It’s been a busy day. You come home, have some afternoon tea and sit down at the kitchen table to help your child do their homework. And somehow,every day, a worksheet that could have taken 10 minutes to complete turns into an hour long battle with your child. When the homework is eventually finished, you may be left wondering how much your child could have actually learnt from their homework between all the negotiating and leaving the table. Does this story sound familiar?
There are many reasons children can resist doing homework. If the work is genuinely too difficult for your child’s skill level, targeted practice in therapy with an Occupational Therapist, Behavioural Optometrist and/or Speech Therapist is important (your Occupational Therapist can certainly advise on this). If your child is capable of the homework that has been set for them, but they continue to resist doing it, try some of the strategies below to make homework a less stressful time for both you and your child.
- Think about the timing. When do you expect your child to do their homework? We know children generally learn best in the morning. That’s why maths and literacy is taught in the mornings. Is it possible to do homework before school? Could you negotiate with your child’s teacher to be given homework on a Friday afternoon to complete over the weekend?
- Look at your child’s workspace. Imagine your desk at work was as high as your shoulders when you sat down, and your feet couldn’t touch the floor. Imagine your desk was next to a walkway, where you could hear people walking past and talking. This is the same as asking a lower primary student to do their homework at the kitchen bench! Instead, use a desk where your child can rest their feet comfortably on the floor in a quiet area (tv off!).
- Consider your child’s sensory needs. Do they look lethargic, resting their heads on their hands? Are they jumping around, touching different things and speaking loudly? Either way, it does not look like they are ready to learn. Talk to your Occupational Therapist about ‘sensory snacks’ you can do with your child to prepare their sensory system to be calm and alert for doing homework.
- Break it down. Children can feel overwhelmed at the thought of completing all their homework, and may resist starting at all! Can you separate their homework, so they can only see the step they must complete (eg. if the worksheet shows homework for the whole week, cover up the other day’s work so they can only see the work they must complete that day)? Could you put in scheduled breaks (eg. 2 minutes on the trampoline) for every 5 questions your child completes on their maths worksheet?
- Capture your child’s interest and make it fun. The brain is wired to pursue ‘pleasure’ and avoid ‘pain’. Children who have had negative experiences completing homework (their brain perceives this as ‘pain’), naturally will try to avoid it. Try to make the homework fun, and reframe their negative experience. If your child is learning site words, could you print the words on paper and hide them in the garden, and have your child run around to find the word you shout out? Could you set up a countdown timer, and your child has to beat the clock? Could your child write their spelling words on the concrete with chalk? Be creative!
Consider positive incentives. Earning a reward, rather than avoiding a negative consequence, is much more motivating!