How to Help with Homework

If you have Homework struggles with your child, this article from Sheila O’Malley from Practical Parenting has some practical tips and skills for parents on how to help with homework.

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#1. Love must always be present before learning can happen

We cannot attend at a ‘head’/intellectual) level, if things are not right at a heart level (emotionally- a childs first need is to be loved for themselves).To be unconditionally loved; loved for their ‘being’ (‘I love being with you’) and not for what they do (Be good, be clever, be obedient)

However, as most of us were reared on a diet of ‘conditional love’ we need accept ourselves as good enough; just as we are. Then we will see our children as good enough too.

#2. Mistakes set the next challenge and it’s only parents who fear mistakes

Think about the toddler learning to walk – failure is unimportant to him, it simply sets the next challenge. Then why don’t we still feel that way?  Because parental responses to our learning attempts; made learning threatening.

#3. Acknowledge effort

Acknowledge effort and learning will continue, focus on performance may dry up effort. In my talks, I use the example of the child asked to spell the word Still, they spell it STIL. How would you feel at the age of perhaps six, if the teacher marked it wrong?

The responses I always get are:  “Stupid, Bad about myself, I don’t want to try again”, etc. However, if the teacher had marked under each correct letter a small correct tick and acknowledged your effort “Well done, I see how hard you’re working, there’s an L at the end too; funny I used to do the same thing; it’s an easy mistake to make isin’t it?”.

When I ask parents to remark on how that would make them feel their responses are “I’d feel good about myself, I would want to do more, I’d feel motivated, encouraged to learn more” etc

#4. Tips for helping with Homework

  • Be patient, kind, encouraging and relaxed.
  • Each child learns at his own pace
  • Have a bit of fun
  • Support your child’s efforts to learn
  • Praise and encourage as much as you can
  • See the effort ‘ I like that, and see you’ve worked hard at it’
  • ‘I think you’re a genius’ creates confidence
  • Believe in your child, and tell them.
  • ‘I see your potential, once you apply yourself; you will learn’
  • Catch your child being good.

You may also like 5 Top Tips for Math Homework Help

#5. Switch from negative to positive dialogue

The more you show love and approval, the more you will receive it back, but it starts with you, you have to accept and approve yourself first in order to pass it on. What you put out – you get back;

  • Give out positive affirmations; over time you will get that back.
  • Give out negative criticism, that is what you will also get back.
  • Praise is for the behaviour ‘Well done, in the exam’
  • Love is for their person ‘I will always love you’

#6. The behaviours a child shows if learning is threatening

  • Avoidance (it’s better than love being withdrawn)
  • Perfectionism (‘If I get them all right, I can’t be criticised’)
  • Sickness (subconscious response to feeling threatened)
  • Fear of failure (‘I do not want to disappoint Mum’)

These defences will continue to escalate until a child gets the parents attention.

Keep your expectations of your child realistic, and never compare to a sibling, an act of comparison is an act of rejection.

#7. Many parents confuse children with their behaviours

child drawing writingWhen a parent does this frequently, a child will reveal their fears of not being loved for themselves through a range of responses:

  • Temper tantrums(trying to draw your attention)
  • Perfectionism(I have to be perfect)
  • Dyslexia (what are you not reading about me?)
  • Timid and shy (I need you to treat me with kid gloves)
  • Aggression (I am protecting myself from more hurt))
  • Uncooperative (I need you to cooperate with me first)

#8. Embrace failure

The man who never made a mistake, never made anything! Respond positively to failure like the toddler and see it as a necessary part of learning. Remember your attitude to it, will influence your child’s. Fear of failure is the greatest block to learning. An exam is a measure of a set of questions, not of your intellect.

Tell your child ‘You are not an exam result’. Modelling a love of learning is important for your child.

#9. What happens when the child feels ‘seen’ only for Achievement?

When we over praise achievement, the child learns that ‘this is what I am seen for’ and not for himself. The academic child often has low self esteem and is devastated by failure. Yet this ‘goody goody’ child is more at risk than the sibling who acts out through temper tantrums/aggression etc.

#10. If I believe I can do it I probably can

Confidence is the key to the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Tell your child how well they are doing and how bright they are, regardless of their knowledge in a particular subject. Belief in your child’s capability and giving them encouragement and opportunity are key.

A child must be overwhelmingly loved for themselves, not for what they do.

Sheila O’Malley is one of Ireland’s leading Parenting experts who established Practical Parenting to offer support and training to Parents. She facilitates many corporate programs and delivers talks around personal and family wellbeing.

Have you any tips for other parents on homework?  Share them in the comments below

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls