Homework is a point of contention in many households and the nightly battle of wills can leave both parents and children feeling frustrated. Fortunately, there are some tried and true techniques which can help parents achieve victory – or at least draw a truce!
Establish a Realistic Schedule Together
At the beginning of the school year sit down with your child and create a realistic homework schedule together. This is a chance for both of you to weigh in on what works and what doesn’t. Convey your expectations from the get-go, but allow your child to have an opinion on the matter. By levelling out the playing field, your child is less likely to see homework as a chore that they are being forced to do.
Remember that expectations should reflect the stage your child is at – one to two hours a night of dedicated homework time with regular breaks should be enough for a child in prep school, but as your child gets older that time will likely change to reflect their growing workload. Some children may prefer to dedicate time right after school to get their homework out of the way, whilst others may want some time to decompress after a full day before diving into their homework.
Once you have established a routine, write it down and place it somewhere where it is prominently displayed, such as pinned up on the fridge, to avoid any misunderstandings over what is expected. Treating it like a contract to which each party has agreed will also give your child a sense of responsibility for holding up their end of the bargain.
Create a Suitable Homework Space
Now that a schedule has been established, get to work on creating a dedicated space at home where your child can concentrate on the task at hand. Ideally, the area you choose will benefit from good lighting and be free from distractions.
Consider flipping a more secluded corner of your home into a dedicated home workspace. The older your child gets and the heavier their workload becomes means they will be spending an increasing amount of time in the evening on homework. Carving out a more centrally located workspace may help them still feel a part of the action while they get on with work. A shared workspace is also useful for monitoring your child’s screen time. More spacious kitchens might have unused corners that can be repurposed into a work area. If you are tight on space, a computer workstation on wheels is a great option that can be tucked away into a bedroom or hallway closet when necessary.
Their homework space should be roomy enough to accommodate whatever task they have been given, whether it is working on a math problem or finishing up an art project. Stock up on school supplies, such as colouring pencils and paper, and keep them within reach of their workspace to avoid any unnecessary disruptions to productivity.
Be a Cheerleader
Words of encouragement will make a big difference to your child’s approach to homework. Shift the focus away from grades and performance, and instead celebrate the effort they are making.
Telling children “Your ideas are so creative”, or “I can see that you are working so hard on this”, will remind them that the process itself is an important part of learning and will keep them motivated to press on, despite any bumps in the road.
Reward Good Behaviour
Some children require an extra nudge in the right direction and research shows a reward system can be a great motivator. Rewarding children for their good behaviour encourages good habits to form and take root to become a part of who your child is, which can be useful when introducing positive homework techniques!
Homework planners are a great way to keep your child on top of deadlines. Their planner should list the details of all upcoming assignments organised by subject and feature any useful instruction and the due date. They can tick off each piece of work as they complete it and you can regularly review their process. Check out the local bookstores for an affordable homework planner, or download a free organisational app, such as MyHomework Student Planner.
Agree on potential rewards beforehand. Incentive systems don’t have to be elaborate, but they should be age appropriate. Sticker charts are a great option for younger children, who will enjoy the process of creating and decorating his or her own sticker chart, and watching it fill up over time. Children will love helping create their own sticker chart – look at Pinterest for some inspiration.
For children middle-school age and above, consider introducing a more complex system in which your children can 'cash in' stickers earned after completing schoolwork for bigger rewards, such as increased screen time or a trip to the beach. Remember, rewards don’t have to cost money!
Regardless of which reward system you decide to use, the important thing is to your reiterate to children that this is a chance for them to take responsibility for their behaviour.
Let Your Child Own Their Choices and Consequences
Appreciate your supporting role – be there to answer any questions, but ultimately remember that homework is your child’s responsibility, and you should resist the urge to give them the right answers or complete their work for them.
Some parents find it unbearable to watch their children struggle and will often swoop in to save them, but your child will never learn to be resilient if you insist on taking over the reins when things get difficult.
Lay the foundation for good, independent study habits from the get-go, and your child will feel supported to work through problems on their own. If your child is feeling really stumped, make sure helpful resources are available – such as school approved online assistance, reference materials, apps or even organisational tools.
Be aware that a child who is consistently having a hard time with their homework may require some additional support. Reach out to the school if you are concerned to discuss your options and/or look into engaging a tutor for your child.
Homework Red Flags
Lots of staring into space.
Spending much longer than anticipated to complete a task.
Needing instructions repeated.
Getting lost in their train of thought.
Unable to focus on one task at a time.
Getting frustrated with themselves because they can’t do something.
Constant fiddling and fidgeting.
Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to.
Unable to keep tasks and belongings organised.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), up to 11% of children aged 4-17 have ADHD. There are lots of things you can do to help a child with ADHD; the key is to get it diagnosed and seek professional advice on the next steps. Please see our list of Paediatric Therapy Services for organisations who can perform clinical assessments.