Submitted by Veerash Srikison, advocate and internationally accredited civil and commercial mediator at Fair Practice – Family and Legal Mediation Services, Johannesburg. Click here for further information on family mediation and how it can benefit you and your family
With the start of the school year in full swing, many parents take on the role of “homework monitor”. If your child is someone who needs a nudge to focus or needs structure in understanding time management and organisation, it’s up to you to get you both through this phase of the year.
How you handle “homework time” must leave your child inspired to want to come home and continue with the day’s learning.
When communicating with your child, always be mindful of their age, stage of development and maturity. See each child as an individual with specific needs. The parenting style you use when creating this timetable for the afternoon/week or month is also very important for how the day/week or month will unfold. Most parents will choose the authoritarian style where they dictate the schedule and time allocation and then leave their child to follow through on it.
We prefer an authoritative style which puts the parent in charge of the process but allows the child to be in control of the outcome. Here the parent sits with the child, and discusses what tasks are important, the time needed to complete each of them and when and how breaks will be taken. This style shows that the parent while giving an instruction that the homework tasks need to be done also looks to the child for input on how he/she will realistically manage to get it done.
Where the child puts in break times and play time, the parent can put a time limit in place but ask the child how they plan on spending their time. Parents would need to be reasonable in giving this time off and not demand that their child take a breather for 5 minutes and get back to work. If the child has a sense of urgency to complete a task within the day, the parent can point out to the child how they can manage their task time and break time to accomplish that.
Not all days will be the same and working on a weekly or monthly plan will give your child an overview of how their time is being spent. Ask “what if” questions so that they understand the consequences if they do not keep to the time/day limits. At the same time watch your tone. It is always constructive to speak to your child in a supportive tone
Throwing in praise and a treat for good-time keeping and completed tasks can never have a negative effect on your child. Try to plan some time out with your child when drawing up the schedule, for instance, allocate a movie night or time with friends. Once they see that you are also invested in seeing them accomplish their tasks positively they will be eager to show you how responsible they can be. This balances the pressure they are already under to keep up with academic expectations with the ability to know when to take a break and have fun.
There have been arguments made that homework interferes with a child’s ability to unwind from their academic day and some schools have embraced this attitude, most have not. This article speaks to the majority of parents whose school going children are receiving homework as part of their curriculum.