The homework routine often becomes an activity that neither parent nor child look forward to. The parent’s role in the homework process is to be sure the work your child brings home is appropriate and to set up the conditions in the home that are necessary for your child to be successful.
Homework is supposed to be easy enough that your child can handle it alone, yet have enough “teeth” so that he is practicing skills he has not yet acquired. If the work your child brings home is too difficult or too easy, speak with the teacher immediately to get the proper adjustments made.
Homework time is a significant message to your child about his degree of control in his life. It’s important to keep the message positive. Work that is too hard tells your child he can’t learn and be successful. Work that is too easy sends the message to your child that school isn’t very important and that people don’t expect a great deal from him. Both of these problems could convince your child to give up on education and stop doing the work.
Another part of your role as a parent is to insist on conditions in the home that give your child the best advantage in developing strong skills. You should work collaboratively with your child to develop guidelines that your child understands and sees the value in so he or she will stick to the plan.
You need to monitor your child to be sure she adheres to the homework rules set up in the house. Even high school students are not self-directive enough to be on their own about their lives! Adjust your level of monitoring to suit your child’s real needs; don’t be fooled by your child’s age or grade—students with complicated learning needs often need much more supervision than their parents believe.
You need to provide a clean, organized, distraction-free environment that is conducive to learning. Set up a consistent, regular time each day to do homework. Build regular breaks into the schedule. No matter what your child thinks, multitasking efficiently is NOT possible. Chatting with friends, watching TV, being on Facebook, or listening to favorite songs does NOT help concentration. Listening to classical or instrumental music is great if your child doesn’t get distracted.
Children do not naturally know how to plan, organize or manage their time, work space, supplies or study methods. They need to be taught how to do all of these things. School does not typically teach students to do these things.
When you organize the homework routine and the physical environment to meet your child’s strengths, there will naturally be less conflict and more learning. Carefully observe your child to see what seems to be working and point that out. Often your child doesn’t have the ability to notice what works and what doesn’t so he or she needs you to point it out. Then you can encourage your child to use effective approaches.
Many children stay more motivated and self-confident when a parent pleasantly checks in at regular intervals while they are completing their homework.
Model the type of behavior you wish to see from your child. Show your child how to plan in advance by sharing your techniques for setting priorities and sticking to them.
When your child shows you he doesn’t know how to handle any of the essential elements of managing the workload efficiently and independently, you need to put into place a system of teaching him how to manage it. This instruction can come from you, the school, a tutor, or a more highly-trained professional. The point is that these essential skills are learned over time and don’t develop without close supervision.
If your child needs help in managing studying tasks, visit my Getting Started page to see how to take the next step to improving your child’s school performance.