Today I want to talk a little bit about homework success. For those of you parents who have school-aged kids who are already coming home with homework, I want to talk about 5 tips that I think are important to keep in the forefront of our minds as we enter the school year and homework season.
Create a space at home that is designated for homework. I don’t mean a place that is specifically for homework, but a consistent place that they can know, “When I sit here and open my books and my backpack, I’m ready to do work.” A comfortable space that is conducive to getting homework done and productivity. Whether that’s a desk in their room, the kitchen table, or another designated space in the main living area, it’s a space that you want kids to be able to associate with productivity. The more consistent, the better.
I know for my kids it’s a little bit different based on their ages and how internally motivated they are to get homework done. My daughter can go to her room and get the work done that she needs to because she is self-motivated. Whereas my son is a little bit better when he’s sitting in the main part of the house at the kitchen table where we can monitor, motivate, encourage, and re-direct him when necessary.
The other thing that I want to say about the homework space is that if at all possible, keep it minimized with distractions. Meaning that if it’s in the main part of the house, can you shut down the TV during homework time? can you minimize the noise? If so, can their devices be elsewhere while they are getting their homework done?
One technique that we want to teach our kids is the concept of being one-mindful. This is being able to focus their attention on one specific task to completion or for a designated and sustained amount of time. Now, this is something that even adults struggle with, so you want to be sure that you are teaching your kids to be able to sustain their attention and get something done in the amount of time it takes to get done. We live in a world where there is a lot of distraction and stimulation, so this is something that is really important that we teach our kids right away.
Help them create a time where they get homework done. Have a designated time for homework. A lot of kids have activities after school and if so, that’s great because they have a built-in brain break where they get to be physical and reset before going home and getting homework done. Whereas, some kids have the chance to go home and wait a bit before their activities start. In that case, I think it’s also important for them to have some kind of brain break or down time to get ready for homework. Sometimes it’s too much for them to just go home and step right into homework.
I don’t recommend waiting until the end of the day when kids are tired, sometimes grumpy or emotional. It could be a set up for either a power struggle or a melt-down of some sort. We want to prevent that as much as possible.
Help your kids stay organized. One of the benefits of staying organized is that you teach them to prioritize. A lot of schools provide kids with planners or some type of organization tool where they can write out the homework that they have for that day. You can also use a white board or something at home in their designated homework space that allows them to prioritize what needs to get done.
Once they complete a task or an assignment, have them physically scratch out or put a check mark by that thing that they wrote down in their planner or on the white board. What that does is offers a dopamine boost, which is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for motivation. When that happens, the kid is more likely to feel motivated to continue working, energized and feeling positive about the work that they just accomplished. That is something that we want to have happen.
We want to motivate and monitor, but we want to avoid micromanaging and doing the work for them. I know that’s a pretty obvious thing, but I can tell you it’s a fine line going from motivating and monitoring to doing the work for them and micromanaging. Make sure that you are encouraging and working with the kid, but also allowing them to struggle with the problem and to really think about the problem before you step in and give them the answer.
A lot of schools or school districts have portals that allow you to check on your kids’ grades and assignments, and that’s a great way to hold them accountable and to make sure there aren’t things falling through the cracks. However, you also want to avoid micromanaging that. You want your kid to learn an internal sense of responsibility and let them have some failures. Let them experience what it feels like to have to approach a teacher and talk about how they can get their grade up, how they turn in an assignment that’s missing, how they can get extra credit. You want your kid to be able to learn that skill.
The fifth and final tip is to be an example. Going back to that notion of one-mindfulness where we can sustain our attention for an extended period of time, do you demonstrate that in your home? I don’t mean being able to watch a Netflix show for the whole time, or zoning out on social media. I mean are you reading a book? Are they seeing you work on a project? Are they seeing you work on some activity or maybe doing the bills? Are they seeing you demonstrate the behavior of focusing your attention on something for an extended period of time? Be the example. They are much more likely to follow that behavior if they see you doing it.
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