Now that school is back in full swing, many households are dealing with how to handle homework. Helping your child be successful at homework is very important because it is a very critical part of children’s academic success. Homework helps children in several ways, including:

  • continues learning after the school day
  • teaches responsibility
  • helps parents stay aware of what their child is learning in school

Being involved in your child’s homework is important. As with all parenting endeavors, though, there is a fine line between being too involved and not being involved enough.

So, what’s a parent to do?

Step 1: Set expectations

Set up appropriate expectations for your child and their homework responsibilities. For example, depending on the age of your child, they might be responsible for determining which homework needs to be done, doing the actual homework and putting their completed homework into their backpack. 

It is very important that the child take responsibility for the actual homework, not the parent. A parent might commit to finding a quiet space for the child to do the homework, checking answers, double checking that everything has been done, as well as being on hand to answer questions.

Step 2: Set up a good study space

There must be a designated homework space in the house free of noises and distractions. If possible, try to make this fun. For instance, a colleague of mine mentioned she got her kindergarten-aged son a “homework box” that has everything he needs including pencils, erasers, scissors, etc. He puts his homework folder by the box when he comes home and then has everything he needs. I think this is a great idea to help with organization for any age.

Step 3: Schedule when homework will be done

It is important to teach kids that homework must be done on time. Set aside a certain time of the evening for homework to be completed. Put it in the calendar like any other activity so that there is always time for it. Younger kids will need the schedule made for them. Children older than 10 years of age may be able to take charge of putting homework and specific assignments into the schedule and then have a parent check it for them.

For younger grades, there is usually homework that is shorter-term and due in quick succession, which can be easier to manage and plan. 

For older kids, often there is advanced planning that needs to be done, for example a term paper. Help your kids learn how to break up long-term assignments into chunks and assist in planning when each section will be completed. 

Step 4: Motivate! 

Your encouragement goes a long way towards motivating your child to do homework. Praise your child for steps along the way, not just successful completion of homework. For example, praise them for remembering their homework, for stopping other activities without complaint when it is homework time, for continuing a challenging task or for good grades. 

It is best to build internal motivation for homework, or the desire to complete it for their feelings of pride in good work done and for caring about their academics. However, some kids may benefit from external motivators, such as earning a pass from other chores in exchange for doing homework or earning the ability to engage in preferred activities when homework is done.

Still having homework challenges?

If your child is still having difficulty with homework, there are some additional steps you can take. For more pointers, I like the book “Homework Without Tears” by Canter and Hausner. It may also be important to talk with your child’s teacher to strategize on how to help your child. You may also want to consult a psychologist to determine if educational testing may benefit your child. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two girls.

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