Children are all different when it comes to how they learning, studying styles, and the way they approach homework. In our household, we have a self-starter, a child who needs a little prodding, and a non- homework “doer,” in the throes of preschool. One of the most challenging times of the day, can be homework time. The article “Homework Help for the Distractible Child,” at the Education.com website, briefly looks at common reasons for distractibility and offers some ways in which a parent can encourage their daydreamer with the homework process.
Children can be distracted for many reasons. While people often think of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) a neurological disorder that impacts a child’s ability to focus and learn, children can also be distracted for other reasons. They include: stress, anxiety, depression, or a learning disability. For purposes of this article, we will consider general ways to help any child who is distracted.
The article pulls tips from the book 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child, by Jeffrey Bernstein Ph.D. He states that parents need to firm, calm, and non-controlling. If a child is melting down about homework and having great difficulty focusing, a parent needs to be an anchor and calmly steer the ship. We all have probably seen it or “been there,” -where our responses escalates with our child’s, to no avail. It is important to empathize, give space to vent, but not get involved in a power struggle.
Dr. Bernstein advises parents to help their children get past the “I can’ts.” His first suggestion is for parents to suggest to their children to go with the thought “they can.” He says that parents should establish this mood/mode, leave the room, and see what happens. He also suggests some helpful probes when the “I can’t’s,” start. You can say “Can you tell me how and where you are getting stuck? Or perhaps “What part of the instructions are unclear?” Or even maybe “Tell me what you think the answer is.”
Some of Dr. Bernstein’s suggestions are the tried and true. He is a big believer in a set time to do homework. While some kids can do homework right away, he states that many distractible children need downtime to decompress and relax, before they can go back at it. He underlines the value of knowing your child’s learning style to best help her through the homework process. For example, if they are an auditory learner, answering questions about a reading passage, may be best done by reading out loud (you or your child) and helping them process the passage and questions this way. Visual learners might best get spatial relationships by a piece of cut fruit or a group of pasta, coins, candy, etc to process a problem. Or perhaps they can draw a diagram, a picture, a make a writing web to best sort out their ideas.
Prioritizing the homework load can go miles according to the author, as can praise, support, and guidance. Asking questions like “Do you know what you should do?”; “Do you have everything you need to complete the task?” can do wonders to move a distracted child into action. Encouraging them to break down projects, problems into bite size pieces, huge. He also points out the value of obtaining extra text books for home. A distractible child may be prone to forgetting hers. With Common Core standards today, it might be a helpful guide to the parent who is trying to instruct, guide, and reinforce children through new math, etc. Homework may always be a struggle. But it is a necessary part of learning and reinforcing what is taught at school. While distractible children may find homework more formidable, a calm, knowledgeable, and positive parent can help the process be more bearable, fruitful, and productive for child and parent alike.