How to Turn the Work-At-Home Struggle Around
Sometimes parents tell us that they have a hard time getting their child(ren) to work with them at home. The kids fail to see their parents as the great resource they can be when it comes to working together and learning outside of school. Here are a few suggestions to help turn the “work-at-home” struggle around.
Model the importance of reading and writing early: When children are young, set the expectation that reading and writing are important and part of your normal routine and home environment. For example, if you begin reading to your child when they are infants, they will naturally begin to embrace books. Similarly, if you integrate various literacy-based games or toys (such as magnetic letters or alphabet blocks) into the rest of their other toys, it won’t be unusual when you start to do “homework” with similar materials. Making books and literacy activities a part of your child’s routine before they are in school will help it seem less like work and more like play when you actually have homework for them to do.
Be careful with your labels: Just as you should model the importance of reading and writing early, you should also be aware of the attitude and words with which you refer to “homework”. At Neighborhood Lit, we believe that learning should be fun and that kids learn best when they are actively engaged in a variety of hands-on activities. Homework is an extension of this philosophy. Some children may already have negative connotations of the word “homework” from older siblings. By simply changing the term “homework” to “game” or “activity”, you may help your child gain a more favorable attitude towards completing it. As they get older and more used to the term, you can start using it.
Pay attention to your timing: Timing is everything. Don’t ask your child to do something when they are tired, cranky or hungry. In addition, make sure you introduce the activity or “homework” when they have enough time to really get into it and don’t feel rushed.
Give them choices: Power struggles are about control. Children are more motivated when they feel they have a choice or ownership of a situation. This doesn’t necessarily mean giving them the option of completing homework, but it can be as simple as giving them choices about smaller tasks associated with it such as: Do you want to do this in the kitchen or in the playroom?, Do you want to play the game before or after you eat your snack?, Do you want to use crayons or markers?, What color paper would you like to use?
Provide a risk-free environment: When working with our own children, it is easy to get frustrated if they are having trouble or moving at a slower pace than we would like. When you show your frustration, it can really affect their level of commitment or desire to quickly and correctly complete the homework tasks. Be mindful of what you say and breathe deep to remain calm and patient. Work to be supportive and helpful and keep the tone of criticism or disappointment out of your voice. If you show that you are there to help, they will consider you a resource and be willing to work with you to get it done.
It is easier to help your children develop a positive attitude towards work-at-home if you start early by establishing the family belief that reading and writing activities are important, fun and part of your everyday routine and that you are there to enjoy it with them. Before asking your child to complete homework, make sure you are picking a good time for them to do it and commit yourselves to working with your children to make the experience as enjoyable and productive as possible.
(Photo by Samantha Hurley from Burst)