Homework … there’s no escape. Until earlier this year, students as young as five were expected to have an hour’s homework per night – rising to an hour and a half for seven year olds. And longer for Key Stage 3 and 4 students.
These Department for Education guidelines have now been scrapped. Now, schools have the freedom to set their own homework policies. Whether your child is set homework regularly or not, many parents often have a battle on their hands with missing homework, children forgetting or refusing to do it it altogether.
What can you do to avoid the stress? As it can feel like pulling teeth when you want your child to do well, but they have no interest in the subject.
Get into a routine
One of the reasons why parents struggle to get their children to do homework is that they are often working and haven’t got plenty of free time to sit for an hour or two every evening with each child.
A way to combat this is to have set times when all the children do their homework – ideally at the dining table or in their rooms. Just be sure that they are not distracted by the internet, Facebook or games while studying.
You could either sit with them at the start to get them focused. Checking homework planners can also help you keep on top of their homework schedule during the week.
When you set limits – making it clear that they can enjoy their free time after homework is done – then children are more likely to get used to the system. Just asking ‘ have you done your homework?’ might not be enough. The typical response is ‘yes.’
Praise praise praise
Children who are negative about school and homework need constant praise for what they have achieved, not what they haven’t. So if your son spends 20 minutes on a piece of homework, make a fuss of him. Read it, look at it, tell him how proud you are of him.
Perhaps you can keep an achievement chart with stars for homework completed (perhaps if your child is in primary school) Over time, a specific amount of stars might earn him something. A new book, comic…
However, if he refuses to do any more homework, you can offer to help (as it might be he doesn’t understand something) whilst encouraging him to have a go.
If he still refuses, stay calm. Try not to react. Getting into a verbal fight won’t help your stress levels. After all, children should be accountable for their actions. They need to learn about consequences. Use positive language rather than negative: Saying’ ‘How can I help you to complete this piece of work? Let’s try it together’ is better than ‘If you don’t do this now, you can go to your room.’
Setting boundaries might be met with refusal or grumpiness at first. But if you stick with it, they’ll soon come round. Some parents even impose a house rule: no privileges until homework is completed.
A privilege might be going out with friends, access to the internet/iPad games, TV… If you keep giving in, he’ll think you didn’t really mean it. That working hard doesn’t really matter. That refusing to do something is rewarded.
You would be surprised how many children rethink their situation and opt to complete work when something is taken away from them. Another practical thing you can try is set an egg timer. 10 minutes, then a short break. Then 15 minutes and another short break.
When you work on the principle of rewards – if you do this, you’ll earn the right to do that – you build incentive into the work. Maybe an incentive could be for them to decide what the family will eat for dinner the next night, or a special treat at the weekend. Give children some ownership of their decisions.
Call in professional tuition
If the battle continues, get professional support. Here at Lemon Tree Tutors we often come across children who don’t like studying with their parents, but will happily sit with a tutor who understands how to engage them at their level.
Children don’t mean to be difficult. Awkward behaviour is often down to frustration boiling over. Plus children struggle to cope with failure, and don’t know how to tell you.
That’s why arranging tuition with a teacher can help children create new patterns of work.