Parents have many ways to get involved in their children’s education. One way is by helping them build good homework habits for long-term success in school.
In addition to meeting educational needs, doing homework teaches your child to be responsible and to develop fundamental skills, such as organization, problem solving and time management.
Homework can sometimes be stressful and aggravating for parents and students alike, however.
For parents, these are common questions that might come up:
- Is my child spending too much time on the cellphone and playing videos and not enough doing homework?
- Does my child have too many extracurricular activities going on after school, leaving less time for homework?
- Does my child need help with homework? How much should I do?
Whatever the situation may be, know that you as a parent can do a lot to help your child develop good homework habits and head off any potential conflict over homework.
Know also that your pediatrician is ready to help with any developmental or learning concern. Learning disabilities are often not noticed until the child reaches school age.
“If you have any concerns about your child’s learning and development, contact your pediatrician and share your specific concerns,” says Jessica Yu, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Clinic Mission Valley.
It’s important to know your boundaries when it comes to helping with homework. It may be tempting as a parent to get carried away and start doing your child’s homework to ensure a good grade or complete it on time. But remember homework assignments are made by the teacher and it is your child’s responsibility to finish and turn in their homework on time.
“The key is to provide guidance, not answers. Have your child identify what help is needed or if there is a problem that is affecting their schoolwork,” Dr. Yu says.
Have your child identify what he or she can do on their own and be ready to help when necessary. It could mean doing something as simple as providing flashcards to aid their learning.
Parents who are always correcting and striving to get their child to do the perfect job will not be teaching their child the lessons of owning up to responsibility.
You may ask to see completed work to ensure that directions are being followed, but don’t try to correct every flaw. You may ask if there might be another way to write something or to show the thought process behind a math problem, but don’t put words on paper or solve problems for your child.
If you can’t figure out the problem yourself — junior high math may be long forgotten by many — and your child is struggling, it may be time to ask the teacher for help.
Most children do best with a set routine and expectations around homework. Children develop different homework patterns, however.
Some prefer to do homework in the afternoon after returning from school. Others prefer doing homework in the evening after taking a break from a long day in school. Some engage in extracurricular activities, which is also good for their development, but may leave less time for homework. Some need help making the transition from playing to doing homework.
A 10-minute warning or reminder may help a child get ready mentally to tackle homework. “Just don’t let these notices become a source of conflict between you and your child,” Dr. Yu says.
A homework contract can help prevent homework conflicts. There could be an agreement to go over the week’s schedule on Sunday night and set an allotted time for homework.
Children need a consistent workspace in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, well-lit and conducive to doing homework.
You can provide a comfortable chair and make sure they have all the supplies they may need nearby. Or, you can set up a homework station in an area that you can easily access, especially if you want to monitor their internet use.
If your child doesn’t have access to a computer or the internet at home, work with teachers and school administration to address these needs.
Managing media use can be tough. But children need to keep TV and video distractions at a minimum when they are doing homework. Excessive screen time can also have negative effects on sleep and lead to obesity and depression.
AAP recommends setting up a family media plan that can be customized to meet your family’s needs, including priorities like making sure to leave time for homework.
If cell phone calls and/or texting are distracting, the plan can call for that to stop during homework time. The plan can call for limits on the time spent watching TV or playing video games on school nights.
Children need to learn perseverance. Praising their efforts in getting things done reinforces that value.
Getting a good grade deserves praise. But it’s just as important to celebrate completing a project or assignment.
With large projects, you may want to teach them how to complete their efforts in small chunks. That way you are also teaching them how to organize and manage their time.
If you see that your child is clearly struggling with concepts, it may be time to talk to the teacher. This is way more helpful than battling with your child or doing your child’s work. Remember you are in a partnership with your child’s teacher when it comes to his or her education.
Your child’s teacher can tell you what’s going on in the classroom, if homework assignments are being turned in and how well they are done. The teacher can advise what you can do at home to help your child improve in any subject he or she may be struggling with.