Frustrated with the tension at home with your kids and homework? Here are four simple steps to help increase the peace, along with your child’s or teen’s personal responsibility and growth:
1. Insist on a homework area that invites success. Your teen may try to make their schoolwork spot the place where they can maximize comfort and minimize accountability. Not the best plan, right?! Lounging his bed is probably not setting him up for the best posture and environment of concentration and effective work. Hiding in her room with headphones and three screen devices running is not exactly maximizing focus and efficiency. Be in charge! Be sure your child or teen is sitting at a table or desk that feels like a workstation. Don’t argue, plead, or whine. Just be in charge and insist. Positioning ourselves for success is a huge step toward achieving that success. It’s true for us. It’s true for them.
2. Minimize likely distractions. Some kids (and adults) can actually concentrate and work more effectively when listening to music. That’s cool. But with headphones on, there is no way to really know what is fueling the mind and attention. Unplug the headphones, have them set a reasonable volume, and direct them toward music choices that will not directly interfere with brain power. I’m not talking about making them listen to stuff you enjoy. But high-octane, erratic, or wild-tempo music is not the best option for studying, learning, reading, writing, problem-solving, and creating. Aside from the music factor, have them put aside other devices that will likely tempt them to focus on interacting with friends or enjoying their favorite videos and such. There is a time for that kind of social connection and entertainment. But homework time isn’t it. Again, don’t be overbearing, but be in charge.
3. Engage your teen in conversation about studies and classes at non-homework times. I’m not talking about interrogating them here. But regularly ask them what they are learning in this or that class. What material or teachers are they enjoying? What are they finding difficult or frustrating? Invite them to “stump you” with material from their classes. Celebrate their victories and successes. We don’t do this for every exam, but my wife and I will periodically ask our son to give us his study materials so we can quiz him before big tests, or in courses where we know he may be struggling. The emphasis here is on showing your kids you are on their team and there to help, encourage, and support.
4. Use online grade postings and classroom information as a helpful tool – not as a burden of anxiety. Okay, maybe that’s easier said than done, but it is really important for family life and sanity these days. For some parents, we may need to become more familiar and engaged with the online tools provided by our kids’ schools, so we are more aware of where they are succeeding and struggling. This helps empower us to empower them. For other parents, we may need to chill out and stop frantically scouring their reports every day to allow breathing room, growth, and even a healthy dose of failure, so we can have a more peaceful relationship. This helps us get out of the worry trap, while letting them feel safer to talk to us about academic issues and possible struggles, mistakes, or failures.
Blessings of peace, growth, and success to you and your family!