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It is not unusual for children to resist homework with a little whining, complaining, or bargaining from time to time, but what if homework becomes a consistent battle each night?
You are not alone if you find yourself consoling a tearful, frustrated child who struggles to begin or complete homework. Identifying the problem that is causing your child to resist homework is the key.
Consider the following when trying to identify the root of your child’s homework battle:
Is my child too tired or too wound up when trying to do homework?
Some students may be exhausted after school and in need of some down time. Others may need time to run around and let loose for a bit after school. Think about your child’s afternoon and evening schedule. Does your child have adequate time to recharge before beginning homework? Maybe your child needs some time to relax, eat a snack or play outside first. Identifying your child’s means of recharging, and providing time to do so, could make things a little easier when the time comes to begin homework.
Is your child overscheduled?
Is your child involved in too many after school activities? Does this contribute to a hectic schedule that changes from one day to the next? Asking children to fit in homework before or after an activity may be preventing them from attempting homework when they are at their best. Too many activities may leave your child feeling tired or craving some unstructured, down time. There are numerous benefits to extra-curricular activities, so I am not suggesting that children give up all activities. Instead, evaluate your child’s current schedule and consider whether a change might help your child complete homework more successfully.
If activities or other daily tasks prevent your child from having a consistent routine after school, it may be helpful for you and your child to create a visual schedule for the week. Allowing your child to have some say in when certain tasks will take place may provide the buy-in needed to make homework less of a struggle.
Is your child struggling with the academic work?
This is perhaps the most important question to consider. Daily tears or refusal to begin homework could be a sign that your child is finding the academic work to be too difficult. If you suspect that this might be the case, contact your child’s teacher for support.
What if nothing is working?
Some families become stuck in the homework battle and need more of a change than parents alone can provide. If you feel that your relationship with your child is negatively impacted by homework struggles, asking an “outsider” for support may be the answer.
Asking your child’s teacher for support is a great place to start. Teachers are happy to be the “bad guy” in these situations. Ask the teacher to help set at-home homework expectations with your child. Sometimes knowing that a teacher will be checking in with parents about homework is enough to get things back on track.
Hiring a homework coach or tutor may also be helpful. In many cases, children will shed tears or argue with a parent (because they feel safe and loved by you) when they would not do so with another adult. Taking yourself out of the homework equation may help to alleviate the issue.
When all else fails, seek help from others. Do not hesitate to reach out to teachers, administrators, or other outside professionals. In the end, it is important to remember that you do not have to fight the homework battle alone.
The purpose of homework is to provide students with an opportunity to practice skills and demonstrate understanding of concepts without the support of others. With that said, most students need some support to learn how to DO homework, which includes following a schedule, managing time and developing study habits that allow students to be more independent in completing assignments. So, how do we do this and how much do we help?
Establishing a Routine
Students typically do best with a predictable schedule and consistent routine. Setting aside a specific time and space in which your child can complete homework is important. Each child is different and what works well for one child may not work well for others. Some children may work well at the kitchen table, away from the distraction of TV and toys, but close enough for you to keep your eye on them. Others may work well in a quiet, separate space, like a desk in a separate room. Some students may prefer to come home and finish homework right away, while others may need a snack or a chance to run around and play first. If your child is struggling to begin or complete homework, take a few days to monitor when and where your child is doing homework. Are there lots of distractions in the room? Does your child seem full of energy or tired at the time? Adjusting the homework routine may help your child to be more successful. If you have made adjustments and your child is still struggling to complete homework, inform your child's teacher so you can work together to come up with a plan.
How Much Do I Help?
If a student is struggling with understanding the directions of the assignment, parents should certainly help to read the directions and clarify questions. If questions become excessive or parents are unable to explain the assignment or skills needed, parents (or the student in middle school) should reach out to the teacher for support.
If you feel compelled to check over your child's homework for accuracy, I recommend that you mark problems or questions that are incorrect, but allow your child to attempt to find the errors and correct them independently. This strategy should only be used when there are just a few mistakes. If there are several errors, marking each one may lead to greater frustration or fear of failure. In these cases, it may be more beneficial to leave the errors, but make the teacher aware of your child's difficulty with the homework so extra review can be provided by the teacher.
Allowing your child to work as independently as possible on homework helps teachers to better monitor student progress, identify areas of mastery and areas for review. If you are working on a specific homework assignment with your child and he/she requires significant support from you to complete the task, it is important to let your child's teacher know. If teachers are unaware that parents have provided support, they may get a false sense of mastery and may be unaware of the student’s struggles.
In some cases (probably more often than you think), homework can become a very frustrating and negative experience at home. Various factors can contribute to this, but regardless of the cause, when this occurs it is important for parents to seek support from teachers. For more information on this, keep an eye out for my upcoming blog, What to Do When Homework Becomes a Battle!
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