It's that time of year again. Back to school! A common struggle associated with its return is homework. More specifically, getting it done without meltdowns, complaining, whining — or broken door jambs. Listed are several suggestions for nipping homework hassles in the bud. I recommend having a plan of attack for the school year, especially if you're already dreading the words, "It's time to do your homework."
START EARLY >> Although it's not always realistic to begin homework as soon as your child walks through the door, it is recommended to start as early as possible — preferably after a protein-rich snack and brief period of exercise. An early start will pay off when the work becomes more time consuming and challenging. Set a specific time and stick to it.
DESIGNATE A SPECIAL SPOT >> Choose a spot where your child will enjoy working on a daily basis; if at all possible not in her bedroom behind closed doors, or in front of the television set. The kitchen table works well. Sprawling out on the floor is also convenient, and useful for children who require lots of "space." Make sure their special spot is well lit.
DO IT TOGETHER >> "Do your homework as your child does his," advises Trevor Romain, author of "How to Do Your Homework Without Throwing Up." "This could include answering emails or paying bills."
STEER CLEAR OF SCHEDULE OVERLOAD >> If your child has too many extra-curricular activities, he'll more than likely have trouble finding time to successfully do his homework. Overloading a child's schedule is also detrimental to needed down time — which is important for childhood creativity and play.
DON'T LOSE IT >> Regardless of how poor your child's attitude or how irritable he may become, adding to the frustration by losing it will get you nowhere and nothing done. Stay calm and refrain from spiraling into a power struggle with your child. Avoid being overly critical or giving up and just doing it for her. It could be a long year if you choose to lose it on a regular basis.
ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES >> Depending on the child, set boundaries as to what is acceptable and not acceptable during homework time. For example, if having the television set blaring and friends over after school are distracting to your child, establish limits. If certain foods or drinks (i.e. energy drinks/sodas) wire your child while working — cut them off.
USE "HURDLE HELP" >> Some children may need what is often referred to as hurdle help. This involves breaking homework tasks down into smaller segments so he can be successful. This is especially useful for assignments such as lengthy reports or science fair projects. I suggest posting a visual for assignments requiring hurdle help, and how they will be taken on. This concept, along with many other effective parenting techniques, is explained in The Total Transformation — available online.
STAY IN CONTACT WITH YOUR CHILD'S TEACHER >> The National Education Association recommends a maximum of 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night. If your child is stressed out by her workload, or you feel she is not being challenged — contact her teacher. Make it a point to attend open house at your child's school to meet her instructor and get a feel for how he runs his "show." Exchange contact information.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR CHILD'S FORMULA FOR LEARNING >> All children approach homework differently. It's important to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and how they tackle assignments. While some children are self-directed and able to complete homework without assistance, most require some type of monitoring, depending on their age. Younger children have shorter attention spans and often require short breaks.
USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT AND INCENTIVES >> It's important to reinforce positive behavior and that may mean offering some kind of incentive for consistently completing homework without struggles. Rather than money, I recommend offering family-oriented activities like movie night at home or shopping for a small "goodie." Try to choose activities that involve spending time together in meaningful ways.
BE POSITIVE >> Redirect negative talk such as "I can't do this!" or "This is too hard!" Keep the atmosphere positive and full of uplifting and empathetic affirmations such as "It sounds like you are overwhelmed right now. Would you like to skip this problem and come back to it in awhile?"
FINALLY, KNOW WHEN TO QUIT >> If you begin to feel like disowning your child every time you sit down to start homework, it's time to shift gears, take a break or let your spouse take over. Remember: your goal as a parent is to support and guide your children with homework tasks — ultimately, teaching personal responsibility, and the consequences of not completing it.