If your child is struggling with academics, you may wonder how to solve your child’s homework problems. Homework may be something that parents struggle with every day, particularly for children with weaknesses in executive functioning skills. Before we talk about how to help your child develop homework strategies, it’s important to know what homework is for.
The purpose of homework is not to teach a new skill, but to consolidate and practice skills. It gives practice with creative thinking, problem solving and carrying out projects. And, based on research, the length of time that children should spend on homework is 10 minutes of homework for each grade level (e.g., 10 minutes for 1st grade, 20 minutes for 2nd grade, etc). If this is not the case for you child, then your child may need an alteration in their homework.
The following are tips for how to solve your child’s homework problems at home:
- Ask your child to make a specific plan as soon as they get home from school. This includes the when, what, how, where, etc. Some children may need a 30 minute break after school, and others do better starting homework right away. Know this about your child and check in with them about their plan. Write down the plan if necessary.
- Allow your child to start with whatever assignment they want to start with. This can be either the hard or easy homework, but allow them to make the selection themselves to help them feel in control.
- If kids lack self-control, remove electronics (e.g., iPads, cell phones) to reduce temptation to check during homework time.
Here are some strategies for how to interact with your child during homework time:
- Some parents find that including an incentive for starting and completing homework works well. The best reward is typically an activity that the child looks forward to immediately after homework completion (e.g., allow them play a video game for 30 minutes when done), and make sure your child selects the reward and not you. Immediate incentives are more effective than long-term incentives for children with executive functioning weaknesses.
- Build in breaks (either per task or time) that include physical exercise or other type of break – perhaps with a timer. Try not to use video games as breaks, as it’s hard to pull kids out of them. However, watching a brief portion of a television program may be easier to allow during a break. This is key to solve your child’s homework problems.
- Supervise but don’t micromanage your child’s homework. Make efforts to not be critical about the quality of your child’s homework – it’s the teacher’s job to judge the quality of your child’s homework.
- If you need it, hire a family friend, college student, or tutoring service to reduce the stress on the parent child dynamic during homework and to encourage focus. Furthermore, some parents find that sitting with their child while doing their own work can encourage a child’s focus and homework completion.
- Remember that children cannot just “speed up” to complete their homework, even with stimulant medication. So remember you can talk to your child’s teacher to make accommodations either informally or formally. Talk with the teacher to agree upon modifications in homework. The plan can be an informal agreement between the parent and teachers, or it can be arranged more formally in an IEP or 504 Plan.
What about technology during homework time?
- Control how much time your children are spending with technology before bed time. Experts say that having a period of at least two hours of no screen time before bed is ideal. This is because of the blue light emitted from screens that interferes with melatonin cycles. However, this may not work for everyone. So there is a easy and free website that can be downloaded that automatically adjusts your electronic device screen light to mimic natural light. It’s called Just Get Flux.
- What about music? If your child likes to listen to music, create a homework play list that the child has heard repeatedly. Otherwise, the child’s attention splits between the lyrics of new songs and their homework. Move the music source far away to create ambient music and so that the child does not get distracted by switching playlists.