So, you’re back-to-school. If you’re lucky your progeny completes his, her or their homework without a lot of fuss. However, if your kid(s) fight you on homework, do it carelessly or otherwise leave you feeling like you’re in homework hell, here are seven tips to help.
• Tip #1: incentivize effective homework completion. First define what effective homework completion means (e.g., a certain amount of time legitimately exerted without hassling anyone). Then establish what reward your child will earn by effectively completing the homework. The more problematic the behavior the bigger the incentive and the more it should follow immediately upon homework completion. For instance, if Aiden lives for his X-box, that might be earned by completing homework effectively each night. Be careful to put this as a reward, instead of a punishment. Xbox is earned, not taken away.
• Tip #2: Consider an excessive violation of the 10-minute guideline to be a symptom. Research suggests that there is often a diminishing academic return when students spend more than 10 minutes a night on homework X their grade in school (i.e., a 5th grader spending 50 minutes, a 7th grader, 70, and so forth). If your child is spending much more time than this consider tips #3 and #7.
• Tip #3: Consult with your child’s teachers when homework is problematic. For instance, your child’s teacher(s) may not realize that your child is spending an excessive amount of time completing homework, especially in the middle school years and onward (i.e., teachers may not be coordinating their expectations). For example, asking your child’s teacher(s) what he/she/they believe is a reasonable amount of time to spend on homework each night can begin a productive dialogue.
• Tip #4: Don’t get your shorts in a bunch about methods if the goal is being reached. Sometimes we parents try to over control how our child does his or her homework without considering whether or not he or she might get it done well using his or her preferred method(s). Some kids like music on, or to do homework on a bed, etc. As long as the cat gets skinned, who cares.
• Tip #5: If your child isn’t being truthful about what the homework is, add a communication system from school to home. This daily communication should include a behavior grade for any behaviors under concern, the grades that were returned that day (if any), the homework for the night and any long term assignments that are due. Compliance with this system should also be incentivized. (This can be a complicated system, so see my parenting book for a step-by-step break down of the how-tos.)
• Tip #6:If you can afford this, and your child needs it, consider hiring a tutor to help with homework (not to do the homework, but to help with it). In this economy, there are many trained educators looking to do such work.
Tip #7: If your child is working at it, but floundering, consult with a child psychologist. It may be that your child has a learning disability or a psychological obstacle (unknown to you) that is at play. A skilled child psychologist can get to the bottom of things and suggest an effective remedial plan. For a referral, click here.