Stop the Homework Battles!

homework station 2If you have kids in elementary school, you have most likely succumbed to the nightly homework battle!  Your child refuses to do his/her homework or struggles to stay focused during homework time.  You try your best to remain calm but after repeated reminders to stay on task, you loose it and start to yell.  Every parent has been there and no, this does not make you a bad parent, it makes you human!  Here’s a few tips to help you stay calm and to put an end to the nightly homework battles:

1.  Plan ahead and stick to a daily routine!  Create a homework station in your home where you child feels most comfortable to sit down and complete their homework.  Some kids enjoy working in their rooms, others prefer to sit at the kitchen table or island.  Stock the homework station with a caddy/organizer filled with sharpened pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers, scissors, tape and a glue stick.  Make homework time a consistent daily routine.  For example, in our house, when we come home from school or an after-school activity, our daughters take off their shoes, wash their hands and sit down at the kitchen island for a quick snack and to do their homework.  We have one elementary school aged daughter who is assigned homework Monday-Thursday and a preschooler who does not have any homework.  Our younger daughter has been asking for homework of her own (she loves to do whatever her big sister is doing) so I bought a “Draw and Write” journal from Lakeshore Learning Store.  I “assign” her daily homework by asking her to draw a picture of the letter of the week she’s learning about in school or to draw a picture or to write a few letters (with help from me) about any topic she’s interested in.

2.  Set a timer.  I’ve found that setting a timer for 15-20 minutes (for students in kindergarten, first or second grades) is highly motivating!  Young kids have a hard time sitting still for long periods of time, especially after they’ve sat for a long time during the school day.  If homework takes longer than 15-20 minutes to complete, break it up with a snack or a short walk outside.  Then, set the timer for another 5-15 minutes (or however long you think your child will need to complete the assignment).

3.  Be encouraging!  Kids respond well to positive praise and comments like, “I like the way you are coloring your picture” or “I can tell you are really focusing on your math problems.  Great job!”

4.  Stay calm!  This is the hardest part.  We all know that kids do not respond well to stress and when we resort to yelling at our kids to “do your homework NOW!” we end up feeling badly and our kids feel pressured and anxious.  If you sense that you are getting frustrated that your child is either not focusing or is simply struggling to understand a concept, give yourself a time out and take a minute (or five minutes!) away.  Walk into another room, take a deep breath, drink a glass of water or make yourself a cup of tea.  This is actually a teachable moment for our kids in how we handle feelings of frustration.  You can even narrate how you are feeling by saying something like, “I’m feeling really frustrated right now, so I’m going to take a few deep breaths, calm myself down and figure out how to best deal with this situation.  I’ll be back in a minute.”  Not only will you calm down by walking away from a heated situation, but you are teaching your child how to calm him/herself down when they feel frustrated, overwhelmed or angry.

5.  Get creative!  If you have a long commute home from school, consider allowing your child to do so of their assigned reading in the car.  Our older daughter tends to get her 20 minutes of daily reading done easily between the ride to and from school and to after-school activities.  Then, at bedtime, we can relax and unwind with bedtime stories together.  I often ask our older daughter to read one page and I’ll read the next and I’l have our preschooler point out simple sight words like “I” or “me” and/or letters of the alphabet she can identify.  If your child needs more daily math practice, have him/her do math flashcards in the car ride to or from school to work on basic addition and subtraction math facts.

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