Helping Kids With Homework: That Difficult Balance


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Parenting is a job that comes with many challenges, but chief amongst them is ensuring that our kids have the best possible education. Education is a pathway to opportunity, and it’s the single most effective tool that a parent can use to shape their child’s future. When our kids are very young, we’re solely responsible for their education. We teach them how the world around them works and how they should engage with it. But even after we’ve handed the lion’s share of it to their schools, our responsibility to our kids’ education doesn’t stop there.


Even if we’re not home schooling our kids, we usually become part-time teachers when it comes to the thorny issue of homework. Here a parent faces one of their greatest challenges. They want to give their children the best possible access to help and support, but they don’t want to do all the heavy lifting (thereby rendering the whole exercise useless). If your child comes downstairs and says “write my essay!” out of boredom or frustration, it can be difficult to return them to the task at hand without doing all the work for them


Here are some helpful tips for redressing that difficult balance:


Set goals


Most of us perform better at work, in sports or in our hobbies if we set ourselves clear and established goals. This is doubly important for our children, who crave structure (however much they may rail against it). Aside from the given tasks of any one assignment, you should set weekly, monthly and quarterly homework goals to ensure that your child is challenged and motivated.


This may involve being honest with yourself and your kid about their strengths and areas for development, and reward them when they step out of their comfort zone. For example, if they’re strong in English but flounder in Math, encourage them to set targets to improve their performance in their weaker subject. Taking them out for pizza or ice cream after they’ve just crushed a math test is a great way of rewarding their effort.


Establish a schedule


Kids have to be at school for a set time, they have recess at a set time and they go for lunch at a set time. It makes sense, therefore, to dedicate set hours when they get home to do their homework. This helps to ensure that they take the homework as seriously as their school work. They know that homework isn’t an optional extra. Again, it’s useful to follow up with a reward (a half hour playing video games for instance) when homework time ends.


Guide them to answers


“Hey Mom, who killed Abraham Lincoln?”, “Hey Dad, what’s the square root of 16?”. Often your child will ask you questions that are easy for you to answer, but you may be doing more harm than good if you just supply them with the answer. You should always tease the answer out of them, by encouraging them to lean on their existing knowledge. Guiding them to the answer will help them engage with the task and retain the answer far more effectively than simply answering for them.


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