Avoiding Homework Wars
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By Diana Browning Wright, M.S.
How Much Time Should It Take?
If your child has problems focusing on a task, writes slowly, or needs more time to understand concepts, homework can take a lot longer. No wonder she protests, tries to delay, hides the work, or doesn't turn it in at school! Sometimes just your sympathy can help.
Be sure the amount of time she's expected to work at home is appropriate for her age. Some schools, for example, expect 30-45 minutes per night in the early grades, increasing to one hour in late elementary school and two hours by middle school. Learn about your school's homework policy for each grade level.
By keeping track of how long it really takes your child to do her homework, you'll have specific information to share with her teachers. If the amount of time exceeds the school's homework policy, meet with her teacher to discuss what accommodations might be made to help your child succeed with homework.
How Can Parents Help?
- Remember that homework is a form of practice, so don't expect your child to do all the assignments perfectly. Reassure her that everyone makes mistakes and that mistakes help guide the next steps in the learning process.
- Encourage your child to talk to you about what she finds hard or confusing. Listen to her ideas on what would make homework easier.
- Model and help your child learn good organization and time management skills.
- If assignments seem endless, break them into smaller parts. For a young child, fold worksheets into two or three parts to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed. For older students, have them highlight sections of the assignment in different colors, green - first part, yellow - second part, red - last.
- Visually communicate progress towards completion. Take a small strip of paper and divide it into four to eight parts. Periodically, come by with an encouraging word and draw a star or make a check in one of the sections. The chart and homework should be completed at the same time. Then give her a reward, such as a "high 5" or a hug.
- Let her choose a pleasurable activity she can do immediately following homework, e.g., playing a game with the family, listening to a favorite story or CD, talking to a friend on the phone. Make sure the activity is one she's chosen so it motivates her to finish the work.
- Above all, try to keep negative emotions out of interactions around homework. If you're feeling challenged by your child's frustrating behavior, try to find out the causes.