The child who enjoys doing homework is a rare treasure indeed. Congratulations to you if you’ve been blessed with one of “those”. But for most of us, encouraging our children to have a healthy attitude towards homework can be a difficult task and often an uphill struggle, especially for the academically challenged ones. This can affect your child’s morale, as well that of you, the parents.
Here are eight tips to make homework time a happier, more positive experience for the whole family.
#1 Join the team
You might not have “homework” to do per se, but you can still model the action of sitting at the table and busying yourself with something appropriate, such as checking your emails, writing lists or paying the bills. This way, you’ll be right there anytime your child needs some help.
#2 Create a system together
“Set aside a fixed time and place to do homework.” – Liyee, mother of 3.
No child wants to spend the whole afternoon working on problem sums! For younger children, set a time slot for them to spend on homework, eg. 1 hour before dinner. For older children, discuss with them what pocket of time will work. This allows children to know that there are a start and end time, and to have the space to plan the rest of their time (play or otherwise) accordingly. Some degree of control over that structure can empower your child to own his schedule and the tasks at hand.
#3 Make it a team effort
Make this your family mantra: No one’s done till everyone’s done. Leave no man behind. If you have more than one school-going child to oversee, help them to own this saying for themselves. Encourage those who are older or quicker to help the younger or slower ones. For example, if one child finishes first, he can do some quiet reading, help a younger sibling, or plan out his schedule for the week. It’s not about competing about who finishes first, or who scores the highest. It’s about coming alongside each other in the journey.
#4 Divide and conquer
If languages are your forte, by all means, coach your child in that area. If your husband is better at Science and Maths, let him take charge of those areas with the kids. Don’t try to do everything by yourself! (Of course, if your spouse is not available, seek alternative ways to get your child’s needs met if you feel unqualified, eg. tuition)
#5 Let him discover the answer
Sometimes when your child is stumped by a question, asking your child to explain what he does understand about the problem can help him figure out how to proceed. When he comes up with something helpful to the problem, encourage him for his suggestion, and then consider together how that helps him move forward towards a solution.
#6 Relationship is more important
Ideally, you want your child to learn to work things out for himself. However, it’s futile to withhold the answer if frustration is making him hate you or the subject. Your relationship is much more important than him getting the right answer, and a bad attitude towards a subject never helped anyone succeed.
#7 Empathize with your child
“Cry together, and encourage and guide your child to solve the many challenges along the way.” – Janice, mother of 3
Your child may feel frustrated, bored, angry with the pile of homework in front of him. Or he may get stuck at a particular problem and feel defeated. Often, what your child most needs is for you to understand that this is all extremely frustrating/discouraging for him. Give him the choice of trying again on his own, or with input from you.
Over time, you might reap the rewards of your efforts in unexpected ways!
“Before starting violin practice, with me by her side, my P2 year old daughter will say ‘Would you like to drink a coffee so you won’t be cranky?” – Annabel, mother of 2.
#8 Know When to Quit
If you or your child find yourselves on the verge of a hissy fit or thrashing the whole stack of assessment books and worksheets, it’s time to take a break.
By Dorothea Chow