Dr. Mary E. Lee - Registered Psychologist - Grande Prairie Alberta

The Homework Battle

The issue of homework varies widely with different children. Whereas some children or adolescents are quite self-motivated and complete homework with little prodding or effort on the part of the rest of the family, others actively avoid it.

This column contains answers to commonly asked questions families have with regard to the homework issue.

Where should my child or teen do homework?

It is important to provide a private, quiet spot to do homework. Places like the kitchen table tend to have too many distractions for effective study.

My child says they can only do homework in from of the television or with the stereo playing. Is this acceptable?

Children and adolescents vary with regard to learning and study styles. Whereas some people learn best with absolute silence, others find some background noise conducive to working. The key is “background” noise. When music has vocals or is too loud, it tends to induce people to sing along or daydream. Music being played in the background should be quiet and preferably, without vocals. In this way, there is background sound, but it is not dominant.

Television tends to provide too much stimuli for people to study effectively. Rather than working, people will watch the show or concentrate on the conversation.

It is also important to ask yourself why the child or adolescent wants noise in the background. Is the environment of the house conducive to study? If there is excessive noise in the house or people arguing, children or adolescents may wish to drown out these sounds. Loud stereo noise may provide this out for them.

Helping my child or teen do homework takes up my whole evening. What can l do?

The key is to remember you can help your child do homework but this does not necessarily require you to be sitting with her or him constantly. This is a homework helping strategy for families to use.

  1. Have a private, quiet place for your child to sit to do homework (not the kitchen or another active place).
  2. Sit with your child and ask if they have all their materials and if they know what their first task is. Ensure they know where to start and what is required of the first homework activity.
  3. Tell them you are leaving them for 10 minutes to work. Tell them if they have problems while you’re one, to circle the number of the question or write down what they are having trouble with. They are to work on the next problem or task until you return.
  4. Return in 10 minutes. Ask if they had any problems. If not, tell them you will check back in another ten minutes. If they had difficulty, check the problem and look for where they last did something correct. Point out what they did right and then explain the next step (not all the steps). Have them work on their own another ten minutes before checking back.

This format of homework assistance provides the child with some help, but at the same time fosters independent work. Your job is to guide, not sit with them the whole time, or do the work for them.

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