Developing A Homework Alliance With Your Child
Developing A Homework Alliance With Your Child
Many parents are familiar with the frustrations involved in helping their children with homework. In the best-case scenario, a child works on his own and parents provide assistance and guidance whenever necessary. In other cases, daily homework becomes a team effort, with parents very much involved in helping children get their homework done. If you are a parent who is struggling to build an alliance with your child in order to manage difficult, on-going assignments – this article will help identify essential parent practices, which can have a positive role in shaping how your child learns to work well independently.
#1 Provide options in a choice of workspace.
Consider playing around with a choice of rooms, noise, light, and access to TV, Xbox, iPad. The choices that you make could have a broader impact on whether or not your child gets the homework done efficiently versus simply checking and signing off on the work. The friendlier the surroundings for your child, the better. It may surprise you to learn that your child can complete homework in a variety of settings and conditions. It is not much different from an adult who has preferences for working in a kitchen vs. an office, outside vs. inside, with a cup of coffee and some music vs. having total quiet. Settings are best selected with the help of your child as a collaborative effort to establish an environment that would be conducive to work.
#2 Outline a schedule.
Enforcing time schedules is an effective method for increasing the amount of completed assignments. It is important to choose an optimal time for homework (i.e. between 4-6 pm) when your child is not too tired and has some downtime to decompress from a full day of school. Reinforcing the schedule as a family rule will make “homework time” into a habit. It is recommended that parents establish homework time before a favorite activity (i.e. reading, watching TV or playing on an Xbox). If favorite activities become rewards for completed assignments, children and adolescents are much more likely to follow through with the assigned work.
#3 Model for how to plan ahead.
Children and even some adolescents do not necessary plan ahead very well for longer- term assignments, along with not knowing how to organize and prioritize tasks. In order for your child to learn these skills, it is best to model these behaviors as opposed to simply telling them how to get organized. Buy your child a desk calendar, and help track upcoming tests, events, daily assignments and other necessary tasks. Modeling this is the quickest way to get your child to quickly adopt similar habits.
#4 Maximize your child’s strengths by adapting assignments.
Many parents have been in a place where their child is struggling with an assignment and does not want to complete it due to being a poor reader or challenged in a science or math related field. It usually does not work very well when you force your child to struggle through the reading material or a math problem set. This could lead to dislike of the subject area or in the worst-case, anxiety about underperformance and a shaky self-confidence. If your child experiences any of these problems, it is best to tackle the problem with your child and focus on strengths. In other words, if the weakness is reading, and your child is good at solving puzzles, create a game where words become like a puzzle, capitalizing on the child’s strength and love for puzzles.
#5 Agree on outside resources.
If your child does not want your help with homework, identify who will provide homework assistance in advance. It could be a friendly neighbor, a sibling or a tutor. Keep in mind, that part of establishing homework alliance with your child is establishing this same alliance with your child! One such method is to plan ahead and get your child’s “buy-in” to the plan in advance.
#6 Please avoid excessive feedback and correction.
Too much feedback and correction is the number one tool to reduce everyone’s motivation for something. In fact, too many corrections can increase self-doubt and lower self-esteem. Learning is a process that occurs in an environment where children are allowed to make mistakes. Most times children will find a way to arrive at their own understanding of the subject matter. Parents can help guide the process, but do it carefully and in a way that does not foster dependence, reassurance seeking, or distaste for feedback all- together. A good rule is to provide a few compliments with every correction.
#7 Practice empathy.
It is important that you accept your feelings of frustration with your child’s frustrations around homework. If as a response to the frustration, parents become angry and irritable, this will only inevitably increase the child’s frustrations with themselves and their abilities to complete the work. When offering help, ask your child in what way specifically do they need help. Breaking down assignment tasks into specific and measurable components can go a long way to understanding the issues behind homework completion for your child.
#8 Help your child gain independence.
Eventually, it will become important to transfer the onus of homework assistance from parents to the child. Thus, the most important skill to learn is how to reinforce homework success the next time, encouraging your child’s reliance on someone other than you (i.e. homework buddies, online references, lists, taped reminders, etc.). Remember, focusing and pointing out to your child everything that she/he is doing well, is one way to build confidence and awareness of the child’s own resources for successful homework completion.