Homework Helpers for Parents
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Homework is an emotional battleground in many households. For some children, homework is something to be avoided, forgotten, or raced through. There is no magic formula for ensuring responsible homework completion. What works for one child may not work with another. Some of the following suggestions may be helpful:
- Provide a home setting conducive to study. Most children work better in a quiet, well-lit setting free of distraction and family traffic, although some study effectively with background noise, including music. Where he does homework is less important than how he does it. If he is completing homework conscientiously and correctly, don’t make an issue of the location—or his method of study.
- Develop a homework routine early in the year. Work out with your child an agreed-upon homework time. Some children can complete homework right after school, others need a break. Some are better off doing homework in two or three blocks of time. Avoid scheduling homework right before bedtime; homework often takes more time than children expect, and children will not be as alert.
- Enforce a “homework before television” policy. Establish a rule that homework must be finished before the TV is switched on. Allowing a child to watch television as soon as homework is completed, however, may tempt some children to race through their assignments. A better idea is to designate a quiet time each evening when the television is off and your child is to do homework.
- Help if asked but don’t do it for him. Let your child know that you consider homework his responsibility, but that you are willing to help if asked. Be available to help during homework time and check in with your child every so often. When working with him, try to provide clues or pose leading questions rather than simply giving him the answers.
- Be positive and success-oriented. Find ways to boost your child’s confidence so that he is more willing to tackle assignments independently. Compliment your child on his efforts and avoid negative comments. If you find yourself feeling frustrated, impatient, or irritable—as all homework-helping parents occasionally do—you are probably conveying this to your child and it is time for you to stop.
- Contact the teacher if your child is having persistent problems in understanding homework, is taking much longer than you think is necessary, or claims he never has any homework. As a rough guide, if he is getting more than 25 percent of the items wrong, the assignment may be too hard to be of optimal educational value.
- Work around your child’s learning style. If he is easily distracted and inattentive, build study breaks into his homework routine. Consider using a timer so that he works for 20 minutes, takes a five-minute break, and then returns to work. If your child frustrates easily, help him take the assignment step by step by breaking it up into smaller, more doable parts.