Let’s face it – getting our hormonal teens to do anything worthwhile in their free time is a pitched battle; a war of attrition where we inevitably fall into the role of the bad guy, time and again. Getting them to swallow anything remotely green, bring the platoon of mould-infested mugs down from their rooms or help out with household chores can be a real struggle, often leading to tension and explosive arguments.
This is never truer than in the case of homework. After a long day in the sausage factory it’s little wonder that the last thing on our kids’ mind when they burst through the door is more school work, but there are some strategies that can help make homework time bearable for both child and parent. Here’s my top ten tips for getting the kids to do their homework:
1) Give them some down-time: Don’t ambush your kids as soon as they get back from school – chances are they’re fairly pooped and have been looking forward to some time and space to relax. Allow them that, let them unwind in their own way before mentioning the ‘H’ word.
2) Create a homework environment: Down-time over, it’s important that there is a clear workspace specifically for homework. Ask your child of their preferred work area – be it in their room or elsewhere, it’s important that digital distractions are put aside and supplies such as paper, pens, calculators and the like are more prominent than tech gadgets.
3) Create a timetable: I know this is difficult for many families with busy lives, but creating a set time and place for getting homework done can be really beneficial. Our kids live out their school days in set blocks of lessons and are used to that kind of structuring, so set aside a convenient time and stick to it. Many parents find that half an hour to an hour after tea is a good time for homework – the child is fed and re-energised and it means there is still time for them to do their own thing before bed once homework is completed.
4) Be there for them: Most kids struggle with homework, that’s just a fact. Rather than shutting them away and leaving them to it, try to make sure you’re around to offer support and guidance and aren’t too busy to lend a helping hand and encourage them along. You don’t need to hover over their shoulder, but knowing you’re there to help can be a reassuring comfort.
5) Be the example: Believe it or not, your kids look up to you. By reading newspapers and books, doing crosswords or talking openly about current affairs you’re setting good examples without even knowing it. Make academia and intrinsic interest in the world a normal part of family life.
6) Praise and reward: Nothing boosts confidence like a ringing endorsement for your efforts. From commenting on the neatness of their handwriting to casual gloats to family and friends about their achievements, it’s important to let kids know their hard work isn’t going unnoticed. Let them know you’re proud of them, even reward them in ways you see fit to keep them incentivised and motivated to keep up the good work.
7) Be realistic and not overbearing: Don’t expect your child to get it right every time, after all, we don’t want to pressure them into thinking they’re a failure, that’s not going to motivate anyone. Talk to teachers to discuss their expectations and predictions and trust them on that.
8) Let them make their own mistakes: It’s sometimes hard to resist the urge to complete homework for a struggling child; no-one likes to see a loved one in turmoil, frustrated and angry by an unsurpassable problem. Hard as it is, we have to let them make mistakes and face challenges on their own sometimes. If you’re always stepping in to make corrections and help out, the incentive to do a good job and the feeling of achievement gained from doing a good job can be lost. There’s also a very real risk of your child being left behind in class as it gives the teacher a false perception of how they’re doing academically.
9) Be prepared for the backlash: You’re going to have to stay the course. Creating plans and homework spaces is all well and good but you have to stick to them. It’s likely that kids will resist, especially if you’re imposing homework rules they’ve not been used to. It’ll pass.
10) Last resort: If everything you try just doesn’t seem to work seek help, there may be some underlying issue at school or elsewhere that is affecting your child. As well as speaking calmly to your child, speak to teachers and other parents with kids in the same classes to try to find out if there’s anything wrong.
Feel free to add your own suggestions to the comment box if you’ve come across any helpful ways to keep those nightly homework arguments at bay…