By Vicki Little
Many people say that the lack of sleep experienced during the third trimester of pregnancy is the body’s way of preparing for the lack of sleep Mom will soon face. If this is true, then I’m certain the homework struggle is my child’s way of preparing me for the arguments we will have when he becomes a teen.
Homework is definitely a necessary evil for children, but it is important to remember that it is their homework. While you can, and should, be available for help and advice, you also need to remember that it really is THEIR homework and THEIR responsibility. It will only make things harder for them in the future if you occasionally just “fix” their sentences while you read over their essays. They will learn to depend on your help, and they will not learn to catch their own mistakes or suffer the consequences if they are unprepared.
Get your child’s input on the following:
- When is the best time to study? Many children are absolutely fried after school. The thought of sitting in a chair makes them want to scream, and I can’t blame them. But they have to get their work done, so they need to help you come up with a consistent homework time. With all the after-school activities, I can’t imagine trying to get homework done at the same time every day, but in our family, we agree that before dinner is a good time (which means we schedule dinner a half hour later). So when my kids start asking for five more minutes, I warn them I am starting dinner and that is that.
- Where should you study? To this day, I cannot concentrate at a desk. I will fall asleep if I am sitting at a desk, but I won’t if I am stretched out on my bed. I don’t know why, but it works. And it works for my daughter to be at our kitchen table and my son to be … wherever looks good for him at the moment. So with some compromising, we decided that my son can do his work either standing or sitting at the table and my daughter sits at the table.
- What do you need? We need tools to succeed at work, and homework isn’t any different. With your child’s help, get together a small bucket of pencils, crayons, glue, tape, markers, rulers, counting beads, etc. Also get a “homework folder” for all the papers that stay at home for homework. Then put these somewhere that’s easily accessible.
Schedule it in their calendar. Most households have some sort of calendar for each member of the family. Just like you schedule events, put homework time on the calendar.
Provide a quiet environment. While your kids are doing homework, turn off the TV and do some reading or start dinner or something else quiet that won’t distract them.
Offer help, but not too much. Many kids learn quickly how to get the answers from their parents without having to really do work themselves. Ask your child questions that will guide him or her to the answers, point out where they may have gone wrong on a math problem, listen to them read and correct their grammar on their work, and look over the finished products. But try to avoid, at all costs, giving them the answer. This doesn’t help – it actually hurts them.
Don’t provide rewards. Homework is something that has to be done. If a child gets rewarded for doing what they are supposed to do anyway, they will start to expect it. In the future, it will be harder and harder to get them to do homework because they will refuse to do it unless they are promised something. Instead, make consequences for homework that doesn’t get done – such as an earlier bedtime, no snack, less screen time etc.
Allow them to face the consequences. It really stinks to look at your child’s sad face when he or she comes home after getting a bad grade, a reprimand, or some other consequence such as missing recess for not completing homework or for doing a poor job. But we aren’t always going to be there to save them. Especially if the home consequences aren’t doing much to change their homework habits, sometimes it is better to let the teacher be the one to do the dirty work. If they say they tried their hardest, but you know that’s impossible because they were busy playing video games instead of studying, don’t make excuses for them. Make them turn in what they have and deal with the grade or consequences they get.
What other suggestions do you have for helping your child succeed in homework?
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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