Solving homework battles requires wide range of solutions
Whether a child is in elementary school or high school, the anticipation of nightly homework can ignite conflict in many homes. Many children, for a variety of reasons, have a tough time beginning their assignments each night, fail to complete their work on time or do not show the investment in homework that reflects their true potential.
Parents often agonize over how involved to be in their child’s homework struggles and question what the right approach is to address these all too familiar scenarios.
To assess the origin of a homework problem, parents need to do some detective work, starting with the basics. Make sure that your child is beginning assignments at a time when he or she is alert, which is typically in the afternoon. While some children can manage working later in the evening, many do not have adequate concentration at that time of day, which can make homework stressful.
Extracurricular activities can be very enriching, but too many commitments can make children feel overwhelmed, exhausted and unable to muster the resources for productivity by the time they return home. Figure out whether your child can complete schoolwork in one sitting, or whether assignments need to be broken up into chunks with small breaks in between.
In addition, certain children benefit from a longer amount of down time after school before beginning homework, particularly those with attentionspan issues. Ensure that your child has a quiet place to work and that his level of focus is not compromised by cellphone or computer interruptions.
If these basic parameters are in place, and your child is still struggling, there are additional areas to investigate. Make sure your child has the organizational and time management skills to plan for long-term assignments and more com- prehensive tests, dividing the project or the studying into manageable portions which are recorded on a large, visible calendar. If homework is consistently taking much longer than it should, there might be attention-span issues or a learning difference that could be compromising your child’s ability to complete work efficiently. Consultation with the child’s teacher may be helpful in determining whether the child is manifesting similar difficulties finishing work in the classroom. A referral for psychoeducational testing can help to clarify whether underlying learning issues might be present and can lead to specific recommendations for defusing homework battles.
Dynamics in the parentchild relationship can also come into play when homework completion is an ongoing struggle. When children feel their parents are too invested in their academic performance, they might go on strike because they no longer feel their schoolwork is their own. Some parents may inadvertently fuel a child’s perfectionist tendencies by providing too much critical feedback and too little praise, which in turn may cause the child to avoid homework for fear of making mistakes.
By contrast, when children feel their parents are too disconnected from their academic world, it may be hard for them to feel motivated because they perceive that their achievements don’t matter. Finding the right balance between appropriate involvement in a child’s scholastic endeavors while allowing opportunities to grapple with assignments independently will undoubtedly play a role in decreasing homework stress.
Dr. Caryn Richfield is a clinical psychologist practicing in Plymouth Meeting. She can be reached at 610-238-4450 or at email@example.com
Coping Dr. Caryn Richfield