Parenting Tips: Getting a Handle on the Homework Hassles
Chances are, when you were a child, you don't remember having too much homework in kindergarten, first grade or second grade. Sure, you had a worksheet here and there, but nothing like how it is today. Standards, testing, assessments and teacher evaluations have squeezed learning into the afternoon and evening hours, and with no change on the horizon, we can assume that homework is here to stay.
And when it comes to parent and child, homework is a common lightning rod for struggle and fights. From where the child sits, to the appropriate hour it is completed, parents and children have trouble seeing eye-to-eye about the best way to complete the work.
So, let's start off the year with some homework collaboration and cooperation! Here are some of my ideas for how to struggle less with homework:
- Call a Meeting with Your Child: Enlist your child’s help in establishing the homework routine. Have your child reflect on his or her own schedule (extracurriculars such as sports, instruments, dance, art, etc.) and make a chart of the week. Are there nights that will run late? Would your child be better at waking a bit earlier to finish their homework? Does your child want to start it as soon as he gets home? Does your child have an opinion on it? Have a discussion so that your plan makes sense to everyone!
- Make Your Plan: After the details are discussed, make the plan as simple and clear as possible. Give as much ownership and power as you can to the child. The plan must be written down, clearly displayed, and agreed upon by both the child and the parent. Emphasize that this is the plan you are trying, and you can revisit the plan if it is not working! Pick a date, and call another meeting to evaluate the homework plan.
- Be Open to Your Child Working Differently Than YOU Think He or She SHOULD: Sometimes, as parents, we have the idea that the child is going to quietly sit at a desk, for hours and hours…but this is not so. Many children need to get up and move often while they work. Some children want to listen to music, some mumble to themselves, some doodle, some twitch their legs, some kids even work in front of the TV! And yes, some need total silence and stillness in order to focus. My point? Be open to how your child’s brain works! Try not to judge it if the work is getting completed in a timely, orderly, and good fashion.
- Keep Paying Attention: Even if the homework plan is working flawlessly, keep checking in with your child. Check their assignment books, ask them what they are working on, show curiosity in their work, and yes, you can check to see if their answers are correct! I don’t think you should be sitting by your child, side-by-side (the homework is his or hers), but you still have to keep yourself in the loop.
- Your Ultimate Goal is to Foster Independence, NOT Dependence: If may feel right to assist, hover, and interfere with your child's homework, but we want to keep moving the responsiblity to the child. This may mean that the child may have to experience what it feels like to not have their homework finished, or he or she may need to write at the top of the page, "I don't understand this worksheet." The teacher will not know this if you try to "teach" it to the child! Helping a child with a concept? Sure! Teaching a child an entire lesson? No. A little frustration now will pay off with more resilience later!
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