The nightly struggle with homework is one that takes place in many homes across America. Homework time can be stressful for both child and parents, and it often results in a meltdown or a blowup that can usually be avoided. So what can you do to make this nightly routine a positive experience?
The most important factor to understand in this situation is why the child becomes frustrated. There could be several reasons a child is struggling with homework and identifying the problem is the first step to fixing it. Maybe the work is too difficult. If a child is working at a high frustration level for a long period of time, they will eventually become too upset or angry to work effectively. If a parent finds that this is happening on a regular basis, it may be a good idea to speak to the teacher and let them know exactly what the child is struggling with the most.
According to psychologist Madeline Levine, another factor that can affect homework struggles is too much parent involvement. Sometimes, parents feel they are helping by standing over the child’s shoulder and commenting on the work that is being done. That can be distracting, and it can also create a great deal of pressure for the child who is trying to work through the lessons. Parents should back up, be available for support if needed, but let the child complete the homework without feeling pressured by the parent.
Another reason some children struggle with homework is due to the anxiety they feel to perform well. Clinical psychologist Shefali Tsabary believes that over the years students have developed a resistance to learning because they are not able to make connections to the material being taught. The anxiety develops because they become more focused on the performance aspect of school than the actual learning of the material. There is such a great emphasis placed on the end result, the grade, that the child feels too much pressure to be perfect. This can cause children to shut down completely and develop a strong resistance to doing homework. Parents should try to put more emphasis on the effort itself, rather than the end result, so the child is able to rediscover their sense of purpose.
Coach and father Tim Wheeler also believes that parents should honestly and realistically evaluate their child’s strengths and weaknesses so that they can acknowledge challenges when they arise. Parents want their children to be straight-A students and to immediately understand whatever material is placed before them. However, that just isn’t always the case. Recognizing struggles that the child may have will help parents acknowledge improvements and give encouragement during homework time.