Homework is a nightly power struggle: When to start, how to stay focused, striving for some accuracy. Is there a trick to ease the battles?
(from our panel of staff contributors)
I think the best thing a parent can do is provide a routine schedule, as much as possible; quiet space for study; rules that shut down media for an allotted time; and availability for questions.
Homework when my kids were in grade school was always a frustration for me because the educators say the homework is, rightly, the child's responsibility — but if the child doesn't do it, you're back in anyway, so you might as well have an attitude of "We're all in this together."
I think back to how little my parents helped me with my homework, or even asked me about it. Those days are dead.
Sometimes it helps to ask your child how she would prefer to be helped out with homework: Side-by-side? Double-check when it's done? Set a timer for her to work the problems alone before you help?
And if the power struggles continue, maybe the help could come from an older sibling (for pay?) or an outside tutor.
If you have the guts, letting the child get some miserable homework scores on her own might help bring her around.
Start by checking the clock. Even if work schedules and after-school endeavors make it impossible to establish a hard-and-fast starting time, you're wise to tackle homework as early in the evening as possible.
"They'll be most productive right after school or after a half-hour break from school before they're exhausted," says clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg, co-author of "Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual" (Adams Media). "If they have other activities after school, just aim to get it done as far away from bedtime as possible. Exhaustion exacerbates everything."
Then take a look at your style.
"Parents will say, 'You have to do it at the kitchen table,' or 'You have to sit at the desk,' but new research is showing it can be more productive to vary the location," says Greenberg, who blogs at talkingteenage.com. "Some kids function better laying on the floor. Some get very fidgety and like to walk back and forth while they're reading. Some people even do better with a little background music. You shouldn't try to stick to one rigid style."
Finally, determine your role.
"Parents should not be their children's tutors," says Greenberg. "If you're sitting with your child for hours, struggling, I'd suggest getting help from someone outside the home where there's not the emotional relationship."
Let the responsibility to complete it — and the consequences for failing to do so — lie with them. If your child gives up and refuses to finish an assignment, don't take it as a personal affront.
Instead, try something like, "OK. Just explain to your teacher tomorrow that you decided not to finish the work."
"Then you're not making it about you," Greenberg says. "You're making it about natural consequences. It takes the emotion out of it and points out what's going to happen in reality, not what it means to your relationship."
Have a solution?
Your parents are the opposite of indulgent grandparents — stricter rules, harsher scolding, etc. Should you step in or let your kids navigate the different styles of authority? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find "The Parent 'Hood" page on Facebook, where you can post your parenting questions and offer tips and solutions for others to try.