Child's approach to homework OK until it hurts performance


October 18, 1994|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,Special to The Sun

Q: This year our son has a lot more homework that he has had in the past. He always did his homework haphazardly and we're worried that that approach won't work this year. What can we do to help him?

A: You haven't told us your son's age or how he is doing so far, so we can only make some general suggestions. First we would encourage you to monitor how he is doing with his homework to date. If he is getting all his assignments completed on time and his teacher seems satisfied, he seems to have learned how to manage his time and we would encourage you to praise or reward him for that.

If he is staying up too late, missing deadlines or if his homework does not meet his teacher's expectations, we think it appropriate for you to sit down with him and share your concerns. Then ask him for his suggestions about how he might better manage his time. Hopefully, he will come up with some ideas that you think will work and you can support him as he tries those strategies.

If not, analyze his homework patterns with him. Does he get assignments for the week in advance? If so, can you help him prioritize and schedule the completion of those as signments? If he has a quiz on a regular basis, have him note the date on a calendar and identify one or two evenings in advance that he will use to study for those quizzes.

We don't know whether your son is engaged in any after-school activities. If he is, work with him to determine how he will participate in those activities and get the work done. He may need to set aside some specified time after dinner to do homework. Television watching should not occur until after the work is completed. Setting up a schedule and the expectations that go along with it will help him be more organized.

Finally, although we encourage you to be available for questions and help, we don't think you should assume responsibility for assuring that the work is completed. We do believe that you should make clear your expectations and be prepared to hand out responsible penalties if it doesn't get done. Conversely, we also encourage praise when he succeeds and perhaps even an occasional reward just to drive home the point.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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