By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist
My son is in kindergarten and he already hates doing his homework. He cries and whines about it. I tried rewarding him with chocolate but I don't want to have to bribe him to do his homework. How can I motivate him or make it fun? And how can I help him develop good homework habits?
In their kindergarten year, children have a lot to get used to, especially if they haven't been away from home before, or haven't had a lot of structure in their days. As such, they are often exhausted at the end of the school day, or over-stimulated and over-active. Parents have adjustments, too, and while it is commendable that you want to instill good work habits in your son right away, it may be that your expectations are a little high. I think with a few minor adjustments, homework time can become less of a battlefield for you.
Check with your son's teacher and find out if the same behaviors are occurring in the classroom. Does he do his in-class work without problems, or is he resisting there as well? Talk with the teacher about strategies to use at home, so there is consistency between both settings. Your goal should be to create the expectation that homework is a regular part of your son's day, like brushing his teeth or putting away toys. But like those habits, it won't happen overnight. It is an ongoing process for most children.
Some other points to consider:
The point of homework in Kindergarten is twofold. First, young students must get used to the idea of taking something home from school, and then bringing it back. Just learning to do this is a big deal. Second, Kindergarten homework is usually a review of something already learned and practiced in the classroom. It should never be something new to him. So, your son should have already mastered the work. Remind him that he already knows how to do it, and that homework is a kind of practice, like riding a bike or catching a ball.
The timing of homework can be very important. If you are trying to get him to do it right after school, he may be too overwhelmed. After holding their behavior together at school all day, oftentimes kids "let down" when they get home, and this is when parents see crankiness, whining, and other misbehaviors. Think of it as letting out frustration in a safe place! So, your son may need some down time before you introduce homework. Let him have a snack and watch a short TV program, play a game with you, or engage in a physical activity.
Finally, homework should not take very long to complete. A good rule of thumb is five to ten minutes for every grade: 5-10 for Kindergarten, 10-15 for first grade, etc.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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