For most school-age children, homework starts in their early years and gradually builds; as it does so, frustration can build too, for both children and parents, causing arguments and worse. Personally, I think primary children should be “maxing out” on fresh air, exercise and free play after school. There is evidence supporting the idea that homework is not even beneficial academically until secondary school (http://www.alfiekohn.org/homework-improve-learning/). However, for most of us, our educational choices demand that we support our young children in this capacity.
So, if you have young children who struggle with homework, my question is this:
What are the emotional challenges your children are facing and how can you best support them so they take responsibility for their homework in a timely and sensible fashion, asking for help appropriately, getting pleasure out of succeeding and ultimately becoming life-long learners?
Young children need to FEEL GOOD about something in order to do it. If they are hungry, tired or frustrated, things don’t normally go so well. If we get upset with them for their lack of action, we will be shooting ourselves in the foot. If they FEEL pushed into doing something, they can show resistance. If they have lost their feelings, they simply don’t care about anything. If they don’t look up to their teacher or parents, they don’t have the desire to be good. If they have a more attractive alternative to homework and there is no routine in place, guess what they will choose?
After a whole day of school, disconnected from parents, frustrations accumulated, most young children need connection, downtime and to be listened to, not to mention rehydration.
Deepening your relationship with your child is your best investment in parenting and will reap benefits in dissolving any “homework blues”. So spend some time together after school….just that.
Having created the structure for a regular slot for homework, take the lead and invite your child to get started. Add any words of encouragement, focusing on building the relationship, allowing for their feelings to arise. Be present MORE and say LESS.
Never allow your upset to pollute the connection by blaming or shaming your child. Your frustration invariably comes from the way your parents handled you around this issue of homework and you are simply repeating the cycle. Being aware of this can help.
When your child is in “right relationship” with you and their teacher, they will naturally follow you, look up to you and be filled with the desire to be good and do what is asked. It is inevitable and nature’s way of supporting the development of your child. All you have to do is to provide the conditions and your child will blossom….and goodbye “homework blues”!
So, if your child is experiencing homework challenges, then create a routine, make space emotionally, be patient, allow frustrations to arise in them (not you). It’s time well invested for the future.
By Laura Newman MSc