Helping kids with their homework – 6 important tips

Starting in elementary school, kids are given a lot of new material to learn. That's why it's important to make learning and homework fun.

In our society, children are often faced with the pressure of succeeding and getting good grades early on. This can be very stressful, even for the really little ones. Children are naturally inquisitive. And this inquisitiveness is even more effective when they're excited about learning. Whether it's math, reading or vocabulary, there are a few easy methods for helping your kids get through their homework with ease.

1. Provide positive reinforcement

Kids are thirsty for knowledge and inquisitive by nature; they want to get good grades and tend to compare themselves to their classmates and friends. As parents, it's important to take this type of pressure off your kids, to believe in them and understand that a bad grade isn't the end of the world. After all, mistakes are an opportunity for learning. Take the fear of failure out of your children from the very beginning. This will give them an extra boost to succeed in life.

2. Less is more – foster independence

Many moms and dads feel the need to help their kids every step of the way. Despite their good intentions, they can end up making their kids feel dependent on their parents' help. It can also be quite stressful for children to have mom constantly watching over their shoulder while they're trying to study. A better approach is to explain to your kids that you trust in their ability to work alone. But be sure to add: “If you get stuck, feel free to ask for help,” or “If you want, I'll look at your answers later.” This not only helps instill a belief in their own abilities, it also shows the parents' confidence in the child.

3. When your child hits a roadblock

Everyone makes mistakes, so don't overreact if the homework isn't done right. It's important not to use accusatory language such as "What the heck did you do there?" Instead, it's more useful to talk calmly about what the reason for the mistake might have been. Questions like, “How did you calculate that?” will encourage your child to rethink the problem. If the problem was overwhelming, it helps to break it down into pieces. You can also give specific hints if you detect an error. Sometimes it also helps to take a short break and then go back to the problem later. Once you're confident your child can handle the problem on her own, step back.

4. Offer praise

Are good grades already enough of a reward? Should they be considered “normal” and not worthy of special recognition? No! Praise your child. Even partially correct assignments deserve praise. This recognition not only boosts self-confidence in children, it also motivates them to keep trying.

5. Take breaks

Breaks between individual assignments boost concentration and can be used as a reward. Breaks should not be too long, but ideally they should take place away from the desk. For example, kids can play a game, run around, have a snack or take the dog outside. Their concentration and motivation level will be that much higher afterward.

6. Learn by playing

Learning can be downright fun, when done among friends, for instance. Kids enjoy explaining things to each other. It's also an exercise in positive social interaction: good friends don't make fun of each other. Group study increases understanding and memorization by encouraging kids to summarize what they know orally. Whether alone or with parents, learning can be fun: think of little games or mnemonic devices for memorizing the 50 US states, for example. Games like these make learning fun - even when older - rather than a tedious obligation.

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