Homework is an important component of a child’s educational experience. For many kids, it’s a given — they just do it without complaining. But for others, it’s a battleground, a place where war ensues every weekday evening.
Even in well-functioning families, homework can be one of the hottest parent-child crisis buttons. So how can you, as a parent, keep the battle to a minimum and make homework a positive experience?
A child’s ability to be successful with homework begins with the value parents place upon learning. Success in this department requires helping your child develop essential homework skills, creating a working alliance with your child and his teachers, and learning to deal with common homework problems. Here are a few tips to help get homework done — without the battles:
Try to create a pleasant homework environment. For example, if you decide to work at the kitchen table, make sure it’s clean and that you have ample supplies within reach. You might even include a healthy snack or drink. Some children work better with quiet music playing or a window open for fresh air. Others are easily distracted and need absolute quiet. Try to figure out what works best for your child, and stick with it.
Guidelines regarding screen-time and cell-phone usage should be established from the very start. This avoids the potential of getting trapped into lengthy discussions and arguments when the phone rings or their friend is available to play a video game online.
While establishing these rules, remember that there may be a circumstance in which your child needs to call a classmate to double-check an assignment. If this is the case, set a time limit on the call — five minutes or so. This should be ample time to write down any information needed.
From time to time, a TV special may rouse your child’s interest. If the special comes on during homework time, give your child the option of doing his work early, or offer to record the program or use a digital media player such as Apple TV, so he can watch it at his leisure. Above all, be consistent with rules and routines. This avoids procrastination and lets your child know his boundary lines and your expectations.
Explain to your child that you want him to do his best work, not his fastest. Suggest that he underline or highlight important words or phrases in the assignment directions, so he will remember what needs to be done. Also, encourage him to look over his work for accuracy.
Each night before the homework gets put into the backpack, review his assignments. Check for neatness and accuracy, as well as for interesting ideas and good organization. Encourage, but do not demand that all the mistakes be corrected. Remember, the goal of some assignments is creativity and original ideas, in which case spelling and grammar can be worked on at a later time.
If you suspect your child has made mistakes due to poor understanding, provide assistance. If you continue to see the same problems cropping up, talk with the teacher or consider hiring a tutor.
In conclusion, as parents, we want our children to get the best education possible. To achieve that goal, we must show them how to be independent, responsible learners. If we do the job right, education will continue long after their school days are over.
Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines. She is he mother of three children, and has six grandchildren.