Homework avoidance occurs for numerous reasons. When working with parents, I first take the detailed history to understand the multiple and overlapping reasons for the difficulties.
Often the primary reason for homework struggles is an underlying learning disability. I need to know if the child's learning disability has been identified, acknowledged, understood and addressed by school team and parents. A learning disability will make a difference in how you provide homework help.
I need to know if homework is being modified or if accommodations for homework are already in place in school and are being followed.
I must also assess family/parent attitudes about education and homework. I need to know that parent expectations for their child match the child's actual ability or potential. I also compare parent personality with their child's, sometimes it's necessary to create a balance between a "type A" parent whose child has a more relaxed temperament.
I interview parents and kids to get an accurate visual of homework environment. That is where a child does homework in the home and determining if the preferred homework setting is for the child's learning style. For instance, a child may be more distracted at the kitchen table sitting with other siblings, as opposed to having their own “homework office” in the basement. I also talk to parents about homework posture, which includes a very detailed review of the actual desk and items visible and accessible to the child while doing homework.
I give parents a homework posture protocol as well. I ask them to sit down next to the child; never stand over the child when helping. Parents MUST refrain from correcting every single error the child makes. In the beginning, I train parents to pick only one type of error to correct per day (For instance, on Wednesdays, you can only address spelling mistakes, nothing else. On Thursdays, you can only make sure they've followed directions).
Parents have to recognize that children with LD's have to exert much more cognitive effort to hold things together at school. By the time they get home, they are mentally exhausted. I help parents come up with ways to help kids reboot after school and before starting homework. Even what they eat as a snack is important (caffeine or processed sugar is never good). For some students, they need to have frequent breaks, such as working for 20 minutes and taking a break every 10 minutes. This may take longer, but it's worth it if the child needs frequent stimulation.
I also know that many parents try to squeeze in homework in between numerous extra-curricular activities. Homework then becomes very rushed or something to finish after a very long and exhausting sports practice, music class or community event. I often have to help parents prioritize after-school activities and homework. Parents also tend to try to organize the same amount of activities amongst their kids, but just because one child can handle numerous extracurriculars, doesn't mean they all cane.
Homework time with a parent can become completely aversive. I have written “prescriptions” indicating that child can only do homework in the after-school program, with a private tutor or homework helper. This cuts down on the fear and anticipation of homework with parents and helps maintain a more positive relationship between parents and child.
Finally, there are times when the homework truly is too much for a child. I encourage a parent to let a child do as much as they can do, but once they are tired and shut down that's it. Family time and sleep are far more important. A parent can send a note to the teacher explaining that an effort was made and that this child needed more time. In this way, the school team is aware that the child is truly having trouble with the amount of work or the grade level of the assignments.
I always explain to parents that they must send positive messages. Praise your child's' effort, not grades!
Dr Kimberley has previously been featured on Learning Success. Check out her video on the different approaches to ADHD treatment
I am a Clinical Neuropsychologist and Clinical Psychologist in New York. My area of expertise includes diagnosis of learning disabilities, identifying, twice exceptional and gifted children, or those with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders or other clinical issues. I work extensively with parents and kids with regards to cognitive behavioral strategies, development, disciple and promoting academics. I am also a child advocate with regards to special education legal matters. I am the founder and CoPresident of Long Island Professionals in ADHD Consortium LIPAC.