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Child Education: You, Your Child and His Homework

Mar 21, 2008
Few children relish the idea of sitting down and doing their class assignment. Many will put up some kind of a fuss - ranging from gentle grumbling, to procrastination and outright refusal.

While parents and teachers have learnt their lessons and can see the long-term benefits of studying, the children have yet to acquire such wisdom. Right now they think it is a pointless hassle that deprives them of doing fun things. Moreover, the child who finds the work hard finds the whole exercise even more demoralizing and discouraging. Under these circumstances, who would want to do homework?

So, you will have to do some homework on your part before you can get your child to do the classwork at home. You need to present it in such an interesting manner that it transforms the child's way of thinking and outbalances all the negatives. However, don't expect your child to be enthusiastic about it, but at least bring him to a point when he accepts the necessary evil and thinks it is better to get it done and be finished with it than to go on lingering on the unsavory prospect of it.

How do you achieve that? Here are some suggestions:

1. Don't fight with your child; it doesn't help at all, but can make matters worse. Think of innovative ways of getting it done. For instance, you can modify your home environment and routines in such a manner that encourage good study habits. Always think positive, and give more rewards than punishments.

2. Keep in touch with the school to find out how much homework is expected to be done and how long it should take. If your child takes more time or if the grades are consistently very poor, you should speak with the school. There may be some learning or attention difficulties that need to be addressed. That may be the underlying cause of not wanting to do homework. If your child finds the homework difficult to do on his own, you need to identify the problem and address it. You may want to speak to the teacher and ask if it is okay that your child spends a fixed amount of time on study even if he is not able to complete the given assignment. Some children are slow in writing, but that should not demoralize them.

3. If you can create a place that is conducive to working, it will help to make a routine. In any case, it is not easy to get homework done if you have to do it on your lap while everyone else is watching TV. Ideally you should have a study table in the child's room where he can sit comfortably and concentrate on his work. But, if that is not possible, you can clear a space on the kitchen table by removing all distractions and interruptions.

4. Provide help and support. Don't do it for them, but do help them to get started, or to find the books they need. If they need to do some research on the internet, maybe sit with them and help them find the info they need. Answer their spelling questions (unless it is a spelling test!) If they are having problems with math, work through the problem with them. Above all, though, stay calm! Getting frustrated with the inability to solve obviously simple questions won't help!

5. Lots of praise and encouragement. The first goal is to get it done, only after that is happening should you start to focus on quality! By and large let the teachers deal with the content of the work. Your job is to support the homework effort, and to encourage diligence and persistence. Let the teach correct the content. Having said that, you can, for example, encourage the child to read his work out loud so as to catch obvious spelling, punctuation, and syntax errors.

6. If necessary, set up a reward chart that explicitly rewards homework completion by means of extra privileges, such as TV, or family treats or activities. Again, focus first on rewarding the regular completion of work. Later on you can reward higher grades. Setting up a regular schedule is often helpful.

7. There may be a specific subject that is causing problems. For that you need to see the teacher and take her help and guidance to work on the deficient areas.

8. Often, the long-term projects become too unwieldy and burdensome. You can help your child break it down into smaller chunks for which you can set realistic goals and deadlines. This will help in getting the work done as well teach your child how to organize and plan.

9. If you have a busy routine and you cannot spare that much time for your child's homework, look for some sort of a homework club. Many schools offer a facility for supervised homework. Most children prefer doing their homework in the company of their friends and under the guidance of the teacher. After all, they are the only ones put through this at home while the others seem to be enjoying other activities.

10. Above all, focus on helping your child to experience success. Failure breeds discouragement which leads to giving up. Success, on the other hand, is motivating and encourages more attempts. Do whatever you can to make the homework experience a success - either in itself, or by means of the rewards that it earns.
About the Author
Worried about your child's performance in school? Thinking about special educational needs? Get more of Dr. Noel Swanson's parenting tips and articles, at his parenting advice website, and check out his acclaimed GOOD CHILD Guide and free newsletter.
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