Avoid homework hell

The nightly homework war can lead to stress, despair, rows and exhaustion – for parents and kids. How can you make it easier?

Tips on dealing with the nightly homework battle

Juggling your own job with parenting and chores is hard enough without homework in the equation but it’s a fact of life with a school-age child. Few kids down to their books willingly – and if you work long hours or have younger children clamoring for your attention in the evenings, it’s easy to take your eye off the ball when it comes to encouraging, helping and policing your child when it comes to completing his assignments. Factor in after-school activities and the fact that the experts keep telling us our tweens and teens need more sleep, and it can be impossible to fit it all in.

One of the big problems when it comes to younger kids and homework is that you’re fighting against a developmental stage that ensures they have a very brief attention span – certainly not long enough to tackle three pages of maths. They also find it difficult to look at homework objectively and prioritize what’s easy… with the result that they’ll often end up throwing a tantrum after spending half an hour on the most difficult problem because it’s number 3 in the running order, instead of skipping it and doing the rest of the assignment.

Although it may cause you (and your child) to tear out your hair in desperation, homework is teaching your child the study and time management skills that will become vital once he’s in college. Follow these tips to make it easier… 

  1. Provide what he needs
    Make sure your child has a quiet well-lit place in which to do his homework – avoid areas where he might be distracted by siblings and keep it well away from the TV. Make sure he has everything he might need in the way of paper, pencils and books. 
  2. Set a time
    Schedule your child’s homework session for a time when he won’t be too tired. This may mean avoiding the 20 minutes or so after he gets in from school and definitely rules out late evening. Ideally it should be a time when you’re available to assist him if he needs help so don’t plan it in if you know you’ll be getting a meal ready as this is likely to impact on your patience when it comes to helping him. Think about your child too – some children need time to chill out after school so the minute he gets in might not be best, however tempting it might be to get it out of the way.
  3. Motivate him
    Be positive about homework and make it clear that you consider school and his education important. If he’s doing well at applying himself and completing assignments when they’re due, reward him to show that you value his success and achievements.
  4. Help him pinpoint the tough stuff
    Help your child figure out what’s hard and what’s easy before he starts his homework, and have him do the hard work first. This ensures he’ll be most alert when he’s facing the biggest challenges and the easy material will seem to go fast when he starts to get tired.
  5. Don’t do it for him
    However tempting it may be to tell your child what the answers are, especially if he’s struggling and you need to get the dinner on the table, resist the urge. Homework is the best tool your child’s teacher has for assessing how well he’s grasping the subject matter and if he isn’t actually doing it he won’t be developing the study skills and depth of knowledge needed to ace tests. Plus, it’s vital he know that he alone is responsible for what he achieves in life and needs to be able to rely on himself when things get tough. If you do it for him tonight, how will he manage it in class tomorrow?
  6. Do your homework too
    Show your child that the skills they are learning are related to things you do as an adult. If your child is reading, you read too; if your child is doing math, balance your checkbook.
  7. Nip frustration in the bud
    Watch your child for any signs of frustration and impatience. Your child won’t be absorbing information and learning the answers to his homework problems if he’s upset over an assignment that’s too long or too difficult. If he’s struggling, call a halt and write a note to his teacher explaining the situation and asking her to go over the topic with him.
  8. Talk to his teacher
    If you feel your child’s homework assignments are too difficult or time-consuming, or they’re causing real problems at home, speak to his teacher. Teachers might use the 10-minute rule when it comes to homework: 10 minutes per grade per night – so, for example, 30 minutes for your third-grader. If you feel your child’s homework exceeds your expectations, his teacher may agree to more flexibility.

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