SINGAPORE: As much as you hate being that Tiger Mum who continuously nags her kids to do their homework and revision, it’s something you need to do because they are forever putting it off.
And when junior often resists completing his or her homework, or postpones revising till the last minute, this can put a strain on your relationship.
Grace Lim, mum to Nicole, 8, struggled with this in her daughter’s first year in Primary school. “I placed her in a preschool that did not focus very much on the academic side of things, precisely because I didn’t want her to get stressed. But when she got to Primary school, the transition was just tough.”
Lim adds that her daughter did not quite understand the importance of weekly tests like spelling and “ting xie”, and simply kept putting off studying for it. “I was just nagging and nagging at her, and she started to shut me off.”
Former school teacher and part-time maths and science tutor Angela Yong notes that observing good study habits doesn’t just lie with the kids, it may require some adjustments from the parents, too.
“No matter how old your kids are, it is always good to be involved with their schoolwork and show an interest,” says Yong. “You are not mollycoddling them, but teaching them skills that will serve them well in their future.”
Here are some tips for parents when it comes to helping their children with their homework:
Be interested in the way your child approaches school and learning. Even from preschool, you can ask them, “What did you learn in school today?”, or “What was your favourite part of school?”
Keep it lighthearted and fun, says Yong. “They will realise that talking about homework and school is not always boring and a chore.”
You may also want to allocate a short amount of time every evening to discussing your child’s schoolwork.
“Say, 15 minutes for a 5-year-old is a good start. Your child won’t see it as mummy checking up on their school work, but as good one-on-one bonding time with the parent, chatting about her day,” explains Yong. “They are more willing to start a task if they know that the milestones are achievable. Praise them when they complete the task.”
Set rules, such as no smartphones or televisions while studying.
“Having a conducive learning environment for a child can make a world of a difference,” says Feodora Tang, academic director at the The Learning Lab. “The television should be switched off, electronic devices kept out of sight, and ambient sounds kept to a minimum.”
An uninterrupted study session is also created when you remove disruptions, like having to sharpen another pencil, or going into another room to look for a stapler. So, make sure to have everything your child needs ― stationary, notebooks, a dictionary, and so on ― within the study space.
GET INTO A ROUTINE
Try setting “homework time” at a regular time very day, for instance, before dinner, from 6pm to 7pm, or right after school. Routines can help your child take responsibility on their own. If your children often ignore your nagging or puts off doing their homework, a routine will “leave less room for negotiation,” Tang explains.
She adds that parents can help their children plan daily mini-goals. “They are more willing to start a task if they know that the milestones are achievable. Praise them when they complete the task.”
Make sure your kids know when the important dates on their calendars are ― put up a simple bulletin board, where they can pin important school notices. Print out a monthly calendar, where you can mark important test dates.
It is always a good idea to start revision early.
“Parents and children can draw up a revision timetable and study calendar together,” Tang suggests. “Colour code the dates for easy reference ― one colour for exams and another for assignments ― and place the calendar and timetable in a visible place in the study area.
“If you feel that your child is unable to carry on for the night, offer to write a note to the teacher and explain the circumstances.”
Help your kids with their homework if they require it ― don’t do the homework for them.
However, it’s perfectly fine to help read instructions, call out spelling words, or go through maths problems with them if they have already attempted them.
Offer help if you start to sense frustration ― “How’s the class project coming along? Need help?” ― they will feel that you care about how they are coping in school. Don’t be too quick to punish for poor grades, but find out if you can do anything to help. Your childreb may confide that the “Teacher is going too fast,” or “I just don’t understand algebra” ― let them know that you’ve always got their back.
“Sometimes, kids can get frustrated or upset over an assignment,” says Yong. “If you feel that your child is unable to carry on for the night, offer to write a note to the teacher and explain the circumstances.”
Also, young kids have short attention spans, so remind them to take breaks, offering a snack or a warm drink from time to time. When they are done with their homework or studying, remember to praise their effort.
HELP THEM BE PREPARED
Remind your children that burning the midnight oil the night before a test is not productive. A good night’s sleep is essential for a clear mind, and if they are nervous, they should take a deep breath and relax, before diving into the paper, one question at a time. Make sure they don’t have other things to be stressed or worried about. Get them to school on time, and pack an extra pencil or two, just in case.
You can also teach them skills, like self-testing. Your children can do this by completing past year papers.
“Apply what has been learnt by trying different types of question, or drafting essay outlines with various angles,” Tang explains. “It is crucial to have proper recollection and application of information, and not just recognition,” she adds.
It’s always nice to have something to look forward to at the end of all that hard work. Setting monthly targets with rewards will help to motivate your child.
“You can offer a reward, like a vacation, or a new toy that they’ve always wanted after a big exam, but give the reward on account on their effort, and not their final grade. You want to be rewarding the right thing,” says Yong.
A version of this story first appeared on Smart Parents