The kids are back in school! 🎉 *happy dance*
But, parents, does this sound familiar?
“Did you do your homework?”
“No, I don’t have any.”
“I did it in school.”
Perhaps these are true answers, but more often than not, if they sound too good to be true, they usually are.
Maybe your child will know and will tell you what his homework is. Maybe you’ll have to start a search party to find out what the homework is.
Chances are good that your child has homework. Enter the homework battles.
For the majority of families I help, homework is a struggle. Keep in mind – an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, so here is a fundamental step for laying the groundwork of a good school year.
Take the time to orient yourself with the teacher’s plans. Does your child’s teacher have the students write homework in a planner? Does she post it online? Are spelling tests each Friday? Teachers are very likely to follow a system of how to find information, and knowing that takes the guess work out for you.
Remain calm. Talk to your child about her homework, but don’t yell. It is very helpful to acknowledge her feelings. If you hear, “I don’t want to do it,” you can respond with, “I know it’s hard for you to do your work after school.”
Appreciation of your child’s frustration will put them in a place to work though their frustration. Watch your words. It’s encouraging to say, “When you are finished, we can play outside”, instead of, “If you don’t finish, you can’t play outside.”
Establish an atmosphere of learning. Create some rules about when and where homework is done. Is it done before dinner? After dinner? In the kitchen? In the living room? Setting these routines early on helps keep kids – and parents – on track for the year.
While kids are doing homework, parents should be doing their “homework” as well, such a reading a book. This creates an atmosphere of quiet, and reinforces the routine of learning.
Be the homework ally, not the homework police. Something I often need to remind parents is that homework is not your job. It is your child’s. You may – and should – offer encouragement, support, structure, and even assistance, but do not let homework become a bigger monster than it already is. Parents should not complete their child’s homework, or devote the entire evening to convincing the child that it needs to get done.
If the lengths you need to go to become that extreme, it is time to ask for the school’s help. Send a note or an email, that after an hour’s time of trying, your child was unable/unwilling to complete the work. Be honest and say what you tried.
If it’s an avoidance issue, there will be a consequence at school. If it’s a learning issue, your child’s school has resources to help. Sometimes parents aren’t sure which it is, and that’s okay. Ask to schedule a conference with your child’s teacher. You may need to ask for the assistance of the school counselor or the school psychologist to assess if your child should be tested for a learning difference.
Identify your child’s roadblocks. Knowing your child’s personality and learning style are huge factors in facing and – even better – preventing homework battles. Like I mentioned in tip #3, what if you aren’t sure where the roadblock is? That’s okay! Gather your own thoughts and observations of your child and partner with the school.
Here are some common roadblocks, paired with an idea to help.
- The procrastinator: Allow time for something enjoyable just following the homework. Chunking big steps into small steps can help. (More on this in tip #5.)
- The perfectionist: Perfectionists tend to put all of their emphasis on the end result. They want perfect, often unachievable results, so they will often put tasks off. (This is much like the procrastinator.) You can help by offering time limits on tasks. Help your child find ways to enjoy the process, rather than only the result. Ask “What did you lean today?” instead of “What grade did you get?”
- The “rushes through” style: Have a list ready for double checking the completed work. Did you miss any steps? Did you check for correct spelling? Punctuation?
- The “I forgot” excuse: Help your child with organizational skills, like a reminder system or a planner. Be careful not to take on ownership of the organization. That is a skill your child needs to practice.
Teach skills. Sometimes the root of the problem is in your child’s executive functioning skills. These are self-management skills that helps us achieve our goals. In order to achieve goals, we must manage emotions, focus our attention, and organize our work. Students diagnosed with Attention Deficient/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or a learning difference often have executive functioning challenges. Students without these diagnoses can also face a few executive functioning challenges.
Let’s look at few common ones now.
- Time management– We’ve all been there. We knew a deadline was coming and we had to rush to complete that task, or missed the deadline completely.
- What to try– A technique called chunking works well in the classroom, and you can use it at home too. Take a task and break it down into steps. Today is Monday and the project is due Friday? Let’s look at making sure we brainstorm ideas Monday night, get material Tues, write a rough draft Wed…etc.
- Organization-Your child doesn’t know where to look for his materials, or what the homework even is.
- What to try– A system that works for your child. Does it help to use a planner, or a set up a google calendar? What about color coded folders? A place for supplies at home? Involve your child in the process.
- Stress– Since not many people are a fan of homework, you may notice an increase in your child’s anxiety level at the start of homework time. Spend 5 minutes listening to some relaxing music, take a few deep breath, and be sure to build in a few “brain breaks” along the way. After 25 minutes of work, take a 5 minute get up and stretch break. Keeping a stress ball on hand can help too.
Remember, you aren’t alone. Work together with your support network, and your child’s school. I can’t promise homework time will become enjoyable, but hopefully you’ll see the battles come to an end. I hope wish you and your child a very happy school year, and that you find success in these tips.