The homework tug-of-war

The homework tug-of-war

Feb 12, 2014

When discussing children at dinner parties and get-togethers, one big winner topic that is almost always discussed is the ‘homework issue’. Parents are constantly looking for magic formulas that will make their children complete their homework magically without any reminders and hassles. Has this been on your wish list too? Stop for a few moments and consider this: Our children wake up at an ungodly hour to get dressed for school. They travel to school and spend hours there learning, completing handouts, participating in quizzes, preparing for exams. They make the journey back home and are usually instructed to shower, change and have their lunches. Before they even get off the lunch tables, the inevitable reminder hangs in the air….like a mantra…….do your homework, do your homework, do your homework, study, study, study!

I was discussing childhood with a friend over coffee the other day and we both concluded that children of this generation do not have much of a childhood. In fact, with the numerous demands they face, they are leading the life of an adult. It’s sad that the world is moving at a pace where children have to think and behave as adults and we do not realize sometimes; that these young children need more guidance and support to manage their lives rather than discipline, order and instruction from us parents.

A true tug-of-war has two people participating; in this case you and your child. A typical scenario is when you force or remind your child to do his homework and he procrastinates or delays doing it. An argument usually follows and you have a no-win situation. Try converting this to a win-win situation where you don’t fall out with your child, have a healthy relationship with him and get homework done? All without screaming battles, increased blood pressure and slamming of doors. Sounds too good to be true? With a bit of patience and creativity on your part, it’s actually possible.

What is your child’s type?

If you are able to recognize your child’s type, it becomes easier to manage him. Is he a procrastinator? One who finds 151 things to do before doing his homework and then rushing through it sloppily? Or is he a perfectionist, who thinks whatever he does will not be good enough so why bother? Or do you have a disorganized child who cannot get things done because he does not know how to? Or is your child an underachiever who thinks everything is too hard or he’s just not smart enough?

We often give out labels to our children very easily – lazy, dumb, not bothered without realizing what their real problem is. You may need to play detective with your procrastinator….talk to him, his teacher and determine the real reasons behind not wanting to do his work. He may have poor study or planning skills, may be disorganized or anxious and angry about something. Once you have determines the problem, help your child by setting realistic goals he can meet and come up with a mutually agreeable homework time-table (huge stress on the ‘mutually agreeable’ part). Your perfectionist and underachiever need a lot of encouragement and praise for the effort they put in. Your disorganized child probably needs a reasonably quiet, efficient workspace. He may need to be taught how to organize homework materials, how not to lose track of time and how to gather information. If you’re always supplying the information, giving study reminders, or rushing that forgotten paper to school, you defeat the whole purpose of homework and the child never gains the confidence to do these things himself.

How you can help?

  • Keep watch – eight out of ten children who are sent to their rooms to do their homework or to study end up surfing the net or falling asleep! Many children work better knowing you are present. Doing homework on the kitchen table may not be your ideal scene, but your supervision and presence will actually prevent them from being distracted.
  • Jump start – some children have difficulty starting an assignment, be it an essay or math. They may sit there with everything set up but don’t know how to start. You can give them a jump start by going over the first sum or first sentence together. This especially is helpful for slow learners.
  • Challenge  – everyone loves a challenge. Challenge your child to complete homework within an allotted time to win extra minutes on the iPad, PS2 or television. The following day, see if he can beat his time record.  Little rewards help children enjoy homework, which otherwise is a mundane task to them.
  • Rest minutes – the same way we take coffee breaks at work because we cannot focus for long periods of time, children need their breaks too. It is unfair to expect them ‘not to get up from their seat till everything is complete’. Children should take a five minute snack or stretch break every thirty minutes to refresh themselves. Encouraging and understanding words from parents are like icing on the cake at this point too!
  • Weekends – Children should ideally get one day in the week when they don’t touch their books; when they can play for as long as they want and indulge in all their favourite past times. This should be the day they are allowed to have a childhood. Have loads of positive and motivating conversations with them on this day and spend quality time. When they grow up, these are the days they will reflect upon the most.

Happy parenting!

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