Getting your child to sit still and complete his homework is sometimes quite a chore for parents. Children often view homework as a dreaded activity versus the fun-filled task that it potentially could be. “Some children view homework as a negative activity because they feel it often takes them away from the fun stuff,” says Dr. Elizabeth Garcia, chief academic strategist at Custom Fit, Inc. in Fort Lee, N.J., a provider of academic counseling and tutoring. “Between school, homework and extracurricular activities, they feel like they have no time to unwind and do the things they want to do.” With strategies to put the fun back in homework, show your child just how cool homework can be each day.
Decipher the Dread
Your child may not see homework as a “cool” activity for many reasons. For many children, homework feels lonely and not very social. “These children often complain that homework is boring, containing repetitive activities, rote memorization and a general lack of fun and innovative ways to learn,” says Garcia. Others may feel bombarded and overloaded with too much homework each day. “Many students have hours upon hours of assignments for multiple classes each night,” says Garcia. “This creates chaos, because students become overwhelmed with the amount of work they need to complete.”
Another reason your child may dread this daily task is because he's struggling academically. “Just because a child is performing at grade level, doesn’t mean she isn’t having difficulties,” says Jennifer Little, Ph.D, 40-year educator and educational psychologist in Milwaukie, Ore., who has taught at the preschool to graduate level. If your child is complaining that she doesn’t know how to complete the work or that it's too hard, it’s time to investigate the cause of her complaints before you can help her see the value and fun in this daily task.
When kids are successful, they enjoy doing the work, especially when parents give them positive attention for doing it, says Little. With positive reinforcements and successful outcomes, your child will soon view homework as a fun activity. Little recommends patting your child on the back for a job well done with reward charts and calendars. “Have a chart or calendar with assignments completed and turned in indicated, and then reward with a desired activity or privilege when the child is current with his homework,” she says. With incentives, such as a special movie night with friends or a tasty treat, your children will see homework as a stepping stone to success, rather than a dreadful task.
Parental involvement is often the largest influence on how a child views homework. “Parents who take the time to do some, but not all, homework with the child are creating the perfect balance between involvement and fostering a sense of independence,” says Garcia. Make this bonding time fun by creating quizzes and games together with each subject. Let your child test your knowledge, too, with a spelling bee challenge or math speed round.
Use a mixture of media, from the Internet and books to social-media sites, to keep your child engaged with daily homework. “We cannot stick with the old way of teaching, because our minds process information differently now based on the technology we use every day,” says Garcia. Keep each lesson relevant by encouraging your child to use interactive computer software, cell-phone apps to learn a new language, or Skype with a student in another country to learn about his culture and traditions, says Garcia. Encourage your child to use technology to promote an environmental concern or current-events issue through blogs, videos and social media pages.