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Health Net

National Library
of Medicine

Capital Area Psychological Services, P.A.


James L. Hilke, Ph.D.

Have a specific time and place for homework.  Different children prefer different times and places.  Experiment with what works best for your child, but do not allow it to be begun too late in the evening.

A structured time schedule should be in place for your child with him studying at the same time each day or at the same time on the same day each week.  Soccer practice, meetings, etc., often make it difficult to maintain the same daily schedule each day, but on any particular day your child should know when homework time begins.

Review the assignment book with your child after school and plan the order in which homework will be completed.

Limit distractions as much as possible:  TV, phone calls, etc.

Have your child cross off tasks as they are completed.

Breaks are important.  Determine the best style of break for your child:  whether it is better to take a break after each assignment is completed or to take a break after every so many minutes.

Help your child to divide assignments into smaller chunks if possible.

Prioritize assignments to complete.  Determine what works best for your child:  doing the shortest assignments first, or the longest; doing the most interesting subjects first, or the least interesting.

Have the name and telephone number of someone in the class to call (a study buddy) if you or your child has a problem or question about the assignment.  Have talked with the other child’s mother so she understands why you may be calling.  This must be a responsible student, not a child who also has homework problems.

Have an extra set of books at home.  Check with the school if you can borrow a set, or buy them.

Have your child read the assignment directions with you, and have him explain them to you.

Work the first problem or two with your child.  Do not do it for him.

Encourage and praise effort, not correctness.  With many children at a particular time, just doing the homework is more important than getting it correct.

Monitor, but do not hover.  Be away from the child as much as he will allow, provide, of course, he is working.

Look over the completed work, checking for completeness, careless errors, and sloppiness.  It is not the parent’s job to correct every error.

Offer incentives.  There are two types of incentives:  (1) when you finish you can watch a TV program (work completion); (2) if you finish in 10 minutes, you can watch a TV program (speed).  At different times and with different children, one type may be preferable to the other.

Offer larger incentives.  “If you complete this project before the weekend, you can....” “If you miss no assignments this week, you can....”

If your child is spending unreasonable amounts of time completing assignments, talk with the teacher about homework modifications so that more reasonable times are forthcoming.

Many school systems have policies about the length of time children of various ages are to spend on homework.  Check with your school system for these amounts, have your child spend that amount of time, and sign that the time has been spent.  Coordinate with the teacher so this plan does not meet resistance from her and so that she understands the policies of her school system.

Talk with the teacher about the amount of time that your child is spending on homework, and hear from her the amount of time that she expects.

If you do not believe that your child’s teacher is being reasonable, talk with a counselor, asst. principal, or principal.

Be an advocate for your child.  Speak up!

If you cannot understand the directions, tell the teacher!

Experiment with various places for your child to do homework:  dining room, kitchen, etc.

Completion of homework is an agreement between your child and your child’s teacher, not you and your child’s teacher.  If you find that homework is destroying your relationship with your child, you must take action:  talk to the teacher, consult a professional, whatever it takes, but ACT!

Use a kitchen timer to encourage your child to work quickly.  Make it a game.  Offer incentives for completion within the time limit.

Experiment with various types of music.  It helps some children filter out distractions.  Soft popular vocal music seems to work best; hard rock is not good.

Have your child do all writing assignments on a computer.

Help your child study for tests.  Talk about what has been studied.  Make up various kinds of questions.

If you find that helping your child with homework is too frustrating for you, consider getting a tutor.

For writing assignments, have your child dictate to you.  You be the scribe, and he may copy it later.

Organize and monitor that all completed homework is placed in a certain place where it can be found.  Check before he leaves for school the next morning that it is still there.

If your child has trouble turning in completed homework, arrange with the teacher for it to be turned in the first thing in the morning.

Arrange with the teacher to appoint a student responsible for gathering your child’s homework and seeing that it is turned in at the appropriate time.

Praise work completion.

Have the teacher appoint another student either to write down the assignments for your child or to make sure that your child has copied them down correctly.  If the other child is to copy assignments, you may provide NCR (no carbon required) paper for this purpose.

If you have questions, approach your child’s teacher in a spirit of cooperation, not confrontation.

Establish a mandatory homework time.  Set a predetermined length for study time, and homework is never to take less than that amount of time.  If your child has “nothing” to do, he can read, review, etc.

The emphasis in completing homework is on what works, not on an arbitrary rule.  If your child is working well and completing the work within a reasonable period of time, don’t worry even if he is violating certain “rules” that you might think are important.

Do not become too detailed oriented with regard to homework.  Many teenagers, for example, study better on their bed or on the floor than at a desk.


Do not attempt to teach concepts to your child.  That’s the teacher’s job.  But do be willing to answer questions and explain as necessary.

Tell your child clearly and directly that you expect him to do his homework.

Don’t argue with your child about homework.  Use a broken record technique of simply restating your expectation.  If you do not know how to do this, consult with your child’s teacher or another professional.  (No, this is not impossible.)

Do not make meaningless threats of punishment.

Ask the teacher to give you a weekly update of any missed assignments.  Analyze the results to determine patterns:  certain days, subjects, types of assignments, etc.

Do not wait for interim reports or report cards to be issued.  Contact the teacher after two weeks or so to note missed assignments.

Make a long-range planner for long-term projects.  Determine with your child various steps in project completion and when they should be done.  Follow through so that the project is completed in various stages.

Establish a pattern for those assignments occur on a weekly basis:  current events, spelling words, reading, etc.  Have a certain activity planned to do each evening so that the whole event does not have to be completed the night before the current event must be handed in, the weekly spelling test is given, etc.

Set an alarm to announce homework time.

Concentrate on behavior, not character.  Talk about what your child has to do, not the kind of person he is for not doing the work.

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