Even if your child is an excellent student, you can’t assume that he will always dutifully do his homework. One day he might eagerly attend to his schoolwork, and the next he might be distracted by sports and games. Here are some helpful tips for taming wandering minds during those times when academic enthusiasm lags:

Set aside a regular time and location for study

Give homework its own special time and place, and if your child is in middle or high school, let her set her own schedule.

Take it step by step

Children may get overwhelmed by the amount of homework they have to do. Encourage your child to calmly figure out what needs to be done and how much time it will take, and then create a plan. Help your child break each assignment down into manageable steps.

Provide a quiet, well-lit environment

It’s best to do homework in a room that has good lighting and is relatively quiet. This reduces distractions and helps kids to maintain their concentration. For more tips, check out this video by the K5, which provides online resources for parents of elementary-school-age children.

Allow time for some after-school fun.

Students need to take a break from academics. A healthy balance between work and free time will not only contribute to better performance, but will also help your child develop valuable time-management skills.

Help out

You shouldn’t have to do your child’s homework or reteach the material covered in class, but you can help out by showing an interest, making yourself available as a resource and by encouraging independent problem solving. For example, if your child is doing a project on presidential elections, point out related articles that you’ve come across in the newspaper.

Praise a job well done

Kids, no matter their age, need to know that they are doing a good job. Be vocal about their successes and encourage them to keep up the good work (especially as the year draws to an end and a tendency toward laziness may settle in). A little praise will go a long way in building confidence and healthy study habits.

Share concerns with the teacher

If at any point in the year your child seems to be losing motivation and you’ve exhausted all attempts to reinvigorate him, share your concerns with the teacher. You’ll want to determine if the problem is the quantity of homework, the assignment itself or your child’s attitude toward school. An open dialogue with the teacher can prevent minor issues from developing into potentially serious problems.