You’ve rushed from work, just managed to pick up the kids from school just as the bell rang, made it home in one piece and now it’s time to think about getting dinner started. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to chase the kids around the house to try to get them to sit down and do their homework at the same time?
While all children have different personalities and will respond differently to various incentives and disincentives, trying some (or all) of these techniques might just make your home a slightly more serene place!
After tutoring hundreds of children over many years, I am firmly of the belief that children respond well to routine. I find that kids who don’t like school are often willing to do some maths with me because they know that each activity only lasts a short time. After a few months of following this structure, their skills actually start to improve and while they would probably still rather be outside kicking the footy around, they are quite willing to put in the effort at tasks they would not otherwise have chosen to do.
While it might work sometimes to bribe your children with iPad use once they have finished their homework, this can often work against you when they get older, as you might find that they rush through the work just to get to the reward. One way around this is to say to them, “You can use the iPad once it’s done, AND it’s neat, AND you’ve got all your punctuation in there properly.” In other words, you need to quantify your expectations so they know what your expectations are.
To get around this issue, many households actually have a set time period each day for homework, so that your child knows exactly what the commitment is. ‘Negotiate’ this time with them to make sure it does not clash with sports or other activities they want to be taking part in, and you’ll have a better chance of them following the rules!
Some children have a desk in their room, but for many younger children, a spot in the kitchen or living room can work just as well. Try to have them use the same place every time, and add some touches to have them feel as if it is ‘theirs’. Tape one of their pictures to the wall, or pot a plant with them and have this nearby.
If your daughter is anything like mine, she’ll constantly be looking for excuses to get out of the work. Make sure that all the pens, pencils and any other stationery items that she needs are there before any work is started, otherwise she’ll be getting up every few minutes to go and get something from her room (which means that she won’t be back for some time ..).
Obviously, having the TV on while homework is being done is a recipe for disaster, but sometimes having soft music playing in the background can actually help. Unless you want her jumping around the room yelling, “You’re gonna hear me rooooar!” it might pay for you to pick the music yourself. If you can find something that is not too obtrusive, it can act as a kind of white noise and actually help your child get centred.
Set a good example
OK, so it might be hard to know how to demonstrate that everything your child learns about will be directly relevant in life, but that’s not really the point. Let them see how you use learnt skills in everyday life. Let them see you writing lists, doing calculations to see how much you are paying for things, weighing and measuring things in the kitchen; you might be surprised to find that kids actually enjoy learning about such tasks.
It might not always be easy to get interested in My Little Pony and you may not know the lyrics to whatever the latest Disney film it is that your child has watched 40 times, but developing an interest in your child’s passions will also make it easier to communicate academic concepts when it’s called for.
Don’t give up!
Just because the advice in one ‘blog doesn’t help, this doesn’t mean you should lose hope. Also remember that putting systems in place requires discipline and consistency. Even those super-mums will admit that parenting is hard work if they’re really honest with you. If you can make it work, though, helping your child to understand the importance of planning and goal-setting at an early age won’t just make your life easier; it will set them up well for their later years of schooling.