Children as young as four years old are now routinely given homework by their school teachers to complete on a nightly basis. It’s also not uncommon for schools to recommend youngsters continue working throughout the holiday periods too – it all adds up to a lot of pressure both on parents and children. No parent wants their child to lag behind his peers (never mind the rest of the world) and the more we worry about this, the more stressful the situation becomes. It is a recipe for homework disaster.
Put an end those homework battles by being prepared, organised and getting a plan in place:
Develop a regular routine: work out the best time of day and also the best place for it. Some children are unable to focus until they’ve had something to eat and drink and a bit of time to unwind. For others, it’s best if they knuckle straight down the moment they get home from school and chill later. By definition, a routine is something that is done routinely – it needs to be pretty much the same every day. And every week thereafter.
Be consistent. Children who don’t have anywhere in particular for homework and end up doing it on the kitchen table one night, then on the floor in front of the TV the next and maybe up in the bedroom the night after that, will not do as well as those who have a dedicated space. Likewise, children doing it before the evening meal one night and after it the next, will find it harder to make doing homework seem like a natural, automatic part of their day. Once it’s imprinted on their minds as part of their daily habits and routine, you’ll find there’ll be less resistance.
Eliminate distractions such as pets, TV, phones and siblings. Don’t be afraid to put rules in place, such as mp3 players, tablet devices and mobile phones to be kept away from the homework desk. A child that constantly jumps up and keeps running back to check his phone, is not simply being ‘naughty’, he’s struggling to carry out his homework and needs some extra help here. Rather than punishing him for the unwanted behaviour, take a closer look at what’s preventing him from doing what he should be doing.
Don’t overlook the fact that your child might just be: hungry, thirsty, too hot or cold, or just need some time to reconnect with you, his siblings or family pet after that busy day at school. Address these needs first and you’ll find things running a lot more smoothly.
Be an engaged parent: taking an interest will make a big difference to how your child feels about doing the homework. Use encouraging phrases such as:
– I can understand that you’re feeling cross and annoyed about having to do this. Let’s sit down together and figure out what needs to be done.
– Even though you were worried that you’d make a mistake, you took a sensible guess and it was right!
– You were able to sit really calmly today and it helped you to concentrate.
Listen out for the type of vocabulary and language that your child is using. Use gentle questioning to find out what changes could be made to make things easier. If a child says:
“I hate doing maths” Rather than replying with: “Stop moaning and get on with it” or even: “When I was at school, I had my fair share of maths homework. I don’t intend to do yours for you now”
“What is it about this particular piece of homework that’s stopping you? Last week’s went really well, so there must be something in particular about today’s that’s a problem. Let’s break it down into small steps and see what it could be.”
What kind of learner is your child?
We use all our senses to absorb information from our environment and our senses form the basis of our learning preference or style. Taking a few moments to observe your child to figure which methods suit him best, may help avoid a whole lot of homework angst.
Your child may favour any of the following learning styles:
Visual. These children prefer to learn by seeing information. They like reading, pictures or diagrams, flashcards, demonstrations and watching videos. Colour coding and chunking down information that needs to be learned off by heart, such as a foreign language, will help them. One day they’ll learn the ‘red paragraph’ and the next day the ‘green one’.
Auditory. Some kids prefer to learn by hearing or saying it. They enjoy listening to CDs, lectures, debates, discussions and verbal instructions. They may ask you to repeat a set of instructions over and over again: they like hearing it being said.
Kinesthetic. Children with this preference learn best by getting a feel for it. They enjoy physical involvement, hands-on work, moving around and touching.
IF IT’S NOT WORKING, THEN TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT:
If your child struggles to sit still and look down at his work, buy a few rolls of plain lining wallpaper and stick large pieces of it to the bedroom wall with some tape or pins.
Now you have a blank canvas and using some pencils or felt-tipped pens, (taking care to make sure the pens do not mark the wall behind it!) your child can test his ideas out and see if the answer comes more easily.
Don’t be surprised if he needs to stand back on the other side of the room to think about things before writing anything down.
This is an ideal activity for children who fidget a lot – big brushstrokes and lots of movement will suit them better. Once they’ve figured out their answers, they’ll be happy to sit back down at their desk and ‘copy’ the answers across.
Alicia Eaton is a Behavioural and Emotional Wellbeing Specialist and also a parenting expert. She’s the author of best-selling books: ‘Words that Work: How to Get Kids to Do Almost Anything’ and ‘Fix Your Life with NLP’.