A little story…
When I was a new parent I used to think child discipline might be a challenge, but then I thought “Hey, I’m smart, I can handle it. My husband and I would giggle a little at the amount of articles and books written to provide parenting tips and parenting advice. We held our baby, gazed into her beautiful eyes, and we thought “We’ve got this!” We got through the terrible twos (okay, we bought a book to two), the first day at nursery school, and the daycare shuffle. We got parenting advice from friends and family but anytime we were knocked off balance, we got back on track pretty quickly. Life was good!
And then she started Kindergarten.
Remember the feeling when you realized that you were no longer going to have to do homework? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Do you find yourself wondering…
How much homework help do I really need to give my child?
How long should my child work on homework?
Why is getting homework done such a struggle?
It starts early. Within the first week of school, your Kindergartner comes home with a red folder full of papers for you to go through. Okay, not so bad. You’ve mastered the new system of “Return These” on the left and “Keep at Home” on the right. Then you come across a note attached to a worksheet that reads “Parents, please do this with your child tonight. Thank you.”
You read the assignment, and it is asking you to take a walk around your house counting all the window panes in your home with your five-year-old. Now you think, “But I still have to make dinner, clean up, start laundry, run to the store before it closes, get my kid bathed and ready for bed, and then finish that report for my boss that’s due at 8:45 tomorrow morning! Ugh, I thought I was done with homework!”
And this, my Dear Reader, is just the beginning… Kindergartners LOVE homework. And if you haven’t found out already, this love of homework wanes, and as it does, we begin to feel the enormity of Homework Hassles.
To Help Or Not To Help…That Is The Question
At some point, this is the question on every parent’s mind. And there is just enough parenting tips and parenting advice on the topic of homework to completely overwhelm any parent.
One lesson I teach all my clients is to never do for your child what he is perfectly capable of doing for himself. That’s really a long way to say, “Don’t enable your child.”
It’s not effective parenting to go around, enabling children. Even if it looks like “being helpful,” or “just making sure he does okay.” It’s a slippery slope and sometimes when you are “being supportive,” you are, in reality, creating a monster. A frustrated, tired, and anxiety-ridden monster. And that’s just what it does to the parent! What it does to the kid is it creates a sense of helplessness that is really tough to eliminate.
What’s the parenting advice here? Know your child’s abilities. Ask yourself what your child needs as far as “homework help,” and it may not look like your neighbor’s or even for your other childrens’ capabilities!
10 Steps to Managing Homework Hassles
I’m going to help you nip any homework hassles in the bud. If you’ve got older kids, don’t worry. It’s not too late. This will still apply to you, too! Here are some steps to follow for effective parenting regarding homework:
1. EFFECTIVE PARENTING: There is a lot of information flying around about homework, and it’s one of the top agents of anxiety for moms. One myth is, “good moms will sit down and do homework with their children.” I can assure you that is bunk, hogwash, totally untrue! The truth is that Effective Parenting around homework means that you create an environment in which children can successfully complete homework. And that environment begins with attitude.
2. ATTITUDE: What is the proper attitude for homework? Homework is for the CHILD. Trust that your child’s teachers have your child’s best interests at heart and are creating assignments that are age and developmentally appropriate. Accept that your child will have to work hard at homework and that the harder your child works, the better for the child.
3. WHAT HOMEWORK IS AND WHAT IT IS NOT: Homework is a tool that teachers use. It is to allow children a space to review and practice what was learned in school. Homework will help your child learn how to use different resources to find information, conduct an in-depth exploration of topics, and apply and extend the skills they learned. It will teach independent learning, self-discipline, and responsibility for a young student. Homework is not a punishment, but homework is also not optional (okay, I know there are entire countries that have eliminated homework; we’re not there yet). Lastly, homework does not take a back seat to sports or other extracurricular activities.
4. THE COST OF HOMEWORK: Homework takes TIME. Age and skill of a child will most likely dictate the time a child spends on their homework. This is where Effective Moms will need to exercise good judgment. There is nothing wrong with communicating any concerns to your child’s teacher if homework time exceeds what they deem appropriate. Often times a simple phone conversation will clear up any misunderstandings on homework policies.
NOTE: The general guideline for homework time expectations for K to 2nd-grade children is up to 20 minutes each school day. 3-6th-grade children will benefit from 30-60 minutes of daily work. 7-12th-grade children will most likely have upwards of an hour a night and have longer-term projects. Daily reading (like at bedtime) are additional minutes added to the above guidelines.
5. ENVIRONMENT: Creating a physical space that will allow a child to work independently on their homework is very important. Set a regular homework time and do whatever possible to stick to it. Pick a place for nightly homework keeping in mind the restrictions of the home, other family members, and each child’s needs. As much as possible, keep supplies available and let kids know that they (the child) are responsible for maintaining supplies and letting Mom know when supplies are low or needed. Also, eliminate distractions. Yes, take away their phones, etc. If there is not a computer to do homework, disable all notifications, etc. on the device during homework time.
6. BE AVAILABLE: Remain open to answering fundamental questions and giving encouragement when children struggle with homework while resisting the temptation to sit down and reteach a lesson.
NOTE: Especially now, with the Common Core, many parents are frustrated with the changes in the teaching of math skills. Most parents are baffled by this new method and are not able to teach their child the “right way” to do homework, especially in math. The good news is that effective parents don’t need to try to reteach. They can encourage their children by saying things like “I know you can do this. Stretch, drink some water, and go back to it with a fresh mind. You’ve got this!”
7. CHECK: Check to see that homework is complete. Do NOT check a child’s homework for accuracy.
Did I just say DON’T check homework for accuracy?
Yes. I. did.
8. ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO GET IT WRONG: When a mom checks her child’s homework and makes sure each answer is “correct” to her satisfaction, she is robbing her child the opportunity to learn from his mistakes! Teachers will (most likely) review homework with students the next day. If a teacher sees that a child has missed a lot of the homework, she is able to reteach the material to make sure that there is understanding. Effective Moms should not be tempted to “show off” through their child. Please understand that your child’s academic performance is up to your child. Be confident that you have created a healthy environment for your child to thrive and succeed in by his own merits.
9. TALK ABOUT YOURSELF: Parents who can talk about themselves to their children in an age-appropriate way are appealing and interesting to their kids. When kids are interested in someone, they listen to them more. When children listen to parents, they learn from their wisdom. They understand their parents’ morals and will subscribe to their values. So, tell your kids about what happened at work (nix the water cooler gossip, please) and the kind of work challenges you’ve had. Share your failures as well as your victories. Read (not just your Facebook feed) and discuss current topics with your children. And they do this AT THE DINNER TABLE with no screens to distract the family from bonding and sharing.
10. ATTEND SCHOOL FUNCTIONS: When teachers offer conferences, go… Even if everything is going well. Meet and Greets, Curriculum Nights, PTA meetings, and etc.; attend what you can, when you can. Not every event, pick at least one. You are modeling good citizenship for your children, and you’re letting them know that their education is important enough for you to show up. Besides, you might learn something yourself!
Now that you know the 10 steps to managing Homework Hassles you can get started tonight! Since most of us are super busy and have a To-Do list a mile long, adding one more thing to it can feel overwhelming. If you want help getting started, I’ve created a PDF, “How to Set-Up a Study Space in 3 Easy Steps” that I’d love to share with you. After you do, you have a clear starting point so you can put the 10 steps above into action.
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