Is homework a nightly battle in your household? Experts say allowing children to complete homework independently is important for their self-esteem development and academic skills, but knowing when to step back and let little ones brave the homework battlefield alone and when to get involved can be difficult for many parents. Follow these guidelines and take the tension out of homework time.Photo: iStockphoto
You may think you’re doing your kids a favour by lending a helping hand with their homework, but Professor Leslie Stuart Rose, director of elementary teacher education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto says being involved in your child’s schoolwork doesn’t mean doing their homework for them, but rather, cheering them on while they do it themselves. “Praise the behaviour that supports learning,” says Rose.
Saying things like, “I noticed that you worked without interruption for 30 minutes, way to go,” or, “You worked hard on that project, you must be proud of yourself,” shows your support for your child without becoming over-involved in their homework.
“I can’t do it! It’s too hard!” These cries for help often cause parents to rush to their children’s defense, lending a hand on assignments. While maintaining distance from your child’s homework can be difficult, especially if they appear to be struggling, Annie Kidder, Director of People for Education, says this is exactly what we should do. “Provide help without rescuing,” she says. If your child is having difficulty with an assignment, offer suggestions on how he can get help — whether that’s a resource book or asking a teacher. “It shows them you have confidence in them to figure it out on their own,” says Kidder.
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Doing homework in front of the TV or switching between a math textbook and a video game can lead to sloppy work and poor work habits. “When our brains go back and forth between two or more tasks, we lose efficiency,” says Rose. She recommends young children unplugged while doing homework. As children mature, however, Rose says they can make their own decisions about media-assisted homework time. “Some may find they work better listening to music in the background. It depends on the task and the type of thinking it demands,” she says.
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Demanding repeatedly that your kids do their homework may force them to finally do it, but too much nagging can cause homework apathy. “Our over-involvement in homework sometimes breeds a sense in children that 'I don’t really have to do anything until I’m nagged or until I get yelled at,'” says Kidder. Shifting responsibility to children for completing their homework helps them develop good study habits and self-esteem that will carry into their adult years.
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“When we worry about sending our kids to school with incomplete homework, it’s more about us than it is about them,” says Kidder. Letting children suffer the consequences will help them learn. But, Kidder warns, punishment for incomplete homework should always come from the teacher — not the parent. “Homework is between the child and the teacher,” she says.
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You may think the homework assigned is too difficult or that the teacher is assigning too much homework, but don’t raise these concerns in front of your child. Voicing your homework opinions in front of kids encourages them to blame the teacher for their struggles and may give them the impression that it’s OK to be defiant at school. Schedule a meeting with the teacher to discuss your homework concerns privately.Photo: iStockphoto
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