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Updated: July 15, 2013 19:26 IST

The homework battle

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Children may resist homework if they are tired. Photo: S. Thanthoni
The Hindu
Children may resist homework if they are tired. Photo: S. Thanthoni

But it need not be! With a little help from teachers and parents, homework can be turned into a happy session of learning

Studies have been conducted around the world to answer a simple question — does homework help or hinder a student’s ability to learn? We’ve heard it from the teachers — homework is important as it reinforces knowledge and concepts picked up through the week. But, children may resist homework for a number of reasons — they may be distracted, tired or in a defiant mood. And so, homework becomes an unwelcome chore for children and, for parents, a duty. This often results in a battle, involving power struggle, lectures, nagging, even tears. So, is it time to rethink on homework tradition?

“A relaxed and helpful attitude towards homework may be the most useful thing to do if you want to avoid homework battle,” says Shweta Kansara, a Mumbai-based counsellor and child psychologist. Most times if homework is just a replica of textbook and rote learning, it can get monotonous for the child. If it is designed creatively to enable understanding, it will help the child remain interested. For instance, an assignment where classmates work together on areas such as problem solving. Or, solving crosswords in teams, for improving vocabulary. “A good assignment is one where the teacher helps the child think,” says Varkha Chulani, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist in Mumbai.

Encourage responsibility

Create the right ambience for the child to concentrate and work. “Environment ought to be one of quiet and peace. Many kids, unfortunately, do homework with music or television on. It’s done as a brain-dead activity. If done correctly, it just eases up the child’s workload,” says Dr. Varkha. If the environment at home encourages children’s responsibility towards their assigned work, their attitude towards homework will be good. “If a study routine is developed by parents at an early age, it becomes easier for the child to maintain it later,” says Dr. Shweta. Parents can also try positive reinforcement (non-materialistic) on completion of task — such as showing their good work to other members of the family and praising them at the dinner table. Sometimes even just sitting with them while they work can help them finish their work. Your child needs guidance, but guidance does not mean doing his work. “Too many parents do too much for their kids, not allowing them to learn from mistakes. With freedom comes responsibility,” says Dr. Varkha.

Do not control

Many of us feel responsible in some way for our child’s performance in school and this encourages us to be controlling. Homework should not become an issue of discipline with parents insisting on particular homework time or threatening consequences if homework is not finished by a particular time. What tends to happen when parents lay down homework law is that children will often approach their work with an attitude of defiance. They will carelessly rush through their work with the goal of just finishing it rather than the revision of work done at school. Allowing children to choose how and when to schedule homework will make them feel less pressurised. The homework plan they choose can be supported by you. “They feel respected as well as learn to respect others’ expectation,” says Dr. Shweta.

Working on homework when children are tired is not productive. Not only does it lead to them to making more mistakes but also tire them and turn them cranky. Let your child take a nap or sleep early and wake him up half-hour earlier the next morning to complete his work. After all, for effective learning, a child needs to relax — both physically and mentally.

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