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Five ideas for encouraging healthy homework habits

How does your child react when you tell them it’s time to do their homework? Do you have to steel yourself for a row about when or how (or sometimes ‘if’!) they are going to get started?

Each time your child moves up a school year, they inevitably receive an increase in the amount of work they bring home. And for every child who is self-motivated enough to get it over with as soon as they walk through the door, there’s another who will find seventeen reasons to put it off. If your child would rather play video games or trade Match Attax football cards than hit their books, homework can become a big source of tension, but how they approach it can make all the difference.

Here are five effective methods for helping your child develop a positive homework mind-set:

The importance of space and time

Showing children how to create an inviting and practical environment to do their homework in is excellent practice for their future self-led learning. Not everybody is fortunate enough to have a dedicated study or office, but establishing a quiet and comfortable homework area will make it easier to focus when it’s time to get going. Let your child have a say in how they’d like it arranged.

Keep a box filled with essential supplies, such as pens, scissors and glue, nearby so that they can easily find anything they might need. Having extra resources on hand, like reference books and educational websites, is useful too.

While distractions should be kept to a minimum some children actually concentrate better with background music, so don’t automatically ban that without testing it first. And while older children should leave their phone in another room while they’re studying, the occasional call or text with a friend to discuss something they’re working on will likely be more beneficial than disruptive.

Remember that everybody works differently. Some children favour getting homework out of the way immediately on their return from school, so they can then forget about it. Others might want to relax for a while, before tackling it. As long as you set a few boundaries (i.e. asking that they make sure they’re finished at least an hour before bedtime so their brains can wind down for sleep) then letting them choose when they do their homework will make them feel more in control.

It’s all about the preparation

As the workload gets heavier, show them how to break up a daunting assignment into ‘doable’ chunks, remembering to plan in regular breaks to combat tiredness and overwhelm. Knowing how to design an effective schedule will give your child vital time-management skills.

Encourage them to complete work before its hand-in date, where possible. Not only will this teach them to not leave things to the last minute, they’ll also get to enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes from beating a deadline.

Know when a change is needed

Despite having a perfect homeworking space set up, adopting the right frame of mind to begin school tasks at home can sometimes still be tough. If your child is faltering, then a change of scene can work wonders. Try visiting the local library or a quiet café and having them continue there: another ambience might just be enough to jolt them out of their rut.

In the warmer months simply moving to a table in the garden could be enough to spark inspiration.

Don’t let your help become a hindrance

While wanting to facilitate your child’s progress is understandable, if, in your haste to avoid tears or tantrums, your eagerness to aid them with their homework turns into micro-management you’re going to do them more harm than good. It’s always hard to watch your child struggle but education is about much more than accurate adding or perfect prepositions.

Getting something wrong and then working out how to get it right is part of how we grow. Figuring out how to overcome obstacles is a valuable learning process for your child and one you’ll be blocking if you leap in the moment things become tricky for them.

Homework is also there to reinforce the concepts your child is being taught in school. Their teachers won’t be able to see where they might need extra help if you’ve topped up their knowledge with yours.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be involved with their after-school studies, however. In fact, children benefit from having a parent present while they work. You can be available for advice and reassurance and for refocusing their concentration if necessary. Just recognise when taking an interest is about to tip over into taking control.

Reward efforts, not results

It’s lovely when your child proudly shows you they aced their homework, but your praise must always be directed at the effort they put in, no matter what mark they achieve. Particular acclaim should be given when they show fortitude and determination in the face of subjects they either dislike or find challenging.

You can also boost your child’s homework motivation by offering small rewards as incentives every now and again. These could be anything from pocket-money toys for a younger child (Lego minifigures, stickers and Match Attax are great for this) and 15 minutes extra screen or staying up time for an older one. A café visit at the end of the week normally goes down well with any age!

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