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  • 7 Homework Strategies to Make Your Kids Study Smarter, Not Harder

    Make homework a stress-free time for both parent and child.
    by Kitty Elicay .
7 Homework Strategies to Make Your Kids Study Smarter, Not Harder
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  • If homework is a battle that you fight with your kids every day, then perhaps it’s time to revisit your strategy to make accomplishing homework less frustrating for both you and your child.

    Two key techniques you can work on are establishing clear routines around homework, including when and where to get it done, plus setting up daily schedules for your kids, said the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) in their homework guide for parents. The other is to be open to incentives when necessary, especially for children who are not motivated by grades.

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    Here are seven ways to set up successful homework habits for your kids:

    1. Set up a homework center.

    Your child’s personality should dictate where this should be. Some children would prefer doing work by themselves, while others would like to have their parents nearby should they need to ask for help.

    Ideally, it should be well lit and quiet, and away from distractions like the television set, or people talking on the phone, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    Make sure there is a clear workspace, i.e. a desk, which can hold all the materials your kid needs to complete her assignment, writes Peg Dawson of the Child Mind Institute. These materials include writing materials, art supplies, a dictionary and thesaurus, and different kinds of paper. If the homework center will be used for other things (for example, the dining room table), then your child should be able to keep all her things in a portable crate or bin.

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    2. Help your children maintain the homework center.

    It will be easier to keep track of assignments if workspaces are neat and orderly. NASP recommends that kids do the following after every homework session: place the homework in the appropriate folder or envelope and put it inside the kid’s bag and then clean the desk so that the next homework session can begin in an orderly environment.

    3. Agree on a specific time to do the homework.

    Some kids would like to do homework right after school while others would like to do it before dinnertime. Discuss with your child what time she prefers and then make sure to stick to that time every day. In general, it may be best to get homework done either before dinner or as early in the evening as the child can tolerate, says Dawson. Your child will get more exhausted as the night progresses and it might slow down the rate of accomplishing the homework.

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    4. Motivate with incentives, but only as needed.

    Some children get too stubborn about doing their homework that some form of incentive may be necessary to help them get through their nightly routine. NASP recommends “simple incentives” like giving children something to look forward to once homework is complete (playing her favorite game, watching a short video, or a yummy dessert).

    “Having something to look forward to can be a powerful incentive to get the hard work done,” writes Dawson. “When parents remind children of this as they sit down at their desks, they may be able to spark the engine that drives the child to stick with the work until it is done.”

    But rewards stop working at some point, according to a 2016 study on positive reinforcement. Instead of rewarding positive behavior, use strategies that build on mutual respect and a shared desire to get through the day smoothly, says parenting educator and journalist Katherine Reynolds Lewis.

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    5. Build breaks between assignments.

    Young kids have a shorter attention span so it will be good for them to take a break every now and then. But make sure that these breaks are incorporated into the daily homework schedule. Some children prefer to take breaks at specific intervals (every 20 minutes), while others perform better when the breaks come after each activity. Be clear about how long the breaks will last and plan activities that you can do during the breaks.

    6. Give your kids a choice.

    Giving your preschooler helps satisfy her need to be in control and may reduce power struggles between parent and child. It’s especially useful for kids who are resistant to do work. “Choice can be incorporated into both the order in which the child agrees to complete assignments and the schedule they will follow to get the work done,” says Dawson.

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    7. Supervise but don’t hover.

    Some children will need more help with their homework than others, but according to NASP, a general rule of thumb is to provide the minimum help for the child to be successful. So, you may guide your child into getting the correct answer, but don’t write down the answers for her. If you see mistakes, point it out but encourage her to figure it out by herself.

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