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Homework Help for Parents

6 tips to help build good homework habits

A father and son work on homework together

6 tips to help build good homework habits

Homework time can sometimes be stressful and aggravating for parents and students alike. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Are your children spending too much time on their cellphones or playing video games and not enough time doing homework? Do they have too many extracurricular activities going on after school, leaving less time for homework? Do they need you to help them with their homework? How much should you do?

Whatever the situation may be, know that you as a parent can do a lot to help your child develop good homework habits. Know also that your pediatrician is ready to help with any developmental or learning concern. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is a good resource for parents helping with homework.

Developing good homework habits is worth it

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.

Parents helping with homework follow these tips to help your child build good homework habits:

1. Be a helper not a “doer”

Helping with homework can be a fine line to manage. It’s 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. It could be something as simple as needing flashcards to aid their learning. Have your child identify what he or she can do on their own and be ready to help when necessary.

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.

Know your boundaries. 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. Also, 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.

2. Set up a homework schedule

Most children do best when there is a set routine and expectations around homework.

Children develop different homework patterns. 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. AAP suggests a 10-minute warning or reminder to get a child ready mentally to tackle homework. Just don’t let these reminders become a source of conflict between you and your child.

Often, if you agree on a regular time and place for homework, you can eliminate two frequent causes of homework-related discord. Often helpful is to review the week’s schedule on Sunday night and write it out with an agreed allotted time for homework.

3. Provide a quiet location for homework

Designating a regular place to do homework is important, but is there such thing as an ideal place? Your child’s bedroom works fine, but it could be in another part of the house — just as long as the location is well lit and quiet and conducive to doing homework.

You can provide a comfortable chair and make sure they have all the supplies they may need nearby. You may also want to set up a homework station in an area that you can easily access, especially if you want to monitor their Internet use.

4. Limit screen time during homework

Children need to keep TV and video distractions at a minimum when they are doing homework. AAP recommends discouraging entertainment media while doing homework. Studies show that the more time children spend using digital devices, the less likely they are to finish their homework.

If cell phone calls and/or texting are becoming a distraction, that needs to stop during homework time. Set limits on the time spent watching TV or playing video games on school nights. Some families may limit their children to an hour or less of combined screen time on school nights while others may not allow any screen time.

5. Praise the efforts, not the end results

Children need to learn perseverance. Praising their efforts in getting things done is important.

Getting a good grade is one thing. But it’s just as important to celebrate their success in completing projects and assignments.

With large projects, you may want to teach them to complete their efforts in small chunks. That way you are also teaching them how to organize and manage their time.

6. Discuss concerns with your child's teacher

If you see that your child is clearly struggling with concepts, it may be time to talk to the teacher. Keeping in touch and handling concerns with the teacher are way more helpful than battling with your child or doing your child’s work.

Remember you are in a partnership with the teacher when it comes to your child’s education. The 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 also advise on what you can do at home to help your child improve in any subject that he or she may be struggling with.