With September around the corner, I am dreading the thought of getting back into the homework routine. My son is going into 3rd grade, and homework has always been a chore. He never wants to do his homework and takes forever to finish it. He gets very distracted and uses every trick in the book to get out of doing it. Do you have any suggestions on getting him to do his homework?
Dear “Dreading September”,
Homework time tends to be a stressful time for many households. At the end of the day, both parents and children are tired from the activities of the day. Many times it’s hard to fit the homework in between after school activities and dinner preparations.
For children who tend to “put off doing” their homework, it is a good idea to start it when the child first gets home from school, before any other activity. Otherwise, if homework is started later, it may be more difficult for children to stay on track. They become too tired and more easily distracted. (1) There are some measures that you and your son can take in order to help homework time go more smoothly.
First choose a quiet place with minimal distractions. (1) For children who become easily distracted, doing their homework in the kitchen with the telephone ringing and people coming and going is not a good idea. This would cause too much of a distraction and make it difficult for a child to stay on track. Secondly, set up a work station with all of the appropriate supplies in a caddy or box. (1) Have sharpened pencils, erasers, crayons, markers, rulers, paper and paper clips organized and available. Many children use the excuse that they don’t have the right paper, they don’t like a particular eraser or their pencil is not sharp enough so they can get up and stop doing their homework. Before you know it these kids are in another room playing with their toys far from thoughts of doing their homework. By having all of the supplies at arms length this will prevent interruption in the flow of doing their homework.
Next, figure out a homework schedule with the incorporation of breaks. Some children become too overwhelmed if they are faced with a list of homework assignments. If you break up the homework assignment into sections it becomes more approachable. For example, review your child’s homework assignment and decide how difficult each assignment is and how long it should take your child to finish it. Every child is different, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Start with an assignment that your child is good at, so that he can get it done with little effort. This way he will be encouraged when he accomplishes the task of finishing a part of his homework. For example, if your child is good at math and hates writing sentences, have him do the math worksheet first and then give him a 10 to 15 minute break before he has to write out his spelling sentences.
Your child may need extra help with difficult assignments that require more than one step, for example writing a story. Sometimes if the parent breaks the steps up for the child he will have more success in completing the task without becoming too overwhelmed. For example if the child has to write a story; have your son first, think of a title and the names of the main characters. Next, discuss how long the story should be, for example two paragraphs or one page. Then have him jot down an outline for the story, making sure there is a beginning, a middle and an end. After this write the story and then proof read it. Lastly fix the errors. You’ll find that if you break up the steps for your child he will get less frustrated and will get the homework done in a timely fashion.
For children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or those who have difficulty staying on task it may help to use an egg timer. (1) When reviewing the homework, decide how long an assignment should take and put the timer for that amount of time. Many children do well with structure and concrete expectations. It is a good idea to use incentives with the use of the timer. You can tell your son, "If you finish your math in 20 minutes then I’ll let you watch your favorite show on T.V. or play a video game".
It is not recommended to use food as a reward. Instead choose activities that your child likes to do. As a parent you know what works best for your child’s personality. When your child completes a task, make sure you let him know how pleased you are and praise him for doing his homework without interruptions. It is a good idea to praise your child first and before giving him a long list of his errors to be corrected.
Many children have difficulties completing homework. For many it is a matter of discipline or level of maturity. In time and with practice these children improve. For other children, difficulty with homework completion may be a sign of an underlying issue such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Learning Disability, emotional/behavioral problems or social issues. (2) For example, some children with Attention Deficit Disorder or Learning Disabilities present with distractibility, problems focusing and difficulty staying on task. Therefore, if your child continues to have problems completing his homework and staying on task it would be important to discuss this with his Teacher. It would be important to know if these issues also occur during school hours.
If your child’s problems persist despite your efforts to help his homework time go more smoothly or if your son’s teacher verbalizes any concerns, it would be important to discuss this with his Doctor or Nurse Practitioner. It is important to discuss these concerns so that your son can receive the support that he needs. School systems, as well as Pediatricians are accustomed to addressing these types of issues since approximately 20 % of all school-aged children have academic performance problems. (2) It is important to not ignore these issues because the two major contributors to academic performance problems are learning disabilities and mental retardation. (2)
If your feel that your child is exhibiting signs of ADD or a learning disability, it is important to communicate this to your child’s Teacher and Pediatrician. For more information about learning disabilities log on to:
Learning Disabilities Association of America
National Center for Learning Disabilities
(1)Lambros K, Leslie L. Management f the Child with a Learning Disorder. 2005. 34;4:275-287.
(2) Kelly D, Aylward G. Identifying School Performance Problems in the Pediatric Office. Pediatric Annals. 2005. 34;4:288-298.
Lisa-ann Kelly R.N., P.N.P.,C.
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
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