The Homework Tug-of-war

When discussing our children at parties and get-togethers, one topic that is almost always discussed is the ‘homework issue’. Parents are constantly looking for magic formulas that will make their children complete their homework magically without any reminders and hassles. Has this been on your wishlist too?

Consider this: Our children wake up at an ungodly hour to get dressed for school. They spend hours there learning, completing worksheets, participating in quizzes, preparing for exams. They make the journey back home and are instructed to shower, change and have their lunch. Before they even leave the dining table, the inevitable mantra hangs in the air…do your homework, study, study, study!

I was discussing childhood with a friend over coffee the other day and we concluded that kids of this generation do not have much of a childhood. The world is moving at a pace where children have to think and behave as adults and sometimes, our children need more guidance and support to manage their lives rather than discipline, order and instruction from us parents.

A true tug-of-war has two people participating – in this case you and your child. A typical scenario is when you force or remind your child to do his homework and he procrastinates or delays doing it, leading to an argument and stalemate. But what if you could have a healthy relationship with your child where he/she gets homework done without screaming battles, high blood pressure and slamming of doors?

Sounds too good to be true? Read on as I share how you can make this happen with some homework tips for parents.

What is your child’s type?

If you are able to recognize your child’s type, it becomes easier to manage him. Is he a procrastinator? One who finds 100 things to do before doing his homework, and then rushes through it sloppily when he does get around to it? Is he a perfectionist who thinks whatever he does will not be good enough so why bother? Do you have a disorganized child who cannot get things done because he has too many things on his mind? Or is your child an underachiever who thinks everything is too hard or he’s just not smart enough?

We often label our children very readily – lazy, dumb, not bothered – without uncovering the real source of their behaviour. You may need to talk with your child and approach his teachers in order to determine the real reasons behind not wanting to do his work. He may have poor study or planning skills, or he may be anxious about something. Once you have determined the problem, you’ll be better able to help your child:

  • Your perfectionist and underachiever need a lot of encouragement and praise for the effort they put in.
  • Your disorganized child probably needs a quiet, efficient workspace. He may need to be taught how to prioritise tasks and manage his time. If you’re always supplying the information, giving study reminders, or rushing that forgotten paper to school, your child won’t gain the confidence to do these things himself.

How you can help your child manage homework

Keep watch. Eight out of ten children who are sent to their rooms to do their homework or to study end up surfing the net or falling asleep! Many children work better knowing you are present. Doing homework on the kitchen table may not be your ideal scene, but your supervision and presence will actually prevent them from being distracted.

Jump start. Some children have difficulty starting an assignment, be it an essay or math. They may sit there with everything set up but don’t know how to start. You can give them a jump start by going over the first sum or first sentence together. This is especially helpful for slow learners.

Challenge. Everyone loves a challenge. Challenge your child to complete homework within an allotted time to win extra minutes on the iPad, Xbox, or television. The following day, see if he can beat his time record.  Little rewards help children enjoy homework, which otherwise is a mundane task.

Rest minutes. Just we take coffee breaks at work, children need their breaks too. It is unfair to expect them ‘not to get up from their seat till everything is complete’. Children should take a five minute snack or stretch break every thirty minutes to refresh themselves. Words of encouragement from parents are like icing on the cake at this point too!

Weekends. Children should ideally get one day in the week when they don’t touch their books, when they can play for as long as they want and indulge in all their favourite pastimes. This should be the day they are allowed to have a childhood. Have loads of positive and motivating conversations with them on this day and spend quality time. When they grow up, these are the days they will reflect upon the most.

Happy parenting!


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