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How To Reduce Homework Stress

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The simple question, 'Have you done your homework?' can lead to tears, tantrums and tirades. But homework time doesn't have to turn your home into a battlefield. Here's excellent advice from family and lifestyle correspondent Ylonda Caviness.

LISA: I’m Lisa Birnbach for howdini. Homework can lead to battles, tears, or both – and that’s just for the parents! What do you do if your kid just doesn’t want to do her assignments, and how involved should you be as a parent? Lifestyle editor Ylonda Caviness has studied homework, and she is here to tell us that it is possible to have stress-free after-school time. Thanks for being here, Ylonda.

YLONDA: Thank you for having me.

LISA: Homework: you know your kids have to do homework; you turn into the queen of all nags at homework time. How do you avoid the stress of forcing your kids to do their homework?

YLONDA: It’s so difficult, and let’s just start by saying evening time in any household is maddening.

LISA: Yes.

YLONDA: One or both parents caught up in rush hour, the kids have activities that squeeze the time; and let’s remember that as adults, we’re results-orientated. Children, not so much. They relish the process. So what happens is we’re stressed out from our day’s activities, we’re trying to get dinner on the table, we’re trying to get homework done, and we forget we’ve got to meet them where they are. They’re really into the relaxation, and the breaks and the snacks it involves. Set some homework ground rules, and just make sure that you child understands those, and check in once in a while.

LISA: So you’re saying let them unwind from their day.


LISA: While you get the next part of the evening underway.


LISA: And don’t breathe down their necks constantly.

YLONDA: I know that’s hard. It’s hard, it’s, it’s easier said than done. But make sure, first of all, that they know how long they have to wind down, and every kid’s different. But make sure there’s a definite cut-off; you and your child have an understanding that four o’clock, whatever time it is, that’s when homework starts. And make sure they know that. That way you’re not saying, ‘did you do your homework? When are you going to start your homework? Did you do your homework? When are you –‘ and that build-up starts to put pressure on before the homework even starts. So what you want to do is literally give your kid space. You want to give your kid space mentally; you want to give your kid space literally. Let them do the work, and let them do it at their own pace within reason, and give them the tools to do that. There should be an area in your house that’s for homework. It could be the kitchen table, but make sure everything they need is well at hand so they’re not getting up to get the dictionary, getting up to get a ruler, getting up to get pencils. Everything is right there, and they have the time and the space they need to get the job done. The computer, I think, should definitely be an open area.

LISA: Right.

YLONDA: But if your kid wants to go upstairs and do his or her homework, if they get the job done without wandering off into other things, I, I believe you should let them. I’ve had nights, like many people have, where the homework is just dragging on. It seems that we started at four and it’s eight thirty and we’re still doing homework. So I think there has to be a definite beginning and end. My clue is, if someone’s on the verge of tears, and that could be you or the child –

LISA: That could be me. That could be me, yeah. That would be me.

YLONDA: Then you’ve gone too far.

LISA: All right.

YLONDA: Give yourself a time-out.

LISA: Right.

YLONDA: Chill, go and read a book, and come back and check in with them. I feel that if it gets to the point where your whole family life is in crisis because of that math sheet, or –

LISA: Right.

YLONDA: Because of that report, that’s when its time to write a little note, and say, you know, we will hand this in at the end of the week. But you should know how long it should take your child to master his or her assignments. And if it’s taking longer than that, drop a note to the teacher, and maybe check into getting a tutor or some extra help.

LISA: Good advice Ylonda, thank you so much.

YLONDA: Thank you for having me.

LISA: I’m Lisa Birnbach for howdini.

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