Getting a kid to do their homework can be darn near impossible. Some of you may dread the hours between end of school and your child’s bedtime, because World War III breaks out every afternoon over homework. I know exactly how you feel; once upon a time, that was me for sure. But over time, we’ve figured out a few ways to hack homework time and short-circuit the daily struggles before they ramp up. Want to know how to end homework battles in your own home? Then read on:
This is a collaboration post. However, please know I stand behind everything written here, and only include links to products/services/resources I’m willing to recommend personally.
First Things First: Figure Out Your Afternoon Routine
Let’s start with the basics: A child who’s not ready to learn isn’t going to get their homework done effectively. This is why so many schools now serve breakfast to their students. Kids whose families cannot afford to feed them a good breakfast will not be able to focus on their schoolwork.
The same is true of your child, who is probably ready for a snack by the time they get home. But beyond that, you’re going to have to figure out the rest:
- Some children love to do their homework right after school.
- Others prefer to relax and unwind first. Even five minutes of front-yard swinging (our girls’ favorite after-school activity, weather permitting) helps our girls shift gears.
- Sometimes a child may be upset or excited about something that happened at school. They may want to snuggle with you and tell you all about it as part of their transition. Or they may want a few quiet minutes alone in their room. Or maybe they’d like to draw or color while having their snack.
There isn’t a right and wrong way to do homework, but you do need to make sure that your child is sticking to their commitment. If they tell you that they’ll do their homework right after finishing (say) a round on their video game, hold them to it. Don’t let them play for hours longer than they stated. If you do, then they’ll be too tired to concentrate, and/or it will be too close to dinnertime for them to do their homework. Tell your child that they can go right back to their game as soon as they have finished, so it becomes its own reward.
Talk Through It
It’s so important that you give your child the chance to talk about their homework if they want. Especially if they seem stuck, or don’t know where to start. Especially with younger students, when trying something new, or with a bigger project, students may be totally intimidated. For some of them, talking through the pieces of what they have to do with a sounding board can help. Other times, you might be able to help them figure out which parts to do first, and how to proceed.
You might not know anything about the subject they’re studying. Or the “new math” or “new spelling” or “new reading” techniques they’re learning may look foreign to you. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t lend a supporting ear. Sometimes that’s all a child needs to find their own answers – and this can really help them to get it done.
Offer Encouragement And Support
Your child needs to know that they are completely responsible for both organizing and actually doing their homework. Your job is not to nag them; it’s to provide the framework, structure, and encouragement to help motivate them toward the finish line.
Especially if focus is not your child’s strong suit, remember to praise them for working hard, persisting through a tough assignment, or maintaining their focus. You also need to remember that concentrating for more than a few minutes can be more difficult for children than it is for adults.
Likewise, what seems easy to you might not be so easy for them. Put yourself in their shoes for a day and think about the way that they see the world. This will help you to give them the encouragement they need.
Another way you can encourage and support your child is by taking part in their homework process according to whatever your school’s rules are. Many schools give children a homework diary, daybook, or planner. Parents need to sign this daily, to acknowledge the fact that their child is actually doing the homework themselves.
Signing that planner shows your interest, respect, and commitment to your child’s learning. It also lets the teacher know you’re on board with their efforts to teach your child, and that you’re a supportive educational partner in your child’s learning.
Set Up A Homework Station
Your child needs a designated homework station that includes several components:
- A quiet space to work without interruptions, especially from younger siblings
- Access to parent help when needed
- A decent-sized work surface with plenty of room
- Good lighting and access to all the tools they’ll need (pencils/pens, tape/scissors/glue, crayons/markers, internet access, etc.)
For the youngest children, a small side table or corner of the dinner table may work fine. But once your kids are getting regular homework, they really need a proper homework station.
