Ending Homework Battles

Michele Borba January 15, 2011 Comments Off on Ending Homework Battles

Parenting tips to help reduce those homework battles and help kids develop study skills

You can’t make me!”

“Why do I have to do homework?”

“Can’t I pleeeeease just go to bed?”

“Homework time” can be very stressful and tension-filled for both child and parent. According to a survey by Public Agenda almost half of all parents of school-age students said they have arguments involving tears or yelling with their kids about homework.

One third of parents admit those school assignments cause repeated kid meltdowns.

There is some controversy about the effectiveness of homework  in enhancing achievement in the younger grades, but research does say that the right kind of assignments do help kids acquire essential skills for success in school and life such as organization, self-pacing, problem solving, internal motivation, concentration, memory, goal setting, good old “stick-to-it-ness.”

Parenting Tips to Reduce Those Homework Battles

Here are just a few secrets to make homework time more successful for your child and you. The real parenting secret is to find what works best for your kid and then stick to it!

1. Recognize your role as “helper” not “doer”

Sometimes in our quest to help our kids succeed, we may get carried away providing too much help. Make sure he’s doing the work- not you! One of the best self-esteem enhancers is recognizing a job we can be proud of. Offering too much help robs your child of those powerful, “I did it!” moments, and he just may be saying to himself instead, “Mom did it for me.”

2. Know the teacher’s expectations.

Be clear as to each teacher’s homework policy so you are all on the same page from the get-go. Find out how long should take on the average per night. That answer will help your determine if your child has too much work, is a procrastinator, has a learning disability or lacks study skills. Then talk with your child so he knows you are not only aware of the teachers’ expectations but also support them.

3. Praise efforts and not just the “end product”

Kids needs to learn the importance of hard work and effort. Homework provides a great opportunity for you to reinforce your child’s perseverance. You might start a family motto such as “Never Give Up!” or “Don’t quit until you succeed” or “In this family, we finish what we start,” Perhaps the most important trait that doing homework instills in our children is perseverance. The only way they’ll learn to value effort is by our steady emphasis of “it’s not good enough just to start; you have to finish.” And research at Columbia University by Carol Dweck found that when you emphasize Effort “You’re working so hard” over Smarts “You’re so smart, you can do it!” you actually will increase your child’s persistence).

4. Insist homework be her responsibility not yours

Resist the temptation of always sitting next to her and offer your help only when it’s really needed.

If your child is having difficulties, help her understand the work by making up similar problems and showing her step by step how to do it. Then watch her try to do one on her own. That way you won’t be doing all the work for her.

Asking her to show you her completed work at the end of each row or section is another way to ensure she’s following the directions correctly but not relying on you for every detail.

4. Section the assignment in smaller chunks

Grouping assignments into smaller chunks is often helpful for kids who have difficulty sticking to a task, have shorter attention spans, or are overly concerned with making sure “everything’s right.” Then tell your child to do “one chunk at a time”

You can even take a short break after completing each chunk. Gradually you can increase the size of the “work chunks” as your child’s confidence increases.

5. Consider a getting a tutor

If you do find homework battles increasing, you are doing most of your child’s work or your child is having a difficult time mastering the subject despite your help, consider hiring a tutor.

Ask your teacher or other parents for recommendations including even a high school student.

The goal of homework should always be to enhance your child’s learning abilities and confidence while at the same time preserving the relationship with your child.

For more tips you can read my blog entry on hiring the best tutor.

6. Agree upon specific times for doing homework ahead of time and then stick to it

You may want to even post your agreement in a visible place and then sign it. Many kids need a break after school, while others like to delve right in while things are fresh in their mind.

Find your child’s best work time and consistently reinforce it.

Drawing a clock face that shows the set homework time is helpful for younger children.

Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert

I am an educational psychologist, parenting expert, TODAY show contributor and author of 22 books.

You can also refer to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Checkfor ongoing parenting solutions and late-breaking news about child development.

Follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba

You can also find dozens of research-based and practical tips about bullying (as well as 100 other topics) in my latest book,The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. Refer especially to the chapters on Gives Up, Homework, Procrastinates, Reading, Test Anxiety, Disorganized, Overscheduled