Written by Calgary's Child Magazine
Summer seems like a distant memory and the carefree days of ice cream and pools have been replaced with school lunches and homework.
Homework is a common reason for arguments between parents and children but before you throw in the towel (after explaining the concept of an acute angle for the thousandth time), consider determining the main problem your child is having and trying some of these tips to help them:
- Motivation/Procrastination. We all do it. “I’ll get to that later.” “I can do it tomorrow.” “That can wait.” But when it comes to kids putting off doing their homework, you may need to put your foot down.
One reason children may put off homework is because they don’t know where to start. Spending the first five minutes of their homework time to help them get started can be a huge benefit in getting the ball rolling.
If this doesn’t work, it may be tempting to go immediately to a threat and tell your child, “You won’t get any screen time if you don’t finish your homework.” However, research shows you are more likely to see better results with rewards.
Offering them the opportunity to see friends when they are done, play a game or read a book, or even taking them for Slurpees or ice cream for a very big project can be surprisingly effective. You can also bargain with a bedtime that is a few minutes later than usual or the chance to do their favorite activity one-on-one with you after they have completed their task.
- Disorganization. This can be a tough one. Your child can’t do their work because they are too disorganized, so, rather than admitting it, they will come up with every excuse under the sun why they can’t get it done.
It might take a bit of simple detective work on your part to realize that the reason they don’t want to work is because their binder is a disaster and they can’t even find their assignment, let alone complete it.
It is usually best not to scold them for the pile of smashed papers they call a notebook and teach them how to fix the problem. This might take a quick trip to the store to get some supplies like an accordion folder or individual duotangs for specific subjects, but getting things where they need to be before they begin can be the difference between homework happiness and a homework headache.
- Distraction. There is a lot going on in your house in the evenings. Making dinner, eating, cleaning up the kitchen, preparing for the next day, laundry, siblings coming and going from activities – it can be a distracting environment for a child to get work done in.
Add technology and screens into the mix and there are countless things that take your child’s attention off of their assignment.
Try to create an environment where your child can be free of the hustle and bustle of what is going on in the rest of the house. This is most effective if the area is on a different floor than the kitchen with a door that closes. Make sure all of the supplies the child will need to get the job done are in that space as well.
- Rushing. Kids are smart. They soon figure out that the faster they get their homework done, the faster they can do something they want to do.
However, rushing can greatly decrease the quality of the work they’re doing and increase the chance that they will not learn or retain the lessons the work was intended to teach.
A good way to avoid this is to set a certain amount of time dedicated to homework. No matter how quickly they finish what they are working on, they will be required to stay in their homework area and do something educational for that amount of time.
It can help to have some books lined up or print off some math cards in case they finish up early.
- Frustration. We all remember how it felt when you were working on homework and you just couldn’t understand a concept. No matter how the teacher, your textbook, or your parents explained it to you, the concept just wouldn’t stick. That was incredibly frustrating!
Frustration is to be expected from time to time with homework assignments. The key when irritation is at its peak is to disengage. Trying to reason with the child or explain the technique again will only lead to more yelling and possibly tears (yours and theirs). Tell your child that you understand that they are feeling frustrated and they can come and get you in the other room when they are ready to try again.
When they do come and get you, it can help to get the ball rolling again by showing them some sympathy such as “I completely understand that that problem was really hard to figure out.”
Move forward by asking your child to find similar problems in their book or looking up a different way to complete the assignment together.
These homework troubles all have one thing in common. The solution starts with taking the time to listen to your child and help them come up with a way to fix the problem. Sometimes just offering your assistance is all your kid needs to get over their homework hump.
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