Ask the Savvy Parent: Homework Hercules

homeworkMy son is around 5. Getting him to sit down for homework is a Herculean task. Please suggest proactive tips. I want him to love the process of learning, not dread it.

Dear Parent,

I’m surprised that kids as early as 5 years old get homework. Where did the fun go? I could write on end about the issues I have with homework and why, as a teacher for the most part, I dislike it, but let’s stay on the task at hand.

First off, you are not alone in this and it’s important to know and understand that the problem is not with your child. The homework is the problem. Homework is a constant for most children; it is always there. And for many children, it is often a chore. Just the concept of “homework” can cause multiple anxieties and negative feelings. Students may struggle with and/or resist homework for a variety of reasons. These may include any of the following:

  • The child is experiencing some aspect of a learning disability or learning difference.
  • Your child doesn’t understand or have a strong grasp on the knowledge foundation related to what is being asked of him or her.
  • The child lacks or is not using appropriate strategies or tools.
  • Your child is experiencing fatigue, either processing fatigue or general fatigue.

So how can you work around this? How can you turn that chore into a fun challenge?

Here are 7 strategies that can help:


  1. Fun: Bring fun back into learning by finding creative ways to accomplish the task and try to add more hands on components. It’s a known fact that young children respond well to games as motivational aids. Use Mnemonics, poems, games etc. to make it more exciting. Use a timer. It makes the passage of time more concrete for your child. Identify a reasonable time for your child to complete an assignment or section of the assignment. Turn it into a fun game/race. Make home as much of an enjoyable experience as possible
  2. Consistency: Set up a regular schedule and time for homework. For example every day at 5:00 pm. Stick to this schedule even if, on the off day, there isn’t any homework. Use it as ‘study or review time’ instead. The key is consistency.
    If you live in the America, the “10-Minute Rule” formulated by the National PTA and the National Education Association, which recommends that kids should be doing about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade level. In other words, 10 minutes for first-graders, 20 for second-graders and so forth
  3. Chunking: Sometimes the amount of homework given can be daunting. Break down the homework into smaller, more achievable tasks. If you have to, spread it out during the day.
  4. Incentives: Some children need external motivators to help maintain focus on the task. Let your child know that they will have access to certain privileges when they have completed their homework. For example, you might say, “Once you’ve completed your homework time, you may go watch a TV programme.” Be clear with your child about the consequences for refusing to complete his homework, or for putting his work off until later. Remember, consequences should be short term, and should fit the “crime.” You might say, “If you choose not to finish your homework during the scheduled time, you will not be allowed to play with your Legos. Tomorrow, you’ll get another chance.” The next day, your child gets to try again. Do NOT take away privileges for more than a day; it is unreasonable and unfair and your child will lose any incentive to do better the next time.
  5. Behaviour vs. Motivation: Kids don’t place as much importance on schoolwork as you do. When you focus on their behaviour, not their motivation, you will begin to see some improvement in their homework skills. You can use your child’s motivation to your advantage if they have something they’d like to earn. For example if your child has been asking you for a pet gold fish. “I know you want to get a goldfish. You need to show me you can be responsible and finish your homework before we can talk about getting a pet.” By doing this, you sidestep all the arguments around both the homework and the permit.
  6. Encouragement: This is one of the most important things a parent can do. Provide encouragement frequently throughout the task, helping your child move forward to finish the assignment. For example, “I know this is hard, but I’m sure you can do it with just a little help. Let’s just start with one small part.”
  7. Practicing Skills for Success: Tying homework compliance with your child’s desires isn’t about having your child jump through hoops in order to get something they want. It’s not even about making them take something seriously, when they don’t see it that way or the same way you do. The goal is to help your child learn the skills they need to live life successfully. We all have to do this. We all have occasions where we have to follow a rule, even when we disagree with it. When you create mandatory, daily homework time, you help your child practice these skills. When you tie homework time to daily, practical incentives, you encourage your child to succeed.

Insha’Allah I hope this helps. Happy Parenting!

The Savvy Parent


Ask the Savvy Parent: Kids Bored at Home

im-bored-cover-e1372184590438Dear Savvy Parent,

My kids complain that I am always asking them to study. They feel bored at home and with me. What should I do?

Dear parent,

First of all, your children are all aged 10 and under. They are still very young. Why do they need to study so much? Constantly pushing them to study isn’t helpful at all. Some parents put way too much pressure on their children from an early age to succeed academically. I understand that in some countries this is considered to be a cultural norm, but as a teacher, I can tell you that pressure and constant study is NOT an effective method for learning, regardless of culture.  Education should not be just about memorization and forced learning; it should be about understanding the material. Memorizing and understanding are two completely different concepts. It is important as parents and as educators to instill a love of learning without pressure.  Learning shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be boring or tedious. Make it fun; be creative; make it into a game and most of all, be encouraging! Remember, a child is more successful when the experience is enjoyable.

Encouragement versus praise

Most parents enjoy praising their children with words like “Well done!” and “That looks great!” However, research shows that encouragement (not praise) has a more significant effect upon a child’s motivation. So what is the difference between praise and encouragement, you might ask. Though they sound like the same thing, they are not. The difference is that words of praise lead the child to rely on YOUR assessment of his or her accomplishments, while words of encouragement lead him or her to form THEIR OWN positive assessment of himself or herself. Examples of encouragement are: “Look at that drawing; I can tell you have spent lots of time on it. It must be a great feeling knowing you worked so hard on it,” or “It didn’t work out the way you planned, did it? I can tell you are upset about it, but it’s okay. I know you will try again next week. What could you do differently next time?”

Next, you say your children feel bored at home and with you. Do you spend time with your children just having fun? If not, set some time out in the day and spend some quality time with your kids, as a family. Have fun, play with them or do something with them that they enjoy. One of the best and most obvious things about spending quality time with your children is developing stronger and positive relationships with them. Be sure that both parents also spend individual time with each child. This will help build memories as well as trust. This is an integral part of having a healthy family dynamics as well as happy children. The benefits are endless, so set aside one-on-one, quality time with your kids.

Quality Time Ideas- What Does It Look Like?

  1. Cook or bake together.
  2. Play sports.
  3. What are their hobbies? Do some with them.
  4. Have a family movie or games night (age-appropriate, of course).
  5. Go on a bike ride or walk together.
  6. Read a book together; this works great for younger children.
  7. Make a craft or start a project together.

These are just seven of the hundreds of things you can do together. Start making quality time for each child. You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make!

Insha’Allah I hope this helps. Happy Parenting!

The Savvy Parent