How to Build a Homework Routine
Many of us remember fondly our early elementary-school years, before the introduction of high stakes testing. Many parents have noticed an increase in homework even in the first grade. Now, more than ever, we ask our very young children, most of whom are still very active, to sit at a table or desk and complete homework daily. In a very real sense, teachers rely on parents as a part of the educational team.
Researchers suggest that we have many fewer hours for "non-work related" activities than our parents and grandparents had. Parents need to make homework time-efficient to allow for other important things, like having fun with their children.
Organizers tell us that we use our time best when we routinize most daily activities. Teaching children routines teaches important life skills: reducing stress, organizing work and valuing learning.
Communicate the value of homework: Speak to children positively about doing homework - and call it "studying" instead. Provide them with the internal language of valuing any learning activity, teaching the value of sacrifice in the service of self-improvement.
Create a daily homework space: Structure somewhere in the home that is quiet and free of distractions (like TV). Children will learn best when the space triggers study habits.
Specify the time to study: Set aside enough time every day to do homework at the same time each day. Be sure to consider things that can disrupt the time and build a back-up plan.
Stagger activities: Take breaks doing homework for younger children. Children developmentally have shorter attention spans for things they find mentally taxing.
Reward homework completion: If a child finds it hard to stay on a task, provide repeated praise with stickers on a daily homework chart. After the chart is successfully filled (say 80 percent or more), then provide your child a favorite toy or activity.
-Kevin Arnold, Ph.D., ABPP, is a psychologist, Board Certified in Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology, the director of the Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy in Columbus, and a clinical faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at The Ohio State University. He is married and the father of two children, and he loves being an "older" dad.