It’s that time of year again. At least for many of us. Our kids begin the evening rituals of opening the backpacks and getting their homework done. When all goes well, our kids handle this themselves and it requires little involvement on our part, especially with older kids.
But it only occasionally goes well.
Why? Because for most kids, homework stinks. They would rather do anything else during their after school time. We can’t really blame them, since we probably had the same feelings about homework when we were kids.
Although I cannot make homework fun, I’m hopeful that this column will give you some ideas that might make it shorter and, at least, less painful. As a family counselor and author of Homework – A Parent’s Guide to Helping Out Without Freaking Out!, I have learned quite a bit about homework and how parents can be the best leaders for their students.
Here are a few myths about homework and what to try instead:
Myth: Study in a quiet place, free of distractions.
We’ve all heard this one before. Find a quiet place without distractions. That way, you can focus on the work and get it done quickly. For some students, this actually works. For most students, though, this increases distractibility. Many students benefit from having some other noise or activity happening around them. It enhances memory and learning.
What type of noise or activity? Music tends to help many students. It seems counter intuitive to watch your child singing along with a song while doing math problems, but the latest learning research continues to support that it can increase learning.
Some kids also do better if they are near the family action while doing homework, such as the kitchen table, or possibly one room away from the family action. This adds enough “white noise” to their learning so that their brains stay focused. TV, YouTube, etc. is definitely too much distraction. Any visual media tends to suck up too much attention.
Try an experiment to see how your kids do when studying alone in their room, vs. studying in the same room as family members, vs. nearby other family members and see which might work best.
Myth: Study at the same time every day.
Here’s the good news: Research is clear that studying at different times of the day increases learning. This is great news for us parents as our days are typically very different based on the day of the week. This is OK. Doing homework at different times of the day tends to enhance learning.
Myth: Tell your kids they are smart. It will increase their confidence and they will try harder.
This one is completely counter-intuitive. We’ve told our kids they are smart from the beginning. But the reality is that the more we focus on intelligence, the less students tend to achieve. The more we focus on hard work, however, the more kids tend to achieve. I will be writing a follow-up column about this concept in more detail since it’s a very important topic, but in the meantime, when you want to tell your kids how smart they are, trying replacing with a comment about hard work.
Neil McNerney is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Leesburg and author of Homework – A Parent’s Guide To Helping Out Without Freaking Out! For more information, or to share experiences about trying to break the homework myths, contact Mr. McNerney at www.neilmcnerney.com.