I’m not sure who despises homework more, my eight-year-old son or me. What I do know: the “H word” can turn my otherwise delightful child into a whining, stomping monster, and it can turn my otherwise mindful parenting into something that might qualify me for a visit from Jo Frost, aka Supernanny.
How can Solo Moms take the sting out of homework time? Here are 10 tips from Solo Moms and their kids:
- Understand how your child works best. When is your child most likely to be productive? Does she work better alone or with a helper? Does he need to be in a quiet place or in the middle of the action? Does she concentrate for long periods of time, or does she need breaks every 15 minutes? Creating a homework plan that matches your child’s work style sets up your child for success.
- Find the real reason behind the struggle. When homework time became a wrestling match at my house, I had a private talk with my son. I learned that he was embarrassed about his performance in certain school subjects, so he’d do pretty much anything to avoid those subjects, including acting up at homework time. Learning what’s behind the struggle can help you tailor homework time to your child’s needs.
- Schedule wisely. Put a kid who hates homework together with a solo parent in a rush, and you’ve got a pressure cooker ready to explode. Luckily, many teachers pass out assignments long before they are due, so you can avoid the rush and help your child stay ahead of the game.
- Try the “quality time” mind trick. Instead of dreading homework time, I try to think of it as quality time I get to spend with my kid. Sure, maybe we’d rather be throwing a baseball or looking at a housefly’s wing under a microscope, but when I give my son my full attention—eye contact, careful listening, mindful responding—any time can become quality time.
- Be a study buddy. Some days I just plain don’t have time to sit down and do homework with my son, so I bring my own work to the table. While he’s reading a current-events article, I’m balancing my checkbook. When he’s practicing his math facts, I’m responding to work emails. When I get focused, he gets focused, and we both get our work done.
- Invite friends. If your child is lucky enough to have classmates who live nearby, try a homework playdate. Kids have more fun doing homework together, and when they’re done, they get an instant reward: a real playdate. Better yet: do a homework-playdate swap with a friend so you get some free time, too.
- Outsource the job. Some kids work more diligently for others than they will for their parents. If you have the resources, outsource the role of homework taskmaster to a school-based homework club, a beloved friend or family member, or an older kid in your neighborhood. Then stand by, ready to applaud a job well done.
- Give as many choices as you can. Homework is not an option; kids have to do it. But parents can offer some choices along the way. For example, let your child pick when he will do his homework, choose which assignment she wants to tackle first, or decide what he’d like to do to celebrate the end of homework time.
- Put the responsibility where it belongs. If your child refuses to do homework, try saying this: “If you want to go to school without your homework tomorrow, that’s between you and your teacher. Just be ready to talk to your teacher about it.” Got a child who won’t study for tests? Try saying this: “I don’t care how you perform on this test; it’s your test. But I noticed that you don’t like how it feels to fail a test. If you don’t want to feel that way, you’ll choose to study.” Warning: these strategies work only with kids who have an inherent desire to please their teachers or pass their tests, so use them carefully!
- Make it fun. OK, yes, this might sound obnoxious. I mean, you and your kid have both worked a long day, and now someone’s telling you to make homework fun? Where are you supposed to get the energy for that? Fun doesn’t have to take a lot of energy. Fun can mean doing homework in a new place—like a coffee shop, the library, or a fort in your own living room. Fun can mean placing an M&M at the end of each row of math problems, so your child has a treat to work toward. Fun can mean asking your child to read that boring paragraph in a Kermit the Frog voice. Fun can mean taking a 30-second dance-party break every 15 minutes. Fun means instead of using up your waning energy in a battle of wills, you put your energy toward getting your kid—and yourself—to smile.
Cheryl Dumesnil is an author, educator, writing coach, and all-around do-gooder, parenting two amazing boys. You can follow her on Twitter at @cheryladumesnil.
Feature image from shutterstock.com
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