The Dos and Don’ts of Homework Time

By Huntington Learning Center

For many parents, one of the most stressful aspects of the school experience is the nightly homework routine—or lack thereof. Does the mere mention of homework cause your child to go running in the other direction? Is your child at the age where he or she should be doing homework independently, but isn’t? Does your child procrastinate so much that homework is too often a stressful, late-night battle that is dreaded by the entire family?

The good news is that homework time doesn’t need to look like this—and in fact, there are a number of changes you can make at home to help your child become more focused, efficient and effective during homework time. Here are a few dos and don’ts when helping your child with homework:

Do have your child set goals. Have your child set goals at the start of each and every homework session. Your child should list out the assignments he or she needs to complete and rank them in order of priority. To get your child into the habit of managing time, try breaking down assignments into smaller tasks, and have your child estimate how much time each task will take. Then, use a timer to help keep your child on track.

Don’t put yourself in charge of keeping your child on task. Certainly, in the early grades, your child may need more guidance, direction and management during homework time, but as time goes on, always strive to put your child in the driver’s seat when it comes to goal-setting and time management during study sessions.

Do make homework a priority. Studies show that when parents make school a priority and regularly express its importance, children feel more committed to school. Treat homework like a top family priority and schedule all other activities around it (and not the other way around). Remind your child that school is his or her responsibility, just as you have responsibilities as a parent and employee.

Don’t “homework bash.” Let’s face it: there may be times when your student’s homework seems confusing to you both. There may be nights when your child is overwhelmed by the volume of what he or she is supposed to do and it frustrates you. And there may be moments when you can relate to how your child is feeling about homework. However, it will not help matters to agree with your child that homework is stupid and pointless or to empathize that you also hate reading. Do your best to remain positive about homework and school and their importance.

Do encourage and incentivize the right way. Sometimes, children need a little encouragement with homework, and it’s fine to offer small rewards for achieving goals. For example, if your procrastinator child completes homework within a reasonable timeframe for five nights in a row, perhaps he or she could earn a privilege such as a sleepover with friends or an extra hour of TV at the end of the week. It’s also helpful to offer small bonuses during homework, too. For example, after 30 minutes of good effort toward homework, give your child a five-minute break to text a friend or go outside.

Don’t bargain, nag, threaten or bribe. If your child resists homework, it is easy to fall into the trap of yelling to force him or her to do what you want or even to bribe him or her with rewards (or alternatively, punishment). These strategies are short-term fixes—if that. To truly help your child in the long run, you must get him or her to buy into the importance of homework, which cannot be accomplished through threats or arguments. Instead, set an expectation with your child that homework will be completed each night, set aside sufficient time for homework and support your child in his or her efforts.

Homework doesn’t have to be a source of conflict. By establishing and sticking to a routine, setting expectations with your child that he or she will put in effort to complete homework on time and to the best of his or her ability, and praising your child’s efforts, you can take much of the stress out of the process. It is also important to let your child know that you care about his or her future.

Sometimes, homework struggles are a sign of deeper learning issues. If you are concerned that your child might lack the ability to complete his or her homework successfully or independently, or that he or she is struggling with other types of problems, call Huntington at 1-800-CAN-LEARN.