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The do’s and don’ts to avoid the homework battle is helpful for many parents. My son’s teacher emailed again to tell me that he has two missing assignments and has to stay after school. What? I asked him if he had homework and watched him work for an hour. What is the balance between helping too much or letting him struggle and fail? I know I am not the only parent who has a child who gets buried in late work since I send out a lot of these emails to parents myself.

Here are some tips to work with the school to empower your student to learn responsibility.

Do to Avoid the Homework Battle:

  • Read communication from the school about projects, tests, or any recurring assignments (reading logs, spelling tests, etc.) Put those on a calendar and remind your child.

  • Discuss with your child why doing homework is important and get ideas for what would motivate her to complete work.

  • Set up an area in the home with all of the materials necessary for work. Make this area free from focus distractions like TV, cell phones, and other unnecessary electronics. This is difficult because many students use their cell phones as calculators or translators.

  • Help break large projects into smaller pieces.

  • Check in periodically to make sure they are not stuck or daydreaming.

  • Work together to set up an organizational system. Different strategies work better for different kids. The key is to find something that works and set up expectations for staying consistent. Reach out to your child’s teacher with the system so he/she is on board and can communicate if something is not working.

  • Designate a time block for homework or studying. Even if she says she has nothing to do, use the time to read, study vocab words, practice an instrument, or work on a small piece of a larger assignment.

  • Make sure homework is finished before giving free time. Video games and time with friends is an incentive that is best enjoyed when it is not used as a means to procrastinate.

Don’ts to Avoid the Homework Battle

Do her work

Most teachers use homework to help them decide how well their students mastered the lesson. By not allowing your child to show her own work, her teacher may miss an opportunity to re-teach or re-explain a concept. If your child is stuck on the directions or a small step, it is alright to help clarify, but make sure she tries on her own. When doing this, let the teacher know what assistance you gave, so he/she can touch base with your child.

Show negativity about any assignment.

Don’t share your dissatisfaction with the purpose of an assignment with your child. It will model a negative attitude and damage her relationship with her teacher. Instead, reach out to her teacher to get clarification or to give the teacher feedback. Is it taking an incredibly long time to complete? Is she confused about what she needs to do?

Make threats about what will happen if they don’t do the work.

Telling your child that they will be suspended, retained, or mandated to go to summer school will backfire if it does not happen. Instead, work with the school about what are the school consequences if she is not doing her homework. These consequences are better to discuss with your child.

Compare her to other students/siblings.

While it is great that her older brother has all A’s and doesn’t need help organizing, she is a different student. Her teacher will work to make sure she has the concepts and skills to be successful. Your glorious job is to be her parent and love and support her where she is. She can do it! Let her know you believe in her and are in her corner.

Back pedal on consequences.

If you told her that she will not get to go to a birthday party if she does not finish her math assignments, then do not let her go. The best thing to do is not put yourself into an ultimatum situation. Instead, lay out the expectations for going to the birthday party, and remind her what needs to be completed to go. Talk through barriers she may have and discuss strategies to overcome them. (Ex. stay after school to get help, email her teacher with questions, watch examples on youtube etc.)

Ignore the school’s recommendations.

If her teacher recommends that she stay after school to work and get extra help, try to make it possible. It is understandable if there is a reason she cannot stay, but communicate with the teacher to find a solution. Keeping open communication about your student’s progress is the goal.

Let her struggle too much without intervention.

There are many reasons a student is not able to finish homework other than a lack of motivation. If you notice she is struggling to remember topics, find an organization strategy that works, and spends too much time on an assignment, let her teacher know. This can be an indication that she needs more intervention at school. Speak up about this. More on this coming up soon.

What are some tips you have for helping your child with homework?

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