How to Establish Great Homework Habits With Your Kid

Aug 9, 2018 at 4:00 p.m. ET
Black Mom Helping Young Daughter Learn Alphabet
Image: UberImages/Getty Images. Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows.

Whether you just tolerate it or downright loathe it, homework is an unavoidable part of life for most school-age kids. Which means it's an unavoidable part of family life, too, because chances are your kid needs a little help to establish good homework habits in the first place. That's where you come in, oh wise parent.

Here are some expert tips to help you and your kid get into a successful — and achievable — homework routine this school year. 

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Make a schedule that suits your kid

"Schedule after-school time to set your child up for success," Dr. Pam Roggeman, academic dean in the College of Education at University of Phoenix and former teacher tells SheKnows. If your child needs some downtime after school, make sure you incorporate that into the schedule. It might go something like: snack, play, homework. On the other hand, your child might only have a finite amount of motivation, in which case a better schedule could be: homework while snacking, play, family time. "The key is to stick to your schedule," says Roggeman. "When your child knows that you will stick to your schedule and playtime will take place at some point, you can alleviate the battles." 

Follow your gut

Nobody knows your child better than you do, so when it comes to homework, use that insider knowledge, advises Roggeman. You might want to believe your kid when they look at you with wide eyes and claim, "I don't have any homework," but you'll know whether they're actually saying, "I want to be doing anything other than homework right now." Don't let it slide just because you don't have the energy to fight about it. 

Use positive reinforcement

Children need positive reinforcement the same way adults do, writer and former therapist Emily Mendez tells SheKnows. Tie in a positive reinforcement to completion of homework assignments. Mendez suggests a fun activity, video game or TV time at the end of homework time. "Schedule the positive reinforcement for as soon after completion of homework as possible," she says.

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Ask for help

I know I'm not the only parent who regularly has to google the answer to my 10-year-old's algebra homework. "Most parents do not use calculus, algebra and geometry on a daily basis," says Roggeman. "It’s hard to admit, but our kids learn some pretty sophisticated concepts that may have left our brains." If you know someone — a neighbor, relative or college student who's strong in any of these areas or any other area you need help with, ask! Also, many teachers are happy to tutor kids for extra money. It's money well spent if it helps your kid get ahead in school. Your community might have a "homework hotline" through the local library. "Help your kid utilize these resources," says Mendez. "This will teach problem-solving skills, which is critical for developing good study and work habits."

Keep perspective

"Homework should enrich, not deflate, your child's self-efficacy," says Roggeman. She has another favorite saying to remind yourself of the next time you're facing a homework battle: "There are lots of things to cry about in this world, but homework isn't one of them." If your child puts a lot of effort into their homework, be prepared to leave it at that — even if you think there's room for improvement. "No teacher wants a homework assignment to stress out and frustrate your child," says Roggeman. "Use a point of frustration as a sign to move on." And when it's age-appropriate to do so, teach your child to reach out to their teacher if they need their input. "Sitting in the driver's seat for learning and getting help is a skill our kids will need for the rest of their lives," says Roggeman. 

Create a homework space

If your child has a designated homework space — whether that's a desk, a corner of a room or even an entire room — they're more likely to get their head down and do the work. Of course, you have to make sure the space is always available for homework (fighting for space at the kitchen table isn't conducive to a positive homework experience) and has all the equipment your child needs. As they get older, they can be responsible for this themselves. Encourage your child to keep their school bag in this space, provide a comfortable, supportive chair and have a constant supply of sharpened pencils, paper and erasers. 

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Homework is a drag for most of us, but resistance is futile. (I've learned from experience that the more I complain about the amount of homework my kids get, the less enthusiastic they are about actually getting it done — which is a major lose-lose situation.) 

Try to be excited about learning, and your kid will share that excitement, says Roggeman: "Our kids need to know that we want to share in the interests, accomplishments and journeys they experience during their school career." And that's exactly what you want, isn't it?

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