Going to the dentist or homework? Which is most painful for your family? In many families, the answer is HOMEWORK, which ironically, parents describe as being like pulling teeth! Here are 5 tricks (and I do mean “tricks”) to help your kids get through that pesky school ritual and, as a bonus, save your sanity. The key is understanding that homework creates anxiety and fear in many children.
- Most kids don’t like homework so pretending that it’s just something all kids have to do is missing the point as far as your kids are concerned. Think of the activities you hate to do. Maybe paying bills stresses you, or doing laundry, or exercising. Whatever it is, you actually can relate to your child by thinking about what you hate to do. For me, cleaning the kitchen sets off some internal whining. Being sympathetic will help your child feel less anxious.
Your kids are still young emotionally.
2. If you were going through an emotional “crisis” what kind of support would you want? Sometimes just listening to your kids’ anxiety about starting homework helps defuse it. For young brains, homework may register as a crisis.
3. Don’t yell or lecture. We know this doesn’t work but we do it anyway. In a stressful situation, yelling amplifies the stress making it less likely for kids to do what you want them to do. (Unless you’re parenting with fear, which I would definitely discourage). And no one has fond memories of cuddling up on the couch to hear a good lecture from his or her parents. Kids know you want them to get their homework done. It’s not a new concept that lecturing will fix.
4. Meet your kids where they are. You can’t ask people to skip steps in their maturation. You can’t say, “Today you’re a tantrum-thrower but tomorrow that needs to stop,” because we haven’t taught them how to stop it. So if your child needs support, give them support. Many children appreciate having a parent nearby who is also doing some sort of “homework,” like reading or paying bills.
5. Bribery. Now that I have your attention…! Here’s my take on bribery or, to put it in nicer terms, salary. We adults don’t willingly go to work expecting nothing in return. We go to earn a salary so that we can support ourselves and our family and do fun things. Kids do homework to get grades which, for many kids, ain’t much fun at all. One thing you can do is to give them the opportunity to earn a “salary” not for doing homework, but for doing it without complaining, or for completing it as soon as your child gets home, or for getting a check mark (it’s done) in the online gradebook. Have a list of possible things they can earn. Let them choose which they want. Here are some suggestions:
- 15 minutes extra TV time
- 25 cents
- They can choose dessert
You can also save up for a bigger reward, like:
- Camping in the backyard
- The parent does one of the child’s chores for one day
- Popcorn and video afternoon/night for your family or for your child and one friend.
Helping your children or giving them too much support does NOT mean that your children will never develops these skills on their own.
Fear not! That’s not how development works. For example, we put diapers on kids before they can manage this biological process on their own. Having diapers didn’t stop your kids from learning to go to the bathroom on their own. Likewise with reading: reading to your child didn’t stop them from being able to read on their own. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s okay to support your child with love, encouragement, and a couple of cookies!
Having a new perspective on homework and what’s really going on inside your kids, makes it way easier to encourage them to get ‘er done. Choose what works for your family, your values, and each child’s developmental level.
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Copyright 2015, Margit Crane/Yafa Luria. All Rights Reserved.
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