Homework. Just the sight of that word is enough to make some parents weep with frustration.
One of the most frequent issues that arise in parenting counseling is the afternoon battle over homework. There is usually a vicious cycle at play: your child procrastinates about getting started, you start nagging, and your child becomes overwhelmed and shuts down.
It might help to remind yourself that there is actually a reason for doing homework. Homework gives your child a chance to practice what she has learned in school. Further, homework helps children develop age-appropriate discipline and independence with respect to schoolwork.
But what often happens is that the kids who need the most practice have the hardest time completing homework. Parents should never assume that a child who resists homework is just “lazy.” Children inherently want to do well in school and they generally want to please their parents. If you know that your child has the intellectual potential to work independently yet says that he “hates school” or “hates reading” you might want to explore having your child evaluated for the presence of an attention or learning issue.
For children with learning challenges, doing homework is like going on a hike with 20 pound weights around your ankles and big blisters on your heels. It is possible, but painful and difficult. So of course your child will look for ways to postpone such a painful and discouraging task.
So, what to do? Appreciate that homework is frustrating for your child and put into place a plan that will help your child learn to work through frustration and develop self-discipline.
A Homework Plan:
1. Set aside a time for homework that works for your family. For most kids, they do not want to do homework after doing school work for eight hours. Afterschool is a time for hobbies and exploring possible new interests in sports, dance, art, robotics, cooking – whatever your child enjoys. Try having homework time after dinner or while dinner is cooking to see if that works better for your child.
2. Choose a spot for homework that works for your child and family. Some kids like to be at the kitchen table while others prefer a desk in their room. Parents should be available to help, offer encouragement, and answer questions.
3. Talk with your child’s teacher about the expected length of homework time. If your child is unable to finish in the expected time frame, have him write a note to the teacher that states he worked for the amount of time and note the assignments he was able to complete. This information is helpful for your child’s teacher to see how long it takes your child to do homework and determine if modifications need to be made.
4. Begin with a reasonable amount of work time. If your child can only focus for 10 minutes and then needs a break, then that is the starting time. Try 15 minutes the next week and support your child as they gradually become able to focus for longer amounts of time. If your child needs frequent breaks, try to work up to 20 minutes of work followed by a five minute break.
5. Choose your words carefully. Instead of “if you don’t do your homework you won’t be able to…” try a language of opportunities like, “as soon as you finish your homework we will have a chance to play a quick game of Jenga!”
Some more tips: acknowledge all efforts, no matter how small. Provide positive and frequent encouragement. Praise effort not innate ability. Do not compare to siblings who may have an easier time doing homework.
It isn’t always easy to stay calm when your child is melting down about homework. If you would like to talk further about ways to avoid the homework battles, please call me at 310-849-6751 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am here to help!