Families often have recurring conflict over getting homework done. Parents may have a clear idea (sometimes a good one, sometimes not) of how homework should get done, but kids just won’t comply.
This guest article, addressed to parents, is by Signet’s friend and academic/life coach, Jonathan Wolf. While we often focus mostly on academics, Jon focuses on helping students and families navigate some of the dynamics around things like homework.
Below, Jon suggests a few ways to try to change the dynamic of conflict around homework into something more productive. We hope you find this helpful!
Four Solutions to Common Homework Issues
Today I’d like to address “the H word,” infamous for both kids and parents: HOMEWORK. If your child comes home from school, grabs a quick bite to eat, tells you about their day, and sits right down to start on their two and half hours of biology, English, and history...well, congratulations. For many families, this scenario is pure fantasy.
But not to worry! You are part of a bigger community looking for answers, and answers you shall receive! Before jumping into these strategies for common homework challenges, keep in mind that not all parents and students are the same. There is no one guaranteed approach to facilitate your child completing their homework; you may use a combination of strategies to maximize your success. Be sure to elicit some answers from your student about what works best for them, and most importantly…remember to breathe. Patience will go a long way.
Homework Challenge #1:
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Parents, when you get home from a long (and sometimes unpleasant) day at work, the last thing you want to do is get into a deep conversation about your day. This can apply to kids too! Keep in mind that they go to school for about seven hours a day, with people they don’t always choose to be around, doing tasks they don’t always like, and then typically come home to a few hours’ worth of homework.
Solution: Next time your kid gets home from school, let them have a little breathing room to unwind, maybe grab a snack, and “turn their brains off” in their own way. Give them around half an hour. Then encourage them to get to work, because research shows students have higher homework success rates when they get started within an hour of coming home from school.
Homework Challenge #2:
Some research says that on average, we are able to maintain focus for approximately eight seconds before a mental “firework” or distraction invades our mind. Sitting in front of a TV screen, at a computer with nine different tabs open, at a desk with years of “junk” on it, or starting homework right after an intense game of Call of Duty will definitely make your student more prone to mental “fireworks” going off.
Solution: Just like athletes before a game or practice, try a very brief warm-up routine. Research shows that an individual’s mindset prior to learning can have an impact on their focus, attention, and absorption of the material. So first, work with your kid on creating and keeping their personal workspace clean, easy to access, and with minimal visual distractions. Next, have them sit down, close their eyes, and count their breaths (in and out is one) to ten. This may be challenging for your child regardless of age, so doing it with them is a great starter and positive modeling. (And a little deep breathing isn’t a bad idea for you either!)
Homework Challenge #3:
EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD BREAK
If improving focus, productivity, task completion, and overall mental well-being is a goal for you and your student, then multiple breaks will be necessary. When students get older and into high school and college, they typically think taking breaks is a waste of time and impedes their “flow”. But regardless of age, taking even a 5-10-minute break between sections of homework improves your kid’s focus while they are working, which will in turn improve task completion.
Solution: If they are open to it, have your student set a timer on their phone (between 30 and 45 minutes) and when the alarm sounds, they can take a break (something that gets them away from their workspace and allows their brain to “reset”) for 5 to 10 minutes—see what rhythm works for you.
Homework Challenge #4:
KNOW THE ISSUE
Sometimes it happens over and over: your child doesn’t finish their work, forgets materials at school, pushes long-term assignments off, and maybe even lies about when a project is due or how much work they have. If this is a pattern, you need to address the underlying issue. Is the assignment confusing for your student, are they overwhelmed by either the individual project or the total amount of work they have, or could it be a focus or attention issue?
Solution: In a non-judgmental manner, have an open dialogue with your student about what is really challenging for them, and see if extra support through tutoring, coaching, or clarification from teachers may help with the underlying challenge. Not only will this help with at-home assignments, it’s also a great opportunity to connect with your child.
Homework challenges may never go away. Keep in mind that focusing on the process of getting work done is far more important than any individual assignment. There are typically rational reasons for these homework issues and it takes effective communication, patience, and a desire to understand your student’s challenges in order to find the solutions that work best for them.
This post was written by guest writer Jonathan Wolf, owner and founder of YouTime Coaching.