Although there has been continuous debate over the effectiveness of homework, most research has shown that homework has a positive affect on student's achievement and academic learning in school. Math homework, specifically, has been researched for the effects on elementary students and has shown positive effects.
What is your role as parent during homework?
A parent's job during homework is to supervise. While students may need clarification on directions or concepts, it is better to help them develop self-help skills so they can help themselves become more independent. If your child experiences difficulty with understanding concepts which were taught in school, contact the teacher and let them know your child may need a review of the material
When your child says "I can't do it, I need help, I can't do anything." They are most likely feeling overwhelmed. Validate how they are feeling and remind them that they have completed their work in the past and they can do it again. If you do it for them or constantly with them, you are supporting their feelings that they can't do the work on their own. By providing them some support in breaking the work down, you will hopefully be able to increase their independence.
With everyone's busy schedules, homework needs to be included in your child's schedule just as all their other activities. For many children, they can not decide when they will do their homework. Just as their day at school is scheduled, it is helpful for many children if their night routine is consistent as well. In the book, Homework without Tears by Lee Canter and Lee Hausner, Ph.D., they suggest parents to set up a daily homework time. This is a time set aside each night where your child is expected to do their homework. This may change due to other activities but it should always be emphasized as the priority.
For some children who are speeders (race through their homework) or forgetters (forget their have homework or fail to bring it home) you may need to establish mandatory homework time. This means that children must use the entire amount of time to do their homework. If they finish early, they are still required to complete some academics, whether reading or reviewing previous work or practicing math facts. The purpose is to teach your child that there is no advantage of rushing through their work or forgetting it. They don't get out of it and replace it with a more favorable activity.
You and your child can set up a Homework Survival Kit. What's included in the kit depends on your child and his age/grade. For example, many kids come home and spend a lot of time trying to find their pens, pencils, glue, rulers, etc… Their rooms may look like a train ran through it. To help avoid fighting with your child with getting started, it will help to have everything they need all together and ready to go.
Select a study area that is quiet and fits your child's learning style. Some children need absolute silence while they work. Others need to be near parents at the kitchen table. Together with your child search for a new work area if the current work space is not effective. You could hang a sign that reads, "Do not disturb" or "Bright student at work", near the child's work area so siblings will learn that they need to leave him/her alone.
Praise your child's efforts everyday, not just when they complete an assignment. "I'm really proud of you for starting your homework right away." As you praise them, tell them specifically what you like about their work and behavior. "You really kept trying on that math assignment that was really hard. Good work."
What other motivation strategies can parents use?
You might expect that your child would be able to motivate him/herself to do homework, but for some children it's not that easy. The idea of incentives may not be appealing to you, but it may be needed until your child is more motivated on their own.
Here are some fun games and activities to help motivate your child. To start, you may want to tell your children that you are going to use some game to help them complete their homework. Choose an incentive that your child would want to work toward (realistic to you). Make sure your child is involved with coming up with the incentive and be consistent. When your child starts independently completing homework, then you can start phasing out the incentives.
- Beat the clock- First you determine how long it will take to finish the homework. Set the clock, oven timer, etc. Have a reward already set. If the child finishes within time but they have finished it neatly and mostly correct, they receive the reward. As your child gets better at doing the homework, phase out the clock by having a special night of Beat the Clock.
- Spinner- You will need to make this spinner with your child. In this activity, r you and your child write rewards all around the spinner that you and your child both agree on. Each time your child finishes his/her homework appropriately or finishes without arguments (or whatever their difficulty with homework tend to be), then they will earn a spin on the spinner.
- Homework award- Younger children like awards and recognition. Together you can hang them on the refrigerator or in your child's room. You can continue to motivate them by saying, "How many do you think you will get… I think you can get a lot…"
- Homework Contract- A specific contract that can be written out saying that if your child finishes his/her work under specific guidelines, he/she will get whatever the predetermined reward you and your child have decided upon.
- Surprise reward- Write a reward on a piece of paper and slip it in an envelope. Then if your child finishes within a time frame, or without an argument, they get to open the envelope and get that reward.
- Trade Off- Tell your child you know they can do their homework on their own, and you can play a game to help them do this. Have a supply of candy or some snack or pennies, something you approve of. Place 10 M&M's in a bowl in the child's study area. Each time your child asks for help, they give you one of the candies from the bowl. When they are all gone, they do not ask for any more help. If there are candies left when finished, they get to keep what's left. Obviously, this is for a child that continuously asks for help when they are trying to get out of the work or get you to do it. Then you can reduce the number in the bowl as they get better or have the game once a week or month, but your child has to keep working the other days in order to play the game on that special night.
- Chunking- If your child has 40 math problems, divide them into groups of five. Then circle the first five. Tell your child to do only those five and then come and show you. Maybe your child gets a hug and then goes back to complete the next five, etc. This will help show them how to chunk long assignments into smaller ones.
What do you do if these strategies don't work?
If your child refuses to do his/her homework or continue to argue and give you a hard time, you may have to communicate assertively. Tell your child - clearly and firmly- that you expect them to do their homework responsibly. Try not to argue with your child. When you argue with your child, you tend to lose control over the issue and your child has shifted the focus away from the original issue. Use the broken-record technique. - I know you are upset, but you will do your homework. Keep repeating this until they do it. Make it clear that they will not receive any privileges until their homework is finished. You are giving them the choice and the responsibility that they will not be allowed to do anything until it is complete. This will make them more responsible for their own actions and avoid the conflict situation. The message should be clear that homework is a priority over everything else, horseback riding, soccer, little league, etc. Tell your child that the choice is yours. Don't make meaningless threats of punishment. Be consistent and follow through with your demands. Be prepared for your child to test you to see if you mean business.
Your child may not realize the importance of homework at this time, but the responsibility, organization skills, practice, and time management skills they will learn will be with them always…