Homework Dilemma

All parents face the HOMEWORK DILEMMA at some point, if not every night.  Parents constantly ask questions.  Do you have homework?  Why don’t you have homework?  Why do you have so much homework?  Do you know what to do?  Did you remember your books to complete the homework?  Did you know about that report more than a day before the due date?  How much should I help with this assignment?

None of us should think we are the only ones asking these questions.  If you are a parent with a student then you are asking these questions and MANY more.  You are not alone! 

Below are some points that may reduce homework anxiety for both the student and parent.

Do we need a plan?

Have a set time and place to do homework and stick to it as much as possible.  Interruptions should be eliminated, at the very least, kept to a minimum.  Supplies should be readily available.  Homework should be checked over by the parent.  This can reduce the anxiety of possibly taking work to school that is wrong.  This can add academic security for the student and an opportunity to receive positive attention from the parent.  The student and parent should have input into the plan.

What comes first?

Your student may need help deciding the order in which to complete the assignments.  The student may also have difficulty deciding if a particular assignment needs to be completed in its entirety in one night or a little each night until the due date.  Talking with your student about these decisions each night builds security and confidence.

Should I help?

This is a constant question for parents.  Parents want to help, but too much help teaches the student learned helplessness and a feeling of not believing in his/her own capability.  Parents should not be helicopter parents.  Checking in and providing immediate gratification and support will build independence and satisfaction.  Checking in also provides assistance and support as the assignment is in progress instead of waiting until the end and finding that the student was not clear on the directions.  Zero in on what was done right and provide clarity where needed.

Is it enough time?

Never allow a student to work on homework for hours.  This is fine if the assignment is consistent with the performance of the student.  However, this extended length of time without significant progress may increase feelings of inadequacy. 

The general homework formula is “Minutes of Homework = Grade level x 10”.  Therefore, a fifth grader should have about 50 minutes of homework in one night and a sixth grader should have about 60 minutes of homework in one night.  The problem for parents is determining if your student is actually working on the homework or daydreaming and wasting the time.  If the parent determines that the homework cannot be completed then after a reasonable amount of time the parent should write the teacher explaining the circumstances.  Possibly a conversation with the teacher may bring understanding for student, parent, and teacher.

Should I do it?

Parents can ask questions about the reading students are engaged in for the assignment.  This will increase memory and thinking about learning.  Students are very aware of verbal and nonverbal communication.  Eye rolling, sighs, grimaces, and others may send messages of disapproval and loss of love.  This puts a strain on family relationships and the student’s ability to perform.

Parents should never complete an assignment in its entirety or even a small part of it.  These actions send messages of inadequacy and failure.  This increased sense of dependency effects much more of the student’s life than just homework.

What can possibly help?

  • Encourage your student to have a homework buddy who can provide information about an assignment if details are needed.
  • Remember that homework is the student’s responsibility not yours.
  • State your expectations and confidence in their ability.
  • Act laid-back but show your interest.Talk about what is being learned and tell him/her what you’d like to see change.
  • Offer information without being confrontational.
  • Teach your child to set goals and break assignments into chunks.
  • Teach your child the power of positive self-talk.
  • Take school seriously and talk about what is being learned.
  • Praise what they do well.
  • Expect more than mediocrity but don’t persist if either of you become emotional or defensive.
  • Reward your child with your time instead of money or gifts.
  • Communicate with the teacher.