4 Steps to Winning Homework Battles
For many parents, the school year creates challenges around routines, especially homework completion. When school gets under way, parents are expected to rein in their children from the carefree days of summer to the demands of school. A huge source of tension for many parents is battles over homework. Homework completion can cause minor meltdowns to heated screaming matches. Negative family dynamics around homework can turn any well-meaning parent into their child’s worst enemy. It can cause a child to associate homework, and as a result school, with dread. So, how can parents survive and kids thrive during turbulent homework hours?
1. Build a strong relationship with your child
An amusing, animated video based on the book The Social Animal by David Brooks cleverly reminds parents about what really matters: strong emotional connections. A disagreeable second grader’s mother resorts to tactics like bribing and threatening, all to no avail. When she starts to reminisce about her own childhood, a break-through occurs. Moments of bonding create harmony. Every child needs to have a solid relationship with their parent to feel good about all things, including homework. A strong parent and child bond can foster peace at home even during homework time.
Questions to ask yourself, “Do I spend enough time with my child doing things that he enjoys as a kid?” OR “Does my child see me as someone that sees, hears, and understands them?”
If the answers are yes, then your child is likely to appreciate and look forward to your guidance, coaching, and even tutoring around homework completion.
If not, it may be time to spend more quality time with your child similar to what Harold’s mother does in the video. My previous post - Soaking Up Some Attention - can point you in the right direction.
2. Put yourself in your little one’s shoes
Kids have to keep themselves in line at school for over seven hours five days a week. They have to juggle all sorts of demands from their teachers and friends. They need to manage routines, attend to instruction, produce work, and adapt to new expectations. Parents who come from a place of understanding can better understand any challenging emotions and avoid making a difficult situation worse.
Parents can empathize, “I know how tired you can get after school, and I appreciate you sticking it out.” OR “I can see you are getting frustrated with this problem, let’s take a break and come back to it later.”
3. Be consistent, plan ahead, and pace
Parents need to create consistent and predictable routines around completion of assignments. Humans for the most part thrive on structure and routine as Brooks’ research reminded us. On a practical level, parents need to make sure they set up a regular time and place for homework completion.
It’s important to prioritize - the tasks that require more effort are best tackled first. If a break works out for your child, avoid delaying homework completion as it can lead to procrastination.
If homework is sent home in bulk, divide and conquer. In other words, it’s best to do a set number of pages each day. When our daughter came home with 15 double-sided pages of homework in the second week of kindergarten, pacing the work paid off.
4. Establish clear expectations and rewards
Expectations drive behavior. If kids know that they are expected to do their homework in order to get “screen” time or other fun activity, then they are more apt to comply, even if it means completing something less desirable.
And rewards like ‘special time’ after homework completion can serve to reinforce getting homework done.
In all, if parents remember that homework can be an opportunity to bond, they are more apt to find homework time to be less stressful for everyone.
Now, as always, there are exceptions. A child with learning differences may struggle with homework completion. In those instances, underlying learning issues may get in the way of getting homework done, which may require the support of a professional like an educational therapist.