights.
- Get extra help when needed: If your child is struggling or if homework has become a battle between you, consider getting help. Plenty of high schoolers would welcome some extra cash. Kids often respond better when someone besides mom or dad is helping them. You do not want the homework tug-of-war to negatively impact your family relationships.
If you find yourself in a homework tug-of-was this school year and would like extra guidance, Paulette Janus, LCSW can help. Contact her here.