And nobody likes it. Right? I am correct in saying that NOBODY likes it?!
But homework lasts from the end of elementary school on through college, so the sooner our kids can develop habits to master it, the better. It ain’t goin’ nowhere!
*More grimacing. Insert eye roll for good measure.*
Most people who give homework argue that not only is it great for reinforcing what kids learned in school that day, but it also gets them practicing life skills like time management, organization, and responsibility. So fair enough!
You can empathize with your kids because you’ve done your fair share of homework too. But I bet you can see just how much harder it is these days with all the distractions available for our kids and teens. Aside from the dinging and pinging of social media and smartphones, so much homework is now computer-based, and ohhhh the tabs they could open and the browsing they could be doing instead! It’s just so tempting to, like, look at a couple of cat memes first…
So you can see how a simple homework assignment could turn into a field day of distraction or get drawn out way longer than it should. But the easiest way to instill good homework habits is to talk to your kids about it so they’re aware of the challenges they face. Then they’ll be able to self-regulate and guide themselves to be more efficient and less distracted… and this is a skill that’s useful forever. Like through high school, college, and even work days in the office. Here’s how to help your child make their homework habits a little healthier or “improve their homework hygiene” if you will.
Empathize. You know homework can feel like torture. You know how hard it is to focus after a full day of school. And you’re aware that they’d rather be doing other things and the Internet is just calling their name…
2 – Make it an interesting convo!
This isn’t the time for nagging or judging. Stay calm and keep the subject neutral but interesting.
For instance, you could ask them to guess how long the average student stays focused on homework before switching to a technological distraction. The answer is six minutes, by the way. Yup, bring up this study. It’s true!
Or talk to them about the different types of distractions and which one they think affects them more. Is it usually an external distraction, like the light of an Instagram notification or a vibration from their phone? Or is it more an internal one, like a flash in their brain that says “I should just check Snapchat real quick!”?
3 – Strategize
How do they do approach homework as it stands now? Do they make a to-do list? Do they get everything set up on the kitchen counter and put their phone away before diving in? Then throw out some ideas of your own… (or mine, whatever).
- Get some exercise in before doing homework. The body learns more efficiently this way. (Perfect if your kid has just come home from sports practice anyway!)
- Start with the task they dread the most. If they can just work on it for ten minutes, that gets over the mental barrier of doing it and makes it more approachable.
- Try the “Pomodoro Method” – set a timer and work on homework for 25 minutes straight with no distractions. When the timer goes off, take a short break of about five minutes before jumping back in. Repeat this a few times and then take a longer break… or however long you need to finish up all the homework. It helps the brain get over distractions and be more productive.
- During homework breaks, they can check social media or get on the Internet if they like, but mix it up with things like playing with a pet, chatting with you, or getting a breath of fresh air outside.
- If all else fails and they’re really having a tough time keeping their technological distractions in check, there are apps for parents to monitor their Internet usage during homework time. But it’s better if they can learn to monitor themselves!
Getting into these healthy homework habits can help your child be more independent, focused, and efficient. They know they have to do it, so why not streamline the process, eliminate distractions, and get homework finished so they can do the stuff they really want to do after school… like hang out with you maybe? Hey, we can dream…
Laurie Wolk is an Author, Educator & Motivational Speaker focusing on parenting adolescents and social media. A “go to” girl since childhood and a cheerleader at heart, her passion is helping parents and young girls learn how to communicate and connect with themselves, each other and the outside world.
She works directly with companies, schools, organizations and individuals on building confidence, leadership and digital citizenship skills. Her goal: teaching girls how to put down their digital devices and develop “in real life” communication and relationship skills.
A graduate of Emory University, Laurie received her BA in Psychology and is the Author of the book Girls Just Want to Have Likes: How to Raise Confident Girls in the Face of Social Media Madness due in bookstores nationwide this August. She is the Editor of The Spark Report, a weekly report that helps parents of tweens/teens spark meaningful conversations with their children. Laurie received advanced certification at the Martha Beck and Girls Leadership Institutes and is on the Board of the Westchester Children’s Museum and at Girls Leadership.
An engaged and hands-on mother of three + dog, Laurie understands adolescents and connects with them both as a guide and a friend, teaching them important social and emotional skills that will serve them for a lifetime. She has been called a “modern mentor” by clients and forms natural connections early on with both parent and child.