RELATED POST: How To Make a Homework Station On A Budget
If you can’t score a good bargain on a large work table like I did, you can always DIY with a few small file cabinets/bookcases and a flat slab for a top. Investing in something like reclaimed wood table tops will make a beautiful, durable work surface that will suit them well for years to come. I did this in our basement recently, with a wood slab and a couple of cabinet pieces that I snagged at our local Habitat ReStore, as a new sewing table.
Work With What Works For Them
Children are all different, and they also have very different learning styles as well. Some prefer to study alone. Others like to study with friends or even family. Some prefer to have low-key background noise around them. (I for one work all day at my computer with news on the radio in the background.) Others need complete silence.
For this reason, keep in mind that some like to have music on or even someone to keep them company. Before the girls had their new homework station, the only way I could get Kimmie to do her homework is if all three of us were sitting at the dining room table – me working on my computer, Essie reading, and Kimmie studying.
And if you suspect something in your child’s brain works differently than what’s expected of them, for goodness’ sake talk to your child’s teachers/school officials about it. A child struggling to read or write may have dyslexia or another processing disorder. A child who can’t stay focused, or must have something to occupy their hands at all times, might have ADHD. (Or, alternately, the work may be so painfully boring to them that they need more intellectual stimulation – this is also something your school needs to know about.)
The sooner you figure out and work with your child’s unique needs, the better – both for you AND for your child.
Stay On Top Of Technology
No, I don’t advocate giving your child free rein to do whatever they want online, unsupervised, when they’re supposed to be doing their homework! (Among our house tech rules, our 9- and almost-7-year-old may only use their school-issued iPads at home with parental permission AND parental supervision.)
That said, stay on top of what your kids are doing online. Not only is this a good general online safety rule to establish while they’re young, but you can actually be a huge help to them in their homework sometimes.
Just because they have access to an electronic game or program that’s supposed to teach them math, doesn’t mean that they don’t need your help and support still. (In fact, my current volunteer work at the girls’ school includes helping a sixth-grade boy on his multiplication facts, even as he practices pre-algebra in an online math app.)
RELATED POST: Kids And Technology: Maximizing Learning Potential
Kids don’t always know as much about the settings of even their school devices as you might think. And sometimes, nothing beats your quizzing them on their spelling words the old-fashioned way. (It’s hard to test yourself on them when you’ve got the electronic list in front of you!)
And if you want to seek out additional online learning resources for your child, or need help evaluating the options available to them, check out this super checklist I came across recently of considerations to take into account!
Kids don’t do well with the long-term “rewards” (good grades, progress toward the next level, etc.) of completing their homework consistently and correctly. Younger children especially often benefit from much more immediate reward systems. Some ideas to consider:
- Get them a small timer, and encourage them to “beat the clock.”
5-10 minutes of focused work followed by a short break is especially good for younger kids. The teachers do this all the time at our school in the younger grades; a dance break is especially effective. Our school’s favorite is a short GoNoodle video, and the kids LOVE it.
- Go to the park, or celebrate the end of a big assignment with a special treat like ice cream.
- Let them play outside with their friends when they’re done.
- Perhaps the promise of some iPad time or their favorite TV show will help motivate your child through their assignments.
- Consider some small treats that they can use to mark their progress. Kimmie’s favorite is having a small bag of M&M’s or Gummi Bears. Every time she completes a math problem, she gives herself one as a reward.
When you do this, they’ll learn that only good things can happen after they get their work done, This positive association will help them build a solid work ethic over time.
Don’t know what rewards will motivate them the best? There’s no better way to find out than to just ask them. Ask them what would help them get their work done sooner, and also help them to make a homework plan, so they get a day off from time to time to relax.
Above all, be careful not to overschedule your younger child with extracurriculars, or let your older child overbook themselves. Kids need down time. Having something they’re supposed to be doing every single moment will leave them stressed, anxious, and burned out. Moreover, they won’t have enough time left to get their homework done while still getting enough sleep, exercise, and balanced nutrition.
For all you parents of school-aged kids: What is your top tip for other parents on how to end homework battles, once and for all? Let us know in the comments!
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