As the excitement of the start of the new school year is fading and routines are getting set, it’s a good time to be sure that homework time be the most stress-free for the student and for the rest of the family as possible. Here is an excerpt from an article in the 1-2-3 Magic Parenting Online Newsletter:
“Homework Do’s and Don’ts”
Homework hassles can make school nights miserable for the whole family. For some families homework battles can go on for two, three or four hours per night. People begin to dread the evening, relationships are strained severely and the child in question learns to hate schoolwork more and more. There are no easy answers to the problem; children’s needs vary…There are ways though, of making things more tolerable and more productive.
WHAT NOT TO DO
- Don’t go around asking the child every five minutes if he has homework or if he’s started it yet. Instead try to pick the best time to start and stick with it—consistency is very important here.
- Don’t interrupt the youngster in the middle of his favorite TV show to tell him it’s time to begin. There’s no better way to get no cooperation. He should not start watching a show in the first place if it’s going to overlap with his regular homework time.
- Don’t let the would‐be student do work with the TV on. Believe it or not, a radio or iPod may be OK because it provides consistent background noise, but the television is always out to get your attention.
- If you can avoid it, don’t let the homework time change each day. One of the best ways of setting things up is to have the child come home, get a snack, play for about 30‐45 minutes, and then sit down and try to finish his work before dinner. Then the whole evening is free.
WHAT TO DO
Consider trying the following and be sure to use plenty of positive reinforcement with whatever else you are doing.
- The PNP Method: suppose your son has just completed his midweek spelling pretest. There are ten words on the list and he spelled nine correctly and misspelled one. When he brings you his paper, your job, naturally is to first point out to him the word he spelled wrong. Right? Wrong! PNP stands for “Positive‐Negative‐Positive.” Whenever any kid brings any piece of schoolwork to you, the first thing out of your mouth must be
something good. Then, after saying something nice about the child’s effort, you may throw in something negative, if it’s absolutely necessary. Finally, you conclude your insightful remarks with something positive again.
Using the spelling pretest as an example, you would first say something like,
“Gee, you spelled ‘consideration’ correctly. That’s a pretty hard word. And you also got ‘appearance’ right. In fact, there’s only one word on here that I can see you didn’t get. Not bad.”
You might stop here and try to kill him with suspense. See if he’s dying to find out what the wrong word is. If he’s not, you can tell him. Then end the conversation with another positive comment.
Remember the rule: every time he brings you some work to check, the first thing you say must be positive, even if it’s only the fact that he brought the work to you. Kids will never want to bring you anything if your first response is consistently to shoot from the hip with criticism.
- Charting: Charting lends itself very well to homework. Here’s an easy system that can be used. Since it’s usually the older kids who have trouble with homework, a five‐point scale can be used for them instead of stickers. Five is a high mark and one is a low mark.
A child can earn one point for each of the following things:
Neat ‐ 1 point
Correct ‐ 1 point
Thorough ‐ 1 point
No complaining ‐ 1 point
Starting on his/her own ‐ 1 point
The kids can get each of the first three points by doing better than whatever approximate percentage of neatness, correctness and completeness you have required. The last point is the crucial one: If you can get a child to start on his own, the battle is half won. You can set up friendly incentive games with this last point.
For example, three days in a row of starting on your own at the proper time earn a
bonus point. Or starting more than fifteen minutes early and finishing in a
reasonable amount of time earn a bonus point. Put on your thinking cap and see
what other schemes you can come up with.
- Also, don’t forget that kitchen timer. Sometimes it can be used to help break up the work into smaller, manageable pieces. If the child complains that the ticking bothers him (most don’t), use some kind of sand hourglass or a quiet electric timer.