The start of school brings many changes with children’s daily lives. Children must be able to transition between subjects, organizing their work, sitting at home, and independently taking the initiative to do their homework and monitor their own productivity. These above behaviors all fall under the label of “executive functioning.”
Many children are able to complete these tasks and behaviors independently; however, a large portion of children also struggle with one or more of the behaviors and tasks. As a result, many children benefit from strategies to help develop their organization, planning, problem solving, time management, and monitoring of their work.
Parents vs. Children on Homework Assignments
As a psychologist, I often have parents inform me about constant battles that they have with their children to complete daily homework assignments. Specifically, parents often report to me that their children will do anything but start their homework (surfing the internet, texting friends from their cell phones, or watching television/playing video games).
Two major executive functioning tasks are involved with the child’s ability to complete daily homework: Initiation of action and time management. Children who demonstrate issues with their ability to complete daily homework benefit from strategies and interventions that target their ability to start and complete their work in a timely fashion.
Tips to help children complete daily homework:
- Developing a daily “Need to” (homework, chores) and “Want to” (baseball practice, dance lessons, video game time) list of tasks
- Prioritizing the list with estimated time requirements for each task
- Verbally and physically prompting your child before starting each task by (e.g., “John, what is the next thing we should do?” while tapping him on the shoulder)
- Positively reinforcing all self-initiating tasks by giving praise when your child starts a project on his/her own
Dealing With Your Child’s Forgetfulness About Assignments
Another major area of concern I hear from parents is that although their children are able to actually complete the work, they struggle with their organizational skills and will either forget about the assignments or lose the work between home and school. As a result of the difficulties with organization, all children benefit from strategies to improve this area of functioning.
Strategies that have proven to be effective with the development of a child’s organization include:
- Structuring and scheduling designated ‘study time’ as part of your child’s daily routine.
- Completing homework in a central location away from distracters including television, computer, telephone, and other people who might be disruptive.
- Creating time-lines for long-term projects, breaking tasks down into basic elements with separate due dates for each task.
- Discussing homework expectations with their teacher to determine the recommended amount of study time.
With the start of school, we want to help children be as organized as possible and ready to complete daily homework in a timely fashion. Following the above strategies and developing some of your own will ensure that your child will be more organized and less stressed!