By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
Homework is the most frequent concern for students, parents and teachers. Let’s look at some of the reasons students have trouble with homework and specific ways to ease the conflict.
The student doesn’t turn in homework that you KNOW was completed: This is often the most distressing for families. Some students don’t remember to turn in the work; some can’t find it. The solution is to give the student a specific homework folder. The left pocket is for homework that needs to be completed and for notes or returned work to be filed (file that evening into the appropriate subject folders). The right pocket is for assignments to be turned in. With this system, papers won’t be lost in the bottom of the backpack. Also, if the student did not hear the teacher’s instruction to turn in the assignment, there is a much better chance that it will be found in a later class. The student can then turn it in before points are deducted.
The student won’t do the homework: Even if they don’t recognize it, many students find the school setting overwhelming. Once home they are exhausted, and the last thing they want to do is more schoolwork.
Some students are challenged by the instructional style or the concepts. They might think, “I didn’t understand this earlier today, how will I be able to do it now?” And, it is a human tendency to avoid what we don’t feel at ease in doing. To help this child, find out when the teacher offers tutorial sessions (most do). Ask the teacher for a meeting to learn more about your child’s difficulties. You can also find a National Honor Society student to provide tutoring.
Many students are not comfortable writing due to fine motor difficulties. Even if they only did the minimal work during the school day, they feel exhausted and avoid any tasks that require writing. This is a common difficulty for bright children or those with ADHD or other learning disabilities. Get the child off paper to solve this dilemma. Use a computer whenever possible or have the child dictate responses. Talk to their teacher about reducing the amount of work they need to copy from the board.
Some students are actually perfectionists (even the ones who appear to be the most uncaring and sloppy). If the end result may not measure up to what they think they should achieve, they won’t even try. Encourage the child and praise their effort (in all activities, not just school). Keep expectations for yourself and for your child reasonable and reachable. Ask a counselor/therapist to work on the underlying issues of anxiety, self-worth and motivation.
In addition, follow these techniques for homework avoiders:
• Require homework/study time every day.
• Schedule frequent but short breaks. Some students can only work for 10 minutes, others for a 1/2 hour or more. Breaks for 10-minute workers should be 1or 2 minutes; for 30-minute workers, breaks are 5-10 minutes. Effective breaks: movement, snack or fresh air. Avoid: electronic games, phone or TV.
• Allow music. Some students use it to tune out the world and then they tune out the music.
• Work in a place with few distractions – working at the kitchen table might keep you available, but the noise of other family members can distract.
• Dim lighting reduces eye strain for those who are sensitive to bright lights or glare (more on sensitive children in a forthcoming article)
• Your child might like to be seated at a desk, lying on the floor, balancing on a large exercise ball or standing (try a tilted podium)
• Periodically switch assignments to a different subject that uses another part of the brain. Some students however, especially perfectionists, need to finish one assignment before moving on to another.
• Break down long assignments (which can seem overwhelming) into manageable chunks.
Some parents believe kids with homework problems just need to be pushed harder. After working with hundreds of families, I know that you ended up with poor results if you tried that. It is important to identify the child’s specific difficulties (there are usually more than one) and help this child to use their strengths and abilities so that they CAN be successful when they are pushed. The magic in the homework solution, in addition to the strategies, is to help the child rebuild self-trust, motivation and self-esteem. I hope that you understand your child better after reading this article and will try some of these strategies. If I can be of assistance, please contact me.
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to Remember and Become Who You Really Are. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.
Published in Metro You Magazine, October 2010