Homework success can be one of the most frustrating and stressful aspects of being a child - and a parent. For some, this academic chore is accomplished smoothly and without conflict. For others - many others - it's a daily battle that can end with a child in tears and a parent exasperated. As parents, we must refrain from doing an assignment for our child, but we are responsible for three basics things that help ensure success:
The Right Space
Some teachers will tell you to set up a quiet homework space with absolutely no distractions for your child. But that kind of silence may not be compatible with the way your child works or studies.
It's not just about the physical space your child is working in, Hoyle says. There are visual, auditory and even tactile elements at play here. Some children may do homework better in their pajamas or sweatpants; others need a beverage and snack nearby; and still others have to listen to music while doing the work. Some kids want a parent nearby for occasional guidance; others don't.
Ask your child what kind of environment works best for him or her, but be prepared to negotiate if you don't agree with some of the criteria.
"Nobody can watch TV and get anything done," she insists.
The same is true for home computers, which can distract kids with emails, instant messaging and the lure of the Internet. If your child needs to use the computer to complete a homework assignment, monitor what he's doing, Hoyle says.
The Right Supplies
Having all of these items readily accessible will make homework time more efficient and minimize the distraction of having to scrounge for supplies.
The Right Support
The perennial question from parents when it comes to homework is when and how much we should help our kids. And the perennial answer is that we should never end up doing their homework for them.
"It's a mistake, mainly because what you're teaching them is that if you're stuck and in a tight place, you don't have to problem-solve. You can just let someone else do it for you," Hoyle says.
That doesn't mean you should always shrug your shoulders and say "you figure it out" when your child comes to you with a tough math problem. Your role, says Hoyle, should be to act as a guide.
Most important is that you keep your cool, she adds. Kids can become very frustrated if they don't understand their homework material. The next time your child asks you how to answer a tough question or complete a difficult project:
Without a plan, she says, "kids get upset and it escalates. Parents get upset and it escalates. Nobody can come up with a plan when they're freaked out."
And if your child really is "freaked out," step back and play the role of a coach.
"If a coach told your kids to take a lap around the field, they'd just do it. The problem with homework is that kids whine, they carry on. Then the parents scream and it's a disaster," Hoyle says. Act more like a coach. "Tell your child, -Go get yourself together for five minutes and come back to me when you're ready to discuss how you're going to get this done.'"
Deirdre Wilson is a senior editor with Dominion Parenting Media and Parenthood.com.
© Parenthood.com, used with permission.
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