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7 Ways to Establish Good Homework Habits

Homework not only helps a child learn about school subjects, it is also one of the first ways kids develop responsibility. Learning how to read and follow directions independently, how to manage and budget time for long-term assignments, and how to complete work neatly and to the best of their ability are skills children need for life. Homework can be trying for children, but with a little help from Mom and Dad, it can be a positive learning experience. Here are some ways you can help.

1. Designate a regular place to do homework. This location needs to be well lit and quiet, without the distractions of the television, other children playing, or people talking on the telephone.

2. Choose a time every day to work on daily assignments. Some children do best if they tackle their homework shortly after returning home from school in the afternoon; other kids may do best if they devote the after-school hours to unwinding and playing, and do their homework in the evening. However, some children respond poorly to a dictated study time, such as 4:00 every afternoon, and may be better off if they're given guidelines, such as "No video games until your homework is done."

3. Let your child play a role in the setting the rules. Make sure that you and your child agree on the set time and place, which can eliminate some of the homework-related dissension between parents and children.

4. Observe your child's homework habits. Is she stuck on a certain task or is she easily distracted? Does she understand the directions, or is she making the assignment harder than it really is? Is her studying interrupted by television, phone calls, or chatting with other family members? If so, you may need to rethink your homework rules or discuss these difficulties with her teacher.

5. Don't do your child's homework for her. It's perfectly okay to help your child get focused and organize her approach to the assignment, but insist that she do the work herself. Occasionally, you may need to clarify the directions of the assignment; in those cases, let your child take a stab herself before offering to help.

6. Give positive feedback. Look over your child's homework on occasion and praise him about all the things he's doing right. If you do find errors, don't criticize. Instead, review his work together and try to pinpoint his area of difficulty.

7. Keep in touch with your child's teacher. If your child is having ongoing homework problems, such as difficulty understanding what the assignments are or how to complete them, or if he breezes through them as though they were no challenge at all, let his teacher know. The teacher may adjust the assignments so they are more in sync with his capabilities.

Sources: American Medical Association; Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5-12 (Bantam 1999)

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.