Change Your Kid’s Attitude About Homework

Change Your Kid’s Attitude About Homework

Use these tips to make school work a positive experience for a student of any age.

By: Pamela Martin

"Students with more actively engaged parents are more likely to attend school regularly, have better social skills, earn higher grades, graduate from high school and go on to college or other postsecondary program," according to the Expect More Arizona program website. However, Dr. Ashley Norris, assistant dean of the University of Phoenix College of Education, points out that many children cannot see the relevance of homework assignments, and their parents may not feel prepared to help with some of the work. As a result, homework time may become battle time, but there are activities to help ease the stress.

Establish a Routine
"I am a big advocate of Dedicated Homework Time, otherwise known as DHT," says Ann Dolin, the founder and president of Educational Connections Tutoring and Test Prep. She suggests reserving a minimum of 30 minutes exclusively for homework. She says, "There's a high probability that, at first, your child will claim to be finished; keep that time dedicated." Dolin says that children will often "remember" other assignments, or they can use the time to review other work.

Help establish the routine by setting a particular time and a particular place in which to complete homework assignments. For some students, completing assignments before starting anything else after school works well, while others may need a break first.

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"A great way for parents to connect with children and instill the importance of education is to set a weekly family study time," says Norris. "While children study, parents can pay bills, read newspapers or conduct research for their own projects." Having a scheduled time to work together holds both children and parents accountable, provides the opportunity to discuss the week's activities and make plans, and models parents' commitment to education for the children.

Create a Comfortable Environment
"Unfortunately, homework many times feels like solitary confinement," points out Dr. Cynthia Herbert, co-author of "The Missing Alphabet." She suggests, "Do whatever you can to eliminate that feeling. Participate with your child or allow her to work with a friend. Give children a place to work that is pleasant and not punitive." She further suggests that you consider what will work best for each child, pointing out that some children need the structure of a worktable and upright chair, while others study best reclining or in an overstuffed chair.

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"All children benefit from easy ways to organize their work/play spaces. Consider shelves or bins or other designated places with pencils, paper, pencil sharpener, ruler, etc.," continues Herbert. Often, what appears to be a negative attitude toward homework is actually frustration over not having the necessary tools easily at hand. Providing the organizational scaffolding for your child helps eliminate some of that distress.

"A little music goes a long way," reports Andrew Geant, founder of, an online marketplace connecting students to private tutors in their area. His suggestion is supported by research that indicates that baroque music with a 50- to 80-beat-per-minute tempo, which mimics the human heart rate, helps students focus and concentrate. Geant also says, "Music helps students remember topics … Coming up with a song or a rap that describes a topic will get those creative juices flowing, while also helping to hammer in the concepts.”

Allow Frequent Breaks
"Setting a timer, especially the old-fashioned kind that makes a ticking sound, can be very helpful to increase cooperation and motivation," says Neil McNerney, author of "Homework: A Parent's Guide to Helping Out Without Freaking Out."


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Dolin agrees, saying, "Consider using the 'tolerable 10.’ " Both advocate encouraging children to work as hard as they can during the timed period and then taking a five-minute break. "This sense of urgency often gets kids over the hump of beginning," Dolin says. "After 10 minutes, he can take a break or keep working. Most often, kids can keep on going."

During the breaks, encourage your child to drink water to stay hydrated, as even a small level of dehydration affects concentration and learning. Allow him to do a silly dance, run laps around the backyard or even play a video game for five minutes.

If you don't want to leave "study mode" altogether during the breaks, Pearl Chang Esau, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, offers some short, quick activities to fill the time.

"In five minutes … ask your child what he learned at school that day. Draw an animal together, and discuss the type of animal and its features."

For a longer break, Esau suggests that you "discuss current events, pick a country on the globe and discuss the country with your child, play a fun educational game … or read a book or a chapter together."

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Get Creative
"Often young children do not enjoy homework that they find difficult or view as just busy work. Look for opportunities to expand homework assignments into creative projects," Norris points out. To help keep children interested, allow them to create a multimedia slide presentation, plant beans or seeds, or make a mint-and-diet-soda fountain or baking soda volcano. Herbert suggests, "If a child likes to draw, have her draw a picture of her math problem before trying to solve it. For a child who likes to build, give him manipulatives (like blocks) to represent it. For a child who enjoys drama or storytelling, help her act it out."

"Games and puzzles hold the key to math," says Geant. "Learning to view or convert cards to numbers can quicken processing time. Advanced card-playing is all about calculating odds and percentages. If cards are too big of a stretch, Sudoku, checkers and chess can also build strong math and problem-solving skills."

Herbert concurs, saying, "Games can go a long way toward helping attitudes. For example, playing a board game that involves two or more dice will involve children in practicing addition in a more positive manner."

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