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17 Homework Tips to Help Your Child Succeed
The start of a new school year is a good feeling for a lot of moms. But then for others, the thought of having to struggle through homework time for the next nine months can be super stressful.
I remember how hard homework time was on my parents when I was growing up. Even though I earned good grades and became rather independent with homework eventually, I know that I was not pleasant to be around whenever I did need help… because going to school all day and then attending dance class and then having to come home and do homework was exhausting!
And then there was my brother, who was extremely unmotivated to do homework. My parents probably got most of their gray hairs from homework time with him (or lack of homework time because he often did not bring home his books/assignments).
Homework can certainly be stressful and frustrating for both children and parents. And every child is different when it comes to homework time, so we as parents need to try to be encouraging and understanding while also doing our best to foster independence.
What you don’t want to do is create an atmosphere of stress and frustration around the topic of homework. That will only make things worse!
So I’ve compiled a list of my child therapist tips below to help you survive homework time this school year.
But first, here are some…
Common Homework Time Problems
When your child is struggling with homework time, you may often see behaviors like these:
- Refusal to complete work/ defiance
- An excessive emotional response (crying, increased irritability)
- Off-task behaviors (getting out of seat, engaging in other, non-homework activities)
- Temper tantrums
If you need some extra help dealing with temper tantrums, check out my FREE email course!
Homework Tips to Help Your Child Succeed
1. Establish a homework routine with a set schedule.
- You may also need to establish a different routine for days in which your child participates in any extracurricular activities.
- Create a visual schedule for your child to follow, and hang the schedule in a place where your child can easily see it, such as on the refrigerator. You can use a picture schedule if your child cannot read yet.
2. Establish a list of rules to go along with the homework routine.
- The rules can include details about taking breaks (see below) and asking for help.
- Be sure to also clearly state consequences (both positive and negative) within the homework time rules.
- What will happen if your child completes his homework assignments without any problematic behaviors?
- What consequences will he receive if he does not complete his homework or engages in problem behaviors during homework time? Keep in mind that there will likely be a consequence enforced at school for not completing work.
3. Try to have a designated homework station or area.
- Be sure that there aren’t other papers or items hanging around the table.
- Have all of the items that your child needs in order to complete his homework at that station.
- It often helps to have the work area be located away from a window or high-traffic spot. Some kids do better when they are facing a wall because there are not as many visual distractions in front of them.
4. State homework time expectations clearly before homework time begins.
- You can also remind your child of the expectations throughout homework time as needed. If your child misbehaves during homework time, give him simple prompts to complete the next expectation or step, or give a warning about a potential consequence. But try not to engage in arguing or give too much attention to the negative behaviors during this time.
5. Ensure that your child understands assignment instructions.
- You can read instructions aloud with him and have him repeat them back to you in his own words to ensure his understanding.
6. Reduce distractions during homework time.
- Be sure that the room is quiet and free of distractions, such as the TV/electronics, excess noise, and other family members.
- You can use a white noise sound machine or play soft music to drown out noises from other rooms or outside.
- You also want to be sure that the environment is stress-free, as you don’t want homework time to be stressful.
7. Provide your child with lots of praise and encouragement along the way.
- Try not to just walk away and expect your child to have everything done when you come back. Instead, check in with your child frequently, and provide praise and encouragement. Praise your child for completing homework and staying on task. This will help to keep him motivated. Plan to do this as often as your child needs, catching him before he gets to the point of frustration.
- This is also a good time for you to make sure that your child is following directions.
- You don’t want to create a stressful homework environment for your child, so praising and providing your child with positive attention for good behavior is a great way to do avoid this.
8. Allow your child to have frequent breaks.
- Ideally, you want to allow for breaks before your child has the chance to become frustrated. So pay attention to what triggers set your child off during homework time, and schedule your child to take a break before that time.
- Try to make sure that the breaks are scheduled and structured.
- In order to keep breaks structured, try to be clear as to what your child is allowed to do during breaks. For example, he can use that time for having a snack/beverage, using the restroom, stretching, sharpening pencils. Avoid allowing your child to do things that will get him too worked up or distracted during breaks, however.
- Here are two ways in which breaks could be scheduled:
- One way is by using a timer. For instance, you might set the timer for 20 minutes of work time and then 10 minutes of break time (depending on your child’s level and needs).
- The other way is by allowing for a break after a set amount of work has been completed. If you decide to do this, keep the requirement short at first so that you don’t set your child up to fail from the beginning. You can increase requirements later if needed.
9. Teach your child organizational skills.
- Have your child use a homework planner, and expect your child to take it back and forth to school and to write his homework assignments down in the planner. If you ask, many teachers will initial your child’s planner each day so that you can ensure that he is recording homework assignments correctly.
