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January 13, 2009

Posted by Dr. Rohn Kessler in Uncategorized.

Homework Tips, Myths and Helicopter Parents

Filed Under aging, social skills, Sparks of Genius, add parents, homework, parenting, school, parents, education, children, news (Edit Post)

I came across a new term last week — helicopter parents. It describes baby boomers that started families as thirty-somethings. They evolved a more involved parenting style, which has persisted into elementary school, high school, and even college. Bostonia, the alumni magazine of Boston University, describes this new breed of parent this way:

“…helicopter parents, moms and dads, who hover over their college-age children, chiming in on everything from housing assignments to homework.”

No, they’re not actually doing the homework for the “child,” but they’re still involved in the process.

Lately homework has become a big issue. In the past twenty years, the tendency has definitely been to pile more and more homework on younger and younger children. Alfie Kohn identifies five themes about homework complaints:
1) A burden on parents
2) Stress for children
3) Family conflict
4) Less time for other activities
5) Less interest in learning

Let’s take just one finding from the latest research:

“there is no evidence of any academic benefit from homework in elementary school.”

For more information, go to http://www.alfiekohn.org/books/hm.htm. or check out The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing.

The key is to rethink homework, says Kohn. Instead of schools and teachers automatically assigning homework on a regular basis because “it is the policy to do so,” he suggests that the regular condition should be no homework. Homework should be given only if it is beneficial to the student.

Another person re-thinking homework is Richard Lovoie, who agrees with Kohn on this point and also believes that as students move towards high school that “well planned, appropriate homework can have motivational and academic benefits.” Go to http://www.ricklavoie.com/motivationbreakthrough.html

In either case, we can now move on to a few homework tips.
1) Use trial and error to determine the best time and place for your child to do homework.
2) Prepare a homework toolbox or kit with all basic, essential tools and supplies.
3) Ask the teacher for an acceptable example of your child’s homework that has been corrected and is neat and legible. Use this as an example to show your child what to aim for. Consistency is important.
4) If your child is very disorganized, go to http://www.organizedstudent.com/ and read and implement suggestions from “The Disorganized Student.”
5) If your child is overwhelmed by too much homework, clear everything away except one assignment. When it is completed, give him another one.
6) Many parents and professionals believe that homework should be done where it is quiet, but the fact is that many students are more productive listening to music in the background – especially instrumental music.
7) If your child has attention, distractibility and impulsivity issues, read and implement strategies from “A Homework System That Works” at http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/1034.html
8) If your child is very intense, sensitive and needy, go to http://difficultchild.com/ and learn how to apply the Nurtured Heart Approach to help your child.

We see a lot of students at Sparks of Genius (www.sparksofgenius.com), especially elementary school students, and I have to agree that homework is a major issue for all of them and their parents. And parents, by the way, means mothers. Right?

I know homework is an issue when the mother says “We have a lot of homework tonight.” So here’s another homework tip. When you check your child’s completed homework, look for neatness and completeness. Look over a few answers, but do not get caught up in going over every item.

Too many parents get overly involved in their elementary school student’s homework. Remember, you do not want to become a helicopter parent.

Recently I asked a mother of two, a dental hygienist, how she successfully got her son to complete his homework independently. She said “Look, I spent a lot of years teaching him how to have a positive attitude about homework, how to manage his time, how to complete his homework at the same time and place, how to use his homework toolbox, how to be organized and how to take responsibility for doing homework that is neat and complete and for handing it in.”

“When he entered seventh grade I told him he was on his own,” she continued. “What happened?” I asked. “Nothing,” she said. “He just started doing it.”

Becoming a helicopter parent is not good for your child or for you.

–Dr. Rohn Kessler



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