Are your kids driving you CRAZY during homework time? Are they staring out the window... hopping out of their chairs... complaining... crying... fighting... singing... dancing... talking... or entertaining themselves with whatever they can get their hands on??? Do you find yourself exasperated... STRESSED OUT... and struggling to keep control??? If so, it's time to step in and end the afternoon drama once and for all. Below are some tips to help you...and your kids!
1. Find a quiet place for your kids to work. Some kids simply can't focus when there are other noises around. This can include noises nearby, in the next room, or even outside. Set up camp in the quietest room you can find, and eliminate any extra noise during homework time. Make your kids' homework time "quiet time" for the whole family, if necessary. Let any neighborhood kids know not to come around during that time as well!
2. Clear off the work table and empty room of distractions. Kids who are easily distracted need to be seated at a table free from clutter and temptations. Ideally, you don't want anything to be within reach (or view) of your kids except for the materials needed to complete their current assignments. The room and/or rooms you choose should be as neat, orderly, and temptation-free as possible. Remove toys, close blinds, have your kids face a boring wall, etc. The only thing you want to catch your kids' eyes during homework time is the assignment at hand!
2. Add purpose! Explain the importance of the work at hand so your kids understand why they are doing it and what it will do for them. You want your kids to see the work as beneficial rather than a punishment of sorts. Get your kids excited about learning something new and/or getting even better at something they already know but have been asked to practice. Talk about learning and homework EXCITEDLY, as if they are GOOD things!
3. Take away fear! Reassure your kids that you will help as needed...and follow through on this promise. Make sure you don't belittle your kids by saying things like, “You KNOW this!” or “I can’t believe you forgot this!” Even if your kids did know it, just go back over it until they remember it again. Many kids have memory and/or retrieval issues which cause them to forget things easily. By taking time to calmly reexplain whatever they have forgotten, you will be adding trust and building up your relationship. You will also be making future assignments a little less scary! If you find you can't calmly help for whatever reason, think about hiring a tutor or asking another adult to step in.
4. Break up long assignments. Some kids FREAK OUT over a page full of sentences to read, math problems to solve, etc.! If your kids get easily overwhelmed, break up long assignments into more manageable parts. Cover up all but the section your kids are working on, and offer quick mini-breaks as each section is completed. You might let your kids play a quick game of tic-tac-toe, run around the yard, shoot 3 baskets, etc.
5. Set behavior goals BEFORE you begin! Discuss what you expect from your kids BEFORE they have a chance to misbehave! Have them help you come up with a list of rules, rewards, and consequences, and STICK TO THEM! Use a behavior chart to help keep track of good/bad behaviors, and make sure you FOLLOW THROUGH with the appropriate rewards and/or consequences...EVERY TIME! If your kids know they can delay homework time, get it reduced, get you to do it for them, etc, they will be sure to hassle you until you give in and do what they desire! Take control of the situation and remember that YOU are the parent! Set the rules, stay calm, and remain firm but pleasant when it comes to enforcing them. Let your kids know that they are the ones deciding their fate. They can comply with the rules and earn rewards...or challenge the rules and earn consequences. Their choice. You are just there to enforce what you have already agreed to!
6. Play “Beat the Timer!” If your kids just can't seem to stop talking, playing, complaining, etc., grab a timer and see if your kids can get their work done before it goes off! Praise whoever gets the most done and consider offering a reward! This technique can really help competitive kids who have trouble staying focused get busy!
7. Find the best work time for YOUR child! Some kids work best first thing in the morning or immediately after school. Others work best after having a snack or completing a physical activity of some sort. Get to know when your kids do their best work and plan accordingly!
Life is too short to spend your child rearing years being CRAZY! Follow the steps above UNTIL THEY WORK! Be PATIENT -- change doesn't always happen overnight. The more CONSISTENT you are, the sooner your sanity should be restored. And remember -- your kids may not retain everything they learn during these homework sessions, but they are SURE TO REMEMBER how you made them FEEL during them!
All the best and much success,
Author of Kinders Can! READ and WRITE!, Get Your Kids READING and WRITING! 2 and 3 Letter Words!, Tricks Practice Cards, and Alphabasics!