PARENTING TODAY: Don’t hover over your kid’s homework

Homework is one of the biggest areas of contention between parents and children.

No one likes the fact that the evening is often ruined by fights about homework.

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Parents are trying to find out what homework he has, whether he has finished it and whether he needs help.

Some parents get totally engaged. They sit down with the child and literally work through their homework with them.

That sounds like responsible and caring parenting behaviour but in fact it is not.

Homework is the job of the student, not the parent. Difficult as it is, parents need to let children take responsibility for their homework.

When parents get too engaged in the work of the child, they are denying them the opportunity to learn how to take responsibility for the work.

You do have a role to play, however. Your job is to set up a homework-friendly environment.

Sit down with him and determine when and where he will do his homework.

It’s best if it’s at the same time and place every evening.

 He needs a desk or table and a good lamp, pens, pencils and paper.

A planner or notebook to note daily assignments will help him and you keep track of assignments. These can be digital or paper based.

Some children can study with the radio on, but too much distraction will not work.

OK, doing it at the same time every evening is optimal but let’s face it, soccer practice, hockey games, and other extracurricular activities get in the way of this schedule.

So, it’s a good idea to sit down weekly and plan a time for homework each evening and on the weekend.

Regular family meetings work very well to keep everyone organized.

Doing homework right after school doesn’t work for most students.

They don’t want to get to work right after school any more than you want to tackle the contents of your briefcase as soon as you get home.

What can you do if your child is struggling to do

his work?

Of if he just seems to have way too much and is missing out on sleep in order to get it all finished?

This is the time to make an appointment to sit down with your son and his teacher.

Together they can reach a decision on the homework expectations.

I believe that in such a meeting it’s essential that the student be involved. After all, it really is between the student and teacher with your support.

You may be asked to monitor his homework by means of an assignment book or some such strategy.

I’m not a huge fan of these strategies because it takes away the final responsibility from the student and moves it to the parent.

 If the child is simply unable to get his act together, it is a good teaching tool.

But once he’s on track, back away.

It’s important that whatever decisions are made involve your son so he has a clear understanding of the expectations you and his teachers have of him and he has a chance to state his position.

The reality is that you can’t make a child study or learn.

Once you’ve explored possible problems, you’ve set up a good study environment and you’ve involved your son in the planning, it’s up to him.

If he chooses to sit at his desk and daydream or waste time you may have to allow him to deal with the real consequences of his behaviour, which will be low marks.

Remember, it’s their homework, not yours.

Kathy Lynn is the author of Vive la Différence, Who’s In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at parentingtoday.ca

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