Tips for Homework Helpers
By Jeanne Shay Schumm, Ph.D.
Maintain two-way communication with your child.
Don't just lecture. Listen and respond to what your child has to
say. When you respond, don't plead or argue. (Pleading puts your
child in charge; arguing creates a no-win situation.) Instead, respond
assertively and positively.
Set goals with, not for, your child. Then focus on one at a time.
Start with a goal that your child is almost guaranteed to achieve.
That will make the others more appealing and continued success more
We all respond to the expectations other people have of us. (This
is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy syndrome.) If your expectations
are low, your child's achievements are likely to match them. If
your expectations are high but not unreasonable, your child will
respond in kind.
Make your child aware of improvement. Reward achievement.
Don't "pay" for every accomplishment with a treat or a
promise. Often it's enough simply to say, "You did a really
good job on that map. I'm proud of you." But if your child
works especially hard on a challenging assignment and completes
it successfully, that's worth celebrating.
Direct praise to the task at hand.
Saying, "You spelled eight out of ten words right. Much better!"
is more specific than "Good for you!" Specific praise
guides future behavior.
Be enthusiastic. Use humor.
Starting every homework session with the Star Wars theme might be
going overboard. But it doesn't hurt to smile and say, "I like
spending this time with you." And you don't have to be deadly
serious about it. Laughter, shared jokes, and even a tickle or two
can go a long way toward lightening the homework load.
Although you should be careful about "sticking to the rules,"
a certain amount of creativity can "help the medicine go down."
A story in one of the basal readers (reading textbooks) tells of
a child whose Thanksgiving homework assignment was to make a Pilgrim
doll. The child's mother was an Eastern European immigrant. The
child dressed the doll in Russian attire, and the doll served as
a lesson to the class that the United States has had many kinds
of pilgrims over the years.
Take every opportunity to build your child's self-esteem.
This includes, but isn't confined to, most of the other tips already
presented here. Use your imagination and your natural affection
and concern to think of other ways to show your child that she is
a worthwhile and important person.
with the teacher before correcting your child's homework.
Many teachers want to see a student's mistakes; they use them to
determine where more teaching is called for. A perfect parent-corrected
paper can be misleading and can rob a child of the extra help she
If a child starts fidgeting excessively over a math book, switch
to spelling for a while. Return to math later. In between, share
a snack, take a short walk, or have a joke-telling session.
Shay Schumm, Ph.D., is a professor and chair of the Department of
Teaching and Learning at the University of Miami School of Education.
She teaches courses in reading assessment and instruction and is
actively engaged in research on reading. In addition to coauthoring
over 75 research articles, Jeanne is the author of School Power:
Study Skill Strategies for Succeeding in School. She lives in
Coral Gables, Florida.
from How to Help You Child with Homework by Jeanne Shay
Schumm, Ph.D. C 2005. Used with permission from Free Spirit Publishing
Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 1-866-703-7322; www.freespirit.com.
All rights reserved.