Kids are more successful in school when parents take an active interest in their homework — it shows kids that what they do is important. Of course, helping with homework shouldn't mean spending hours hunched over a desk. Parents can be supportive by demonstrating study and organization skills, explaining a tricky problem, or just encouraging kids to take a break. And who knows? Parents might even learn a thing or two!
Here are some guiding tips:
Know the teachers— and what they're looking for. Attend school events, such as parent-teacher conferences, to meet your child's teachers. Ask about their homework policies and how you should be involved.
Set up a homework-friendly area- 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. Keep supplies — paper, pencils, glue, scissors — within reach.
Schedule a regular study time- 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 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 their homework is done, and do their homework in the evening.
Help them make a plan- 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. On heavy homework nights or when there's an especially hefty assignment to tackle, encourage your child break up the work into manageable chunks. — and take time for a 15-minute break every hour, if possible.
Keep distractions to a minimum- This means no TV, loud music, or phone calls. (Occasionally, though, a phone call to a classmate about an assignment can be helpful.)
Make sure kids do their own work- They won't learn if they don't think for themselves and make their own mistakes. Parents can make suggestions and help with directions. But it's a kid's job to do the learning.
Be a motivator and monitor- Ask about assignments, quizzes, and tests. Give encouragement, check completed homework, and make yourself available for questions and concerns.
Set a good example- Do your kids ever see you diligently balancing your budget or reading a book? Kids are more likely to follow their parents' examples than their advice.
Praise their work and efforts- 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.
If there are continuing problems with homework, get help. Talk about it with your child's teacher. Some kids have trouble seeing the board and may need glasses; others might need an evaluation for a learning problem or attention disorder.