Top 10 reasons kids have trouble with homework – and how to help (without helping too much)

Halting Homework Hassles

By Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE

Homework is a child’s responsibility, so we need to be careful how much we help. We want to be aware of what our children are doing and be involved in helpful ways, but not help too much. We can start by avoiding the word “we” when referring to homework; it implies that homework is our responsibility. Instead, say, “When are you going to do your homework?” If they are having problems, figure out why.

Here are the Top Ten reasons:

1. If children have a time management problem, teach them how to schedule their time, instead of taking over and reminding them. Ask questions like, “How much time do you need for homework? Would you like to do homework right after school or right after dinner? How can you remember when it is time to do your homework?”

2. If children don’t understand homework, ask questions that help them figure out the answer. “What are you supposed to do here? Where in the book does it talk about this?” If children don’t understand the information, we can try explaining it. We do not have to understand what children are learning to be helpful. We just need to know the skills for helping our children find their own answers. If children need daily help, they may benefit from a tutor more than our taking responsibility for helping them. It’s a delicate balance to be helpful, without fostering dependency, rescuing, or helping too much.

3. If children forget a book, lunch, or homework, teach organizational skills and use problem solving to have children chose self-reminders. Avoid being their reminder or rescuer. Agree to deliver forgotten items no more than three times per year. After that, the child will need to experience the natural consequence of not having the item.

4. Children are distracted.
The solution here is obvious. Remove the distractions or the child from the distractions, such as no homework with the TV on. Due to learning and brain styles, music can distract or help children focus, as can studying outside or in their room. Try different options to see what works best. The goal is to create an environment that will help that child focus.

5. If children don’t see the value of homework
, avoid lectures. Instead, ask questions such as, “Why do you think the teacher wants you to do homework? How does homework help you? What will happen if you don’t do it?” Offer one brief value statement like, “School is your job and teachers are your boss. You need to follow the schools rules, even if you don’t agree with or like them. As long as teachers aren’t asking you to do something hurtful or wrong, you need to do what they ask you to do.”

When children don’t do homework on purpose
, it could be one of four reasons:

6. Children might “act stupid” so teachers (or parents) will pay attention and spend time helping them. If the parent/teacher involves the child in meaningful activities or spends other special time with the child, it can prevent or stop this behavior.

7. Children might want to prove that they have power, by refusing to cooperate. “You can’t make me.” They also might see if they can get others to take over and do the work for them. After all, if others will take responsibility why not let them?

8. Children might not do homework to “punish” a disliked teacher. If good grades are important to parents and children want to hurt them, getting poor grades can be revenge. Help children find more appropriate ways to resolve the problem with the parent/teacher.

9. Children may not do their homework because they are so discouraged they have given up. Give encouragement, not pressure, and help them break down assignments into smaller tasks.

10. Children who have given up on school
are experiencing a deeper problem. Listen closely to identify the real issue. This is what needs to be resolved. Have children brainstorm possible solutions. You may enlist professional guidance, if indicated.

    The two key points to remember about halting homework hassles are (a) you need to identify and resolve the “real issue” that’s causing the problem and (b) do this in a way that teaches children how to solve their own problems.

    Get more information from Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE, second-generation parent educator, president of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting, parenting expert to the media worldwide, and author of 100+ practical parenting resources, including the award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop at: http://www.parentstoolshop.com/

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