How to Effectively End a Common Back to School Battle
For many, homework is fraught with tension, arguments and emotion. Fortunately, homework doesn’t need to be a battle. There are some strategies that parents can try that will help reduce the headaches and hassles that can accompany homework.
Let Homework be Child’s Responsibility
It is important to remember that homework provides opportunities for the child to learn and practice the important life skills of personal time management, organization and perseverance. Parents who become too involved in their child’s approach to homework, even sometimes doing the homework for the child, rob their children of valuable learning opportunities. As a parent it is important to be available but also to refrain from taking over. Let the child take responsibility for getting the homework done.
Communicate With Child’s Teacher
Don’t wait till conference time to address concerns about homework. Since homework expectations often vary from teacher to teacher and school to school, make an appointment to speak with the teacher before homework becomes a problem. The following questions can be helpful to parents when talking about homework with teachers:
- What is your philosophy about homework?
- What is the purpose of homework from your perspective?
- How much time should my child spend each night on homework?
- What portion of my child’s grade does homework account for?
Regular communication with the teacher helps eliminate many battles by removing misconceptions and clarifying the role of homework. When the children see teachers and parents communicating regularly they are less likely to attempt to pit one against the other.
Establish and Maintain Effective Homework Routines
When it comes to doing homework, what works effectively is as individual as the family involved. The key is to determine what works for the child and the family’s schedule and to be consistent with it over time. It might take a bit of trial and error before arriving at solutions that work, but once effective routines are established there is less likelihood the child will balk at the prospect of doing homework.
Establish Routines Early in the Child’s Academic Career
A child in kindergarten can get used to doing a little bit of homework each evening even if all it means is having Mom or Dad read a favorite book before bed. Setting up these routines early so that they become habits over the course of the child’s school career removes the potential for conflict. Instead, homework becomes a normal part of the every day family routine like meals and bedtime.
Provide Tools, Materials and Set Goals With the Child
Young children benefit from having paper, pencils, erasers, even crayons or markers in a location that is accessible to them. Having the materials in a place the child can access on their own, eliminates interruptions and potential opportunities for the child to procrastinate.
For those especially resistant to homework setting goals might be a very effective way to empower children to take control of their own learning. Discussions about what time homework should be done, where to do homework and what the consequences will be if it does not get assignments done provide opportunities for the child to begin developing personal responsibility for this aspect of their education.
Reward Homework Progress
Provide a treat or reward of some kind when the child reaches a homework goal. This does not need to be a tangible reward. Sometimes five extra minutes of TV time or computer time before bed if the homework was completed without conflict and on time is all it takes. An incentive can be as minimal as a sticker on a chart or extra uninterrupted time with mom or dad before bed. Early on when setting goals, incentives should be more frequent and become less frequent as the child becomes more consistent in achieving the goal.
Homework doesn’t need to be a battle. By communicating with teachers, developing an effective homework routine, maintaining it consistently over time, homework can provide opportunities for children to take responsibility and develop valuable life skills. These strategies, when implemented, help parents create a homework routine that is as much a part of the family’s day as breakfast or bath time.