- You can use different colored sticky labels to help your child remember days in which certain books need to be brought home.
- Make sure that your child has all of his necessary materials before beginning homework time so that he does not need to get up from his seat much, as this could cause him to lose focus.
- Having a homework station with a bin of materials can help with this, or you can have a list of materials and prompt your child to check off items from the list as he collects them before beginning homework time.
10. Teach your child study skills and tricks that will help with learning.
- These can include using flashcards and highlighters, as well as memory tricks, such as mnemonic devices, creating songs or rhymes, and using acronyms.
11. Encourage responsibility and independence.
- While you can provide your child with help and support as needed, you want to do so in a way that teaches responsibility and independence.
- As your child becomes more and more successful with homework time, you can gradually fade back the amount of support you give over time to promote independence.
- Ask your child what he needs in order to help him be more successful with homework.
12. If your child struggles with reading or focusing:
- Help your child follow one step at a time. Simplify things by breaking down larger tasks or problems for your child into smaller steps.
- Use index cards, a piece of paper, a folder, or a ruler to cover up other words or numbers and to highlight the words/numbers that your child should be focused on. This creates a bit of tunnel vision for your child and may help him to focus better.
- Some children are able to focus better when they have an object, such as a stress ball, to fidget with while completing work. However, allowing your child to fidget with an object should be avoided if it ends up distracting your child or getting in the way of him completing his work.
13. If your child struggles with handwriting:
- Try not to have your child rewrite things over and over again, as this will only lead to frustration and could, therefore, actually worsen your child’s handwriting… especially when handwriting is not even the subject your child is working on.
- Also, avoid rushing or timing assignment completion. Instead, give your child time and help him to feel relaxed about writing.
- If your child’s handwriting does not improve over time, work with the teacher to see if she can be flexible with requirements or allow for minor accommodations.
14. Use a reward chart if needed to address behavior problems that are specific to homework time.
- Rewards can give your child the extra motivation he needs to be successful with completing homework. So you could use a reward chart to target behaviors like staying on task or following directions during homework time.
- If you decide to use a reward chart, sit down with your child and decide on rewards to use (non-monetary rewards are better). And be sure to deliver rewards as immediately as possible after they are earned.
Think you want to try using a reward chart? You can grab my FREE reward chart bundle, which includes a homework behavior chart, here!
15. Be consistent.
- Remember to follow the homework routine consistently. This will encourage your child to be consistent, as well as teach him responsibility and independence.
- Be consistent with the rules and any consequences that you have put in place. Therefore, if your child is supposed to receive a reward, be sure to deliver the promised reward immediately. And if you warned your child about a negative consequence for problematic behaviors, be sure to enforce the consequence as immediately as possible. (Consequences must be delivered immediately in order to be effective).
16. Be sure that your child is getting enough sleep and physical activity each day.
- Time spent in school plus time spent doing homework equals a very long and exhausting day for your child. So make sure that your child is following a bedtime routine so that he gets enough sleep each night in order to make it through each day successfully.
- Daily physical activity can help your child to release a lot of energy, which can help him to focus more on tasks when needed. So try to ensure that your child gets enough exercise in.
Want to use a reward chart to help your child with his bedtime routine? Grab my FREE Reward Chart Bundle, which comes with a bedtime routine chart, here!
17. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your child’s teachers.
- Keep in mind that it is difficult for teachers to talk over the phone during school hours or even after school hours. So try to be reasonable in your expectations of teachers and see what method is best for contacting each individual teacher. Some teachers are able to respond more easily via email or by reading and leaving notes in planners.
- Some teachers may be willing to use similar rewards that you use at home or may help to track behaviors like staying on task on the reward chart you use at home.
- If you feel like your child’s needs are not being met, ask to set up a meeting with your child’s teacher or the school.
If your child does not receive homework, use that designated homework time as an opportunity to spend quality time or family time together. You can keep that time structured in a similar way to homework time by still engaging in tasks, such as reading, coloring, or doing a puzzle.
I hope you were able to find a few things out of these tips that you can try out this school year. There are so many awesome tricks you can find on Pinterest to make homework time easier and less stressful. Got any more tips or tricks? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!
Disclaimer: Although I was a therapist before I became a stay-at-home mom, I am not your therapist or your child’s therapist. Reading this post does not enter you into a client-therapist relationship with me. The content in this post is meant to be used as a general guideline and has not been individually tailored to the needs of you and your child. If you are in need of therapeutic services, please seek the support of a mental health counselor or behavior specialist.
References: My information comes from years of training on Applied Behavior Analysis, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and other evidence-based techniques. I also like to refer to Russell Barkley and Alan Kazdin.