Days before I graduated from college, I excitedly told my dad I finished my last homework assignment ever. “Way to go, kiddo,” he said. “I am so proud of you!”
What he should have said was, “Oh, sweetie. Your homework days are just getting started. It just depends on how many kids you have one day.” Why? Because homework just circles back around once your kids reach school age.
Though helping children with homework may be inevitable, that feeling of dread you feel when approaching homework doesn't have to be.
We have to be intentional to reframe our attitudes and actions about homework in a positive way, since it's unlikely to occur naturally. Once we change our attitude, we stand a much better chance to help our kids make the change too.
Here are three tips of how my kids and I have worked to rebrand homework in our house:
1. Take the time to figure out the right atmosphere and time for homework—for each child.
You know your kids are different, so what works for one child might not work for another. Use trial and error until you figure out the setting and schedule that's best per kid.
Time: Some kids can get their homework done well right after school. They’ll be motivated to have it finished so they can choose what they want to do next. Others will do a better job if they get a chance to give their brain a break and do something else first. So try a few different times, and pay attention until you find a positive pattern.
Bonus Tip: If your kid is one who needs a “brain break” first, avoid screen time of any kind. Screen time, whether video games, TV or games on a smart pad, is still brain stimulation. Let them play outside, practice their favorite sport or musical instrument, or play a board game. But if you allow electronics, prepare for a battle come homework time, because their brain actually never got the desired break for optimal performance.
Atmosphere: Some will concentrate best in complete silence, and others focus better when there’s dull noise in the background. Don’t push your preferred environment on your children. The better they can focus, the quicker they will finish. So work to figure this out so you can reclaim as much of your family time in the evenings as possible.
2. Dispel the myth that homework is some evil plan to make kids miserable.
When my oldest first started getting homework, he would complain, “Mom, I’ve been at school all day. Why do I have to come home and do more school?!”
And I’m pretty sure God gave me the words that came out of my mouth, because I had never thought of this before, and it’s something that I say often now: “Buddy, this isn’t about your teachers giving you more work to do. This is so you can show us what you’re learning.”
So that’s how I set up homework time every day now: “Who’s ready to show me what you learned at school today? I can’t wait to see!”
And hopefully, you took drama in high school, because it’s theater time. Put your phone away, and give them the focus you want them to give their assignments. Give high fives. Let your mouth drop. Ask them questions you know the answer to just to hear them teach you. The more present you are, the more present they will be too. My kids are now excited to impress me.
3. Think long term.
Gaining knowledge is a lifetime activity, not a school activity. So if we do our part to help them love learning, then we just might set them up for a lifetime of leading. Because leaders are learners.
Full disclosure: Some days are still a struggle, and these tips do not always work. And they definitely didn’t work on the first day. But those days are the exception, not the norm. Hang in there, Mama, and try again. It’s worth it. I’m rooting for you!
Michelle Myers is an author, entrepreneur and motivator. She is the founder and face of She Works His Way, a space devoted to encouraging, inspiring and training women to pursue their passions in life and in business while prioritizing the people and things that matter most. Previously, Michelle launched two other successful businesses: Myers Cross Training and Cross Training Couture and wrote Famous in Heaven and at Home.