“Homework! Again? Not tonight! Why can't teachers allow one day without homework?” Of course, the person stating this could be either the student, or a homework-weary parent, tired of the nightly battle to hit the books. There are ways to make the nightly ritual of homework go more smoothly for you and your child.
When approaching homework and assignments, it is important not to make academics a battleground, or else no one will win. The goal of homework is to give your child practice to learn and master a new skill, making it become automatic. If your child resists homework, or senses your dislike of helping him with it the lines are drawn and you can look forward to 36 weeks of nightly frustration and fireworks.
The first thing you can do to help your child is determine what works best for her in completing her studies. Some children need to have some “decompression time” when they return from school and refresh with a snack and some down time while others work more productively while they are still fresh. Discuss the options for the timing of homework with your child and set a schedule. Sometimes the schedule will need to be adjusted for activities, but consistency is very important. Setting expectations and keeping them gives your child a sense of predictability and reduces the battle cries of, “Five more minutes? Please ...”
The second homework help for your child is to offer a dedicated space for them to do their homework with the proper supplies stocked. This may be a desk in their room or the kitchen table, but you should have a spot that is designated as a homework zone.
Thirdly, remember that your child’s teacher is, bluntly, not the least bit interested in what you know or do not know. This is your child’s homework, mistakes and all. Teachers will say that one of their biggest pet peeves is a child who sends in perfect homework every day and when the assessments come, they are not able to complete one part of what they have done all week. Allow your child to make mistakes. Making mistakes is a huge part of the learning process, and depriving your child of learning from their mistakes is depriving them of the ability to learn and become independent thinkers.
Fourth, for some children, having a pile of worksheets or reading to complete can be overwhelming. Break the homework into small pieces and praise the progress that your child is making. Their ability to work through larger chunks of homework at a time will develop with age and maturity, but if they are overwhelmed there is nothing wrong with breaking a larger series of tasks into smaller and more manageable ones, just as one eats an elephant — one bite at a time.
Fifth, remember that you are a supporting role and offer to help your child. Set guidelines for obtaining that help. Your child should approach you and ask for help, bringing the work to you. Think of it as the student going to the cave on the mountain to ask the wise one for help. This gives your child the skill of initiating help when help is needed and helps you maintain a proper distance, allowing your child to do their own work.
Following these 5 simple steps can make homework time a more pleasant time in your home, and reduce the stress and strain that comes every night. Your child will learn to be more self-reliant and take responsibility for their learning. After all, being a parent is the only job in the world that you work daily for years to teach another human being to fly away and eventually leave your nurturing home to establish their own. When you have done your job properly, they will no longer need you in the same capacity.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.