Monitoring homework can be a challenge. How do you strike the right balance when it comes to helping or prodding your child to successfully complete homework?
Katrina Hermetet, PhD, a pediatric clinical psychologist, nationally certified school psychologist and program director of Akron Children’s School Success Clinic, recommends families start with a designated homework area. Make sure this area is as distraction-free as possible and has all the materials that may be needed during homework.
In addition, she encourages families to have a scheduled “homework time” that stays relatively consistent throughout the school year. A printed schedule is helpful for younger kids to visually see their schedule for the evening. She recommends no more than a half-hour break after school, with no technology during that break. Start as early in the afternoon as possible; attention, working memory and frustration tolerance all diminish as the day goes on.
This will hopefully create a homework habit for the child and, in turn, lead to less frustration when starting school work.
“Research has shown that it takes about 30 days to change a child’s habit,” said Dr. Hermetet. “So if you start a homework habit now, by Halloween it should be a consistent family routine.”
Still struggling to get your children to complete their homework successfully? Dr. Hermetet answers your top questions to offer some guidance and reduce frustration when it comes to the “H” word.
How much parental help is appropriate?
Encourage your children to start homework independently. I recommend parents set the boundary that they will check work and help with difficult problems at the end of each assignment. This will encourage the child to independently problem-solve and self-regulate when feeling overwhelmed with a problem.
If a child is stuck on a problem, encourage your child to look back through notes, homework or the book to find a similar problem to use as a guide. This may also be a good time to take a short break. Sometimes a break will help refresh, decrease frustration, and improve problem-solving abilities once your child has calmed down.
During times when a child truly does not appear to understand and has attempted to solve the problem, it is OK to help work through the problem.
Should a parent review homework once completed?
It is good to review homework so that you are aware if your child is struggling in a particular area.
If there seems to be ongoing concerns related to comprehension, it’s a good idea for a parent to communicate challenges your child is having and discuss additional support with the teacher. Otherwise, the teacher will have no way of knowing if kids are struggling.
What advice can you offer for kids that always complain about homework, or struggle with it?
Visually break work down into manageable chunks. You can fold the paper into thirds, or use a folder to cover part of the page. This can decrease the feeling of being overwhelmed and prevent them from focusing on upcoming homework problems.
Once homework has started, breaks throughout are good if your child is becoming overwhelmed or frustrated. Breaks should be 2-3 minutes and include some kind of motor activity (i.e., walk, snack, restroom break). If a child struggles to come back to homework after breaks, try switching assignments rather than leaving the table. This gives the child a break from a frustrating problem or difficult subject, and typically helps reset and refresh.
Lastly, set accuracy goals to encourage your child to give their best effort rather than rushing through work. Instead of saying, “You can have a break when you’re done with math” say, “You can have a break when you get five right in a row.”
If homework assignments become overwhelming, should parents speak up?
There are various strategies, such as starting earlier in the evening and taking breaks throughout, that may improve time management and decrease frustration during homework.
In addition, you can check to see if your school offers a homework club. Changing a child’s environment by coming home could be a problem. Some kids, especially those with underlying issues, may do better staying in school to complete their work and come home afterwards.
However, if there are ongoing problems related to your child’s comprehension of the material or ability to complete the work, talk to the teachers and explore possible problems or barriers. The child may need a hearing or sight evaluation, or may fit the criteria for a 504 or individual education plan (IEP) to address learning disorders or other behavioral concerns.
It’s a good idea to discuss the workload with the teacher if strategies to improve time management and frustration tolerance have been implemented and homework continues to negatively impact sleep and the ability to engage in enjoyable activities. As a parent, the teacher is your partner in your child’s school success. Don’t hesitate to reach out for any reason.
For more information or to schedule an appointment in Akron Children’s School Success Clinic, call 330-543-8050.