Children are usually expected to spend some time out of school hours doing homework and study. Expectations vary between different schools and teachers, so it is important for parents to find out what is expected of their child. Parents play a vital role in helping their child to develop good study habits and routines. Homework should not be a time of stress or pressure. Instead, it should be a pleasant time together, when parents can provide encouragement and offer help if their child needs it. Below gives some suggestions on how to help your child develop a good homework routine.
Children differ widely in their abilities and how quickly they come to understand new ideas. However, by providing children with encouragement, support and help, they are more likely to work to the best of their abilities.
Why do homework problems occur?
Homework problems can arise because of poor planning, such as leaving things to the last minute. For example, some children make it hard on themselves by starting a large project the night before it is due. It is important to teach your child how to plan and timetable larger projects so that they can complete this learning over smaller chunks of time.
Some children have difficulties with homework because they do not understand the work. Some avoid homework, or do it quickly with little care, because they would rather be doing something else.
Parents may feel their child does not have a good attitude towards study or believe their child is lazy or irresponsible. This may make the problem worse.
How to prepare your child for homework:
Let your child relax after school
Children need time to relax after school, just as adults do after work. Your child may also be hungry. Offer them an afternoon snack, a drink, and let them tell you about their day. If your child is in after school care, give them time to unwind when they first arrive home.
Ask your child about their homework
Find out what your child needs to do for homework and when it needs to be completed. It might involve tasks such as using a ruler, counting or sorting things, learning spelling words, writing sentences, working on a project or doing mathematics problems. Your child may have some homework free days if they complete all their homework tasks early in the week.
Set a time for doing homework
Set a regular time for homework that fits with your family’s schedule. You may need to fit it in around your work and your child’s other commitments such as sport, clubs, music or art lessons. However, remember that it is important to get into a good study routine, and homework should have a high priority.
A good time for doing homework is immediately after children have had time to relax, but before they are allowed to play or watch television. If other children come around to play, ask them to come back when your child has finished their homework. Remind your child of the ground rules, for example, “When your homework is done you can play or watch television.”
Arrange a place to do homework
It is okay for children to do their homework in the family living area rather than in their bedroom if they want to. However, it is best to set up a good study environment:
- Clear a space at a table
- Make sure the room is well lit
- Reduce distractions (although children do not need absolute quiet to be able to work)
How to encourage your child to do homework:
Help your child get started
Prompt your child to get their work out and get started on the first task. Be prepared to sit at the table with your child, but do not do their homework for them.
Praise your child for working on their homework
Praise can help motivate your child to persist with their homework, for example, “Great! That’s five questions you’ve done already.”
Wait until your child asks for help
Give your child a chance to do the work on their own before helping them. Ask them questions rather than offering them solutions first.
Help your child solve problems for themselves
Prompt your child to solve problems themselves rather than giving the answer straight away. For example, if your child asks how to spell the word ‘garden’ without trying to spell it first, you could say, “How do you think you spell it? Get out a piece of paper and try to spell it yourself first. Then I’ll come and have a look.”
Offer praise when your child attempts the word. If they get the word right, offer further praise. If the word is wrong, rather than saying, “No, that’s wrong”, point out the letters that are correct first, “Great – that’s nearly right. The first four letters are right. Have a look at the ending. Is it ‘en’ or ‘on’? Yes ‘en’. Excellent!” Be careful not to overdo it. If after one prompt your child does not get the correct answer, tell them what it is. Children will become easily frustrated if every question they ask is met with responses such as, “Look it up in the dictionary first.” You will find that your child is more cooperative if help is given freely, with one or two prompts.
Show an interest in your child’s work
When children are doing their homework, they need encouragement for correct work and for attempting the task rather than criticism for making mistakes. Show an interest and praise your child for their efforts. Some children will ask whether their work is correct or want an opinion on how good the work is. Do not feel that you have to make sure your child’s work is perfect before they hand it in. It can be discouraging for your child if they have worked hard on a story only to have you point out all the spelling or punctuation mistakes or comment negatively on their handwriting or presentation skills. The ideas your child has expressed in their story may be very good. When checking work, say something positive about your child’s effort. If you must make corrections, only point out one or two mistakes. If messy work is a problem, encourage your child to do rough copies of work first and a final neat copy to hand in at school.
Encourage desirable behaviour
Praise and reward your child’s efforts when they have finished doing their homework. Suggested rewards include allowing your child to watch television, read a book together, go for a family walk, or play a special game.
- Let your child relax after school
- Ask your child about their homework
- Set a regular time and arrange a place to do homework
- Help your child get started
- Offer praise and encouragement while your child is working
- Prompt your child to solve problems themselves
- Show an interest and say something positive about your child’s work
- Praise and reward your child when they have finished doing their homework
Triple P – Positive Parenting Program
A special thanks to Triple P and “Tots to Teens” for kindly allowing us to use this article.