Picking up your kids from after-school sports and activities, racing home to cook dinner, doing laundry – and then homework? Do you ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Life can get in the way, but homework stress doesn’t have to.
Use these seven tips to take the hassle out of homework, so you and your family can alleviate some of stress from busy school nights:
- Create a quiet space. Let your child choose a quiet place to do their homework. Homework time should be technology-free, meaning no cellphones or screens unless they are required for the assignment. If you have multiple school-aged children, separating them can also help keep distractions to a minimum.
- Make a routine. Creating a simple routine can help your child stay organized and finish their homework.
- Lead by example. Be a model of hard work and persistence by making a routine for yourself, too. Work on your own projects or tasks if not helping your kids with their schoolwork. If you are helping with homework, give your full attention and let them know the work matters to you.
Praise rather than reward. Try not to offer rewards for doing homework. Children will come to expect a reward each time and the rewards will lose their power quickly, putting parents in a difficult spot. Instead, praise your child for the behavior you want to encourage. Tell them how proud you are when they are proactive, organized and hardworking:
“Look how responsible you are, getting your study table organized and ready to go 15 minutes early!”
“You followed the directions so well. I’m proud of you for taking your time and checking your work.”
"All of your letters are right between the lines. I bet your teacher won't have any trouble reading this."
- Make it your child’s responsibility. As a parent, it’s your job to provide the system and tools your child needs to complete their homework. It’s your child’s responsibility, however, to use them. If you find yourself arguing about homework on a regular basis, it may be time to step back and let your child take ownership of his or her work. Providing guidance and encouragement is important, but don’t prevent your child from feeling the real life consequences of bad choices. Talk with their teacher and let them know what you are experiencing. Work on a plan that will be consistent from school to home, like a daily tracking sheet or message between home and school.
Provide guidance, not answers. If your child says "I can't do it," respond by saying, "The most important thing is to try your best. We can work it out together." Homework is supposed to be challenging at times. If your child says “I can’t do it,” respond by saying, “Act like you can.” Tell your child to take a deep breath, collect their thoughts and find the confidence to figure it out on their own. Your goal should be to help them help themselves. If they continue to struggle, you can help by asking questions such as:
“What do you understand?”
“What do you think the answer might be?”
“How can you find out?”
- Structure homework time to balance subjects they feel more or less confident with. If math is their most difficult subject, start with that and say, "We're going to work on getting part of this done, then we'll do something else and come back to finish it." If they want to continue after the first section, praise them for their determination.