According to a Public Agenda survey, half of U.S. parents report having major disagreements with their children over homework. Considering that homework is a daily ritual, the potential for regularly-scheduled disasters is overwhelming. While there are a million reasons for homework woes, the following three tips can help you and your child from coming to blows:
- When working on an assignment that is difficult and frustrating for your child, model both problem-solving approaches AND patience for your child. They will respond more readily when they see you tackle a troublesome algebra problem with the same level-headedness that you likely use at work. Give a play-by-play of your thoughts as you try to figure out what to do—this is called modeling a “think-aloud’—to show your child what a more experienced problem-solver does when faced with a difficult task.
- When your child begins work on a multi-step assignment, such as a writing a research paper or beginning a science project, don’t hesitate to be more hands-on than normal if your child balks at beginning this task. For example, if your child has a hard time starting a written assignment, sit down with your child, discuss ideas, and take notes for your child to get those ideas down on scratch paper. (Take dictation directly from your child and avoid rephrasing their statements as you would like them written.) Your child will likely feel less anxious and intimidated about beginning the assignment if you helped get the first step done. You probably won’t have to do this forever; it is something you can do to jump-start an overwhelming assignment when your child is stuck.
- If a teacher mentions that your child needs to work on mastering rote skills, such as memorizing sight words or multiplication facts, make this at-home practice time as game-like as possible. Create your own versions of the game of Memory with the targeted words or facts. There is a great book called A Board Game Education by Jeffrey P. Hinebaugh that explains how you can customize common games like Candy Land to master academic skills.Homework can be a tense time for families, and getting over a history of disagreements and frustration around this routine can take time. Incorporating movement breaks or “brain breaks” can be immensely helpful. Your child can—and should—get out of his seat every 20-30 minutes, even if it is just to get a drink of water or shoot three baskets outside. Little activities like this can increase attention as well as provide a moral-booster.
Good luck, Homework Warriors!