By Stacy DeBroff
~ Offer advice and guidance when asked, but refrain from doing your
child's work for him. Think of your role as that of a consultant.
If your child works in his room, stop by periodically with words
of encouragement, to drop off a small snack, and offer praise.
Find out from the teacher how much homework to expect during the
week, when it will be assigned, when it's due back, how the teacher
handles late assignments, and what supplies your child will need.
Praise effort instead of your child's natural ability or intelligence.
If your child keeps forgetting to bring homework home, let him know
that you will assign him homework instead, and that he'll still
have to do the forgotten assignment the next day.
Help your child look for an answer on the Internet, in an encyclopedia,
or in a dictionary. Augment what your child is studying in class
with books from the library, discussions, or field trips.
Don't assume that your child will struggle with the same subjects
that you did in school, and caveat your own experiences, such as:
"While I never did like math, I always worked hard at it and
tried my best. That really paid off."
Often the companionship of an adult makes homework less lonesome
and onerous. Use this time to:
your own "homework" from the office
Work on your photo albums
Read a magazine, the paper, or a novel
Pay bills or balance your checkbook
Write cards or send duplicate photos to friends or family
Make dinner or clean dishes while your child works at the kitchen
Be ready to drop any your own activities if your child needs your
help or becomes frustrated. Let your child know that you are willing
to help when asked, but will not finish assignments or battle over
Eventually expect your child to tell you he wants to work by himself,
giving him the pleasure of banishing you with his newfound independence
rather then feeling exiled to struggle with homework alone.
Ask to see completed homework. Encourage your child by noting best
efforts and giving praise for well accomplished assignments. Offer
to help him correct any mistakes he has made.
WITH STRUGGLING OR MISTAKES
~ Ask your child to explain to you what the teacher said that he
wanted done. This will not only clarify the task at hand to you,
but having to explain it will increase your child's understanding
of what he needs to do.
Treat your child's homework mistakes as no big deal that you can
work together to correct.
Give your child easier examples to clear up misunderstandings such
as on math worksheets and to boost your child's confidence in tackling
more difficult problems
If your child expresses anger and frustration at your suggestions,
consider hiring an older student from high school or college to
play the role of neutral tutor.
Clarify with the teacher your role in helping to correct your child's
spelling, grammar, math mistakes, etc.
If your child rushes through homework too quickly, causing multiple
mistakes, ask his teacher for a suggested minimum time he should
spend on homework. Use a timer, and to help slow the pace have additional
work or reading to do for remaining time.
Schedule a teacher conference to discuss concerns if you find the
homework too easy or difficult for your child and for tips on how
to assist your child.
YOUR CHILD STRUCTURE WORK HABITS
~ Remember that part of the goal in homework is to help your child
learn to organize his time.
Help your child break larger projects into manageable tasks that
can be tackled one at a time and provide your child with an immediate
sense of accomplishment.
Suggest always starting with the hardest part of the assignment
first, to get it out of the way while your child has the most energy
Write homework due dates on the master family calendar in a color
specific to each child. If your child is old enough, have him keep
his own homework calendar or date book.
Use dinner table discussion to brainstorm for big projects or papers
and make creative suggestions.
On nights without homework, set aside the homework hour for reading.
If your child's teacher doesn't provide one, create a designated
homework folder to take completed assignments back to school. Assign
your child the job of making sure the folder is in his backpack
ready to go on the day it's due.
Encourage five-minute breaks every once in a while, especially if
it gives your child a chance to lower his frustration level.
Avoid criticizing how your child tackles her homework as long as
the work is done on time. Let your child's temperament set a pace
that works best for him.
DeBroff is President and founder of Mom Central, Inc., a company
devoted to providing pragmatic tips and advice to strengthen busy
families and enhance the home environment. She is the author of
several best-selling books on household and family organization
including The Mom Book: 4,278 Tips for Moms; Sign Me Up!
The Parents Complete Guide to Sports, Activities, and Extracurriculars;
and Mom Central: The Ultimate Family Organizer. For more
information, visit www.momcentral.com