Your child may struggle with their homework from time to time. Sometimes, these frustrations lead to emotional breakdowns and tantrums. When your child starts to scream and throw themselves on the floor, you need to take action immediately. Do not give your child the chance to build poor habits. They will just continue to push boundaries and eventually completely refuse to do their homework. Or, they will develop an attitude that makes it very hard to get through their homework. When you take care of your child’s homework tantrums at a young age, it will help them build long-term lifestyle practices.
1. Develop habits and routines.
One example of an easy habit to implement is five minutes of practicing a certain skill each day once or twice per day. By starting a simple practice every day that doesn’t take much time, your child will likely not refuse. When practicing this skill even as little as five minutes in the morning every day, you will begin to see a major improvement in your child’s ability.
You can create a habit that will exist at any time of day. If your child is learning mentals on the abacus, then give them a few problems from the Math Genie book in the morning at breakfast and right before bedtime. If your child is learning about nouns, verbs, and adjectives, then you can point out different things while you are driving and ask them to identify which part of speech they are. Simple habits like this are easy for your child to accomplish and will make learning easier and fun.
2. Give plenty of positive reinforcement.
If you know that your child is likely to feel overwhelmed, sit down with them to do their homework. Remind them that they have as much time as they need. You can tell them that you will stay there and help them through it all. If it’s not possible for you to help them through their homework, perhaps you can just sit next to them as moral support.
As soon as they complete a few problems or an entire page, reward them. Tell them that by completing their homework, they will keep getting smarter. When things get difficult, remain patient and tell your child to work slowly through the problems. Keep rewarding them with positive body language like smiles, direct eye contact, and nodding. This will help your child feel like they are pleasing you.
Depending on the age of your child, you can tailor your positive reinforcement to their needs. If they are really struggling, you may want to reinforce their success after each problem.
3. Keep off-limit objects out of sight.
When it’s time for homework, there should be no potential distractions that may cause your child to lose their focus. TVs should be off, and phones should be put away. This includes your phone, too. If possible, create a designated space for your child to complete their homework.The kitchen table can suffice if you don’t have a desk. Just make sure it is a distraction free location that has everything they need.
Be sure that no toys or games are in the same area or room as your child. You can motivate them to stay focused. Promise them they can play with their favorite games or toys immediately after finishing their homework assignments.
When your child is in their classroom at school, they are surrounded by other children who are completing their assignments as well. This helps them to remain focused. The learning is organized and everything is timed and structured. If your child is currently adapting to remote learning, you should try to replicate their school environment as much as you can at home.
4. Avoid Procrastination.
Set a schedule that will include what time of day every day your child will work on their homework. Figure out what works best for your child. Maybe they like to start with their favorite subjects to get it out of the way. Or, it could be the opposite where they want to use all their brain power on the tough stuff. Talk to your child about what works best for them. Avoid procrastination and complete homework in a timely manner. Homework should be done before television and preferably before dinner. The later into the evening it gets, the less interested your child will be with their homework.
Keeping a regular schedule for your child is the best habit you can teach them. You can keep your child’s schedule posted on the refrigerator broken up hour by hour. This will help remind your child when they should complete their homework by, and what time they can expect to have dinner. The schedule should also include blocks of free time. This will help give your child something to look forward to, especially when they are struggling with their homework. Don’t forget to schedule breaks during homework time. Implement a morning and nighttime study routine when they are young. Before you know it, they will carry the schedule out on their own.
5. Give Breaks During Homework.
Depending on the age of your child, you can determine how long the break should be. Kids typically become tired mid-way through their homework. This could possibly spiral into them acting out or worse, having a tantrum. If you child has a block of one hour for homework, give them a five minute break at the halfway mark. Make sure your child knows they will always receive a break. This will help them to stay focused and not become overwhelmed. During their break, they may use the bathroom, get a snack, or stretch. Do not allow any electronics during this time.
6. Use the Pomodoro technique with a timer.
The Pomodoro Technique is the idea that the brain can only do intense focus for short bursts of time. This is a simple and effective method to improve your child’s ability to focus and their homework habits. All you need to do is set a timer for twenty-five minutes. This does not mean your child needs to complete everything within a twenty-five minute period. You can break up different tasks your child needs to accomplish into twenty-five minute bursts of time.
You and your child should sit down and discuss how you can break up all their tasks into twenty- five minute increments. For example, one page of their math homework may take them twenty- five minutes. After the timer rings, they get a break and will then move on to a completely different subject or task. If your child anticipates needing longer than twenty five minute increments, then allow them to take a break after the first twenty-five minutes and revisit that task for an additional twenty-five minutes and so on.
7. Plan out large projects together.
Big projects may be overwhelming. Help you child break projects up into smaller, more manageable chunks. If they have a research project, help them plan out what they need to do over the course of a month. When you teach them how to plan in advance from a young age, they will be more motivated to stay on top of their smaller tasks each day. This will teach them how to manage their time long-term.
8. Make homework fun.
You can make homework fun in different ways. If you are unable to physically help your child with their work, maybe you can set up a work station next to your child and work on your own tasks. This will remind them that you are there to support them and you are both completing your work together. You can also try your best to engage all of your child’s senses. Remember when fidget spinners were in the hands of every child across America? While engaging touch, sense, smell, or sight, it actually may help your child focus. Keep a stress ball in your child’s homework area or some play dough they can handle while they’re working.
For children who have a harder time staying on task, there are additional tactics to help them stay focused. You may be able to attach various textured strips under your child’s desk or chair. This can include things like velcro strips, “fringy fidgets,” or varied ribbons that hang from the desk, etc. Other items include a “desk buddy sensory ruler,” “fidgeting foot bands,” and so on. These tactics can help individuals of all ages remain focused.
9. Use consequences and not punishments if homework is not done.
When homework doesn’t get done, you should implement consequences right away. Teach your child that there are positive and negative consequences in life depending on their actions. Punishments may include actions ranging from spanking to washing your child’s mouth out with soap.
Punishments serve to embarrass your child and often focus on what they should not be doing. They are also overly severe and unrelated to the root problem causing the unwanted behavior. Depending on how severe a punishment is, it may cause your child to feel bad about themselves as a person. This will prevent them from paying attention to the action you punished them for. When your child has low self-esteem, they will be less likely to comply with the tasks you ask of them.
Consequences help children focus on how they can improve themselves in the future. They are directly related to the behavior and teaches the child the reality of what their actions will lead to. Consequences should mirror what the action was. For example, if your child misbehaves at school, a consequence would be you taking away their electronics for the evening. This shows them when they do something they know is wrong, they will have to face unpleasant consequences. This will help them to understand what will happen if they do this again.
Sometimes, you can let your child face natural consequences, based on your discretion. An example of this would be when your child refuses to study and then does poorly on their test. This helps your child understand how their actions are naturally connected to consequences, and will hopefully divert them from misbehaving.
When you begin to implement these eight tactics, you will see your child develop more independence, become more disciplined, and gain confidence.
-Math Genie Team