Tips for Avoