Knowing when to step in and help your kids and when to let them struggle and suffer the consequences, can be difficult. Homework is a good place to loosen the reigns. You may think he benefits when you step in to do his homework, but teaching him to be responsible for it – mistakes and all – will serve him better in the long term.
You know homework is important, and you want your child to take responsibility for completing it on time and getting it right. Yet you also know that if you don’t help him sometimes, he might make careless mistakes or perhaps not even finish the assignment at all. It’s hard to judge how far you should go when supporting him with his homework, so consider the following strategies:
Maybe you want to do his homework for him so that he gets it correct every time (although this will become increasingly difficult as the curriculum progresses), but that won’t help his learning, Instead, encourage him to check his answers every time he thinks he has finished. Getting him into the habit of checking and rechecking is far more helpful than finishing the assignment for him.
Don’t fill in the blanks
Of course you can’t ignore Junior when he asks you for help with a question. Instead of giving him the answer, however, direct him to resources where he can find it himself. Try to resist the temptation to speed up the process by telling him exactly what to write in his homework – while you will probably do that occasionally, it is not an effective long-term strategy. He needs to find the answers himself.
Give him ownership
Make it clear that although you will help him when necessary, he is responsible for completing all assignments; it’s not your job. The danger of giving him too much support is that he may start to rely on you too much and, before you know it, the homework is yours, not his. Find a balance between helping and taking over altogether.
Cooperation, not coercion
The more you pressure him to develop good homework habits, the less likely he is to acquire them. In fact, he may end up spending more time arguing with you about it than he does actually completing it. True, you can confine your tween to his room, and you can even remove his TV privileges, but you cannot force him to put pencil to paper.
Get into a routine…
Since he probably has a task to complete every evening, it makes sense to build this into his school-week schedule. Suggest that he draws up a timetable for doing his homework. For instance, he could focus on this for one hour each night during the week and spend one hour on it over the weekend. What matters is that he has a structure that suits his pace of work.
…But make it realistic
Speak to other parents and to his teacher in order to decide how much time he should spend on this. Once you understand what a sensible homework timetable should look like, discuss this with your kid until you reach an agreement.
Pin it up
Some children find a visible reminder useful, so stick the timetable near his study desk. That way, there will be no indecision or disagreement because the plan is there in black and white.
Some kids prefer to work with gentle background music but, in general, your young one will be able to concentrate better when the TV set is switched off, when his phone isn’t buzzing with game notifications, and when his siblings aren’t talking to him.
For more tips on how to encourage, without nagging, click here.
By Dr Richard C. Woolfson, Young Parents, July 2015