As the shiny new school supplies beckon, the fresh start to the school year could be the inspiration for parents to shift their strategies when it comes to the nightly homework battle.
"The battle is different for every family," said Drew Edwards, adjunct associate professor of psychology at Wake Forest University. "Some children resist starting their homework, some have a hard time finishing and others do their homework -- but don't turn it in."
Edwards, who is the author of "How to Handle a Hard-to-Handle Kid," suggests parents work with their children to develop a good system for bringing the assignments home. That could be a planner or notebook children use to write homework assignments down daily, or an assignment sheet you send with them to school.
"It's important to get in the habit of writing it down and bringing it home," Edwards says. "That will help students get in the habit of bringing home the correct textbook or other materials needed to finish their homework."
Here are some other tips Edwards offers:
• Find the right spot. Some children like to do homework on the kitchen table, others need more isolation -- have your child try their homework in several places until one feels just right.
• Find the right time. Right after school? After a short break, but before dinner? After dinner? If you're not sure, pick a time and try it for two weeks. If it's not working, try another time for two weeks.
• Find a starting point. Does your child like to start with the hardest homework or easiest homework? Maybe there's a certain order they like. Edwards said you should offer suggestions, but let the child decide.
• Find the focus. Put all other books and materials away while your child is working on one subject. "Looking at a pile of books can make a child feel overwhelmed or can just make it tough to focus on the current assignment," Edwards said.
• Find the sweet spot. How much monitoring does your child need? Some children might need you to break an assignment into smaller parts, particularly for for assignments with several steps like math, or writing sentences for vocabulary. Keep the positive feedback coming, but try not to hover.
Sometimes your child will tell you they don't have any homework. And sometimes that's true. "It's important to keep your routine going to create good homework habits in your child," Edwards said. "Set aside 45 minutes to an hour and create your own assignment that reflects what your child is learning. That could be reading, practicing other math problems or looking up current events." According to Edwards, making sure children know they are going to be doing learning activities every Monday-Thursday could help break the cycle of children who don't bring the assignments home.
While you are working on your new strategies, Edwards suggests retiring constant nagging and doing the work for the child -- the two biggest mistakes parents make. "School is important," Edwards said, "but so is the relationship you have with your child. Don't let homework become an issue that harms that relationship."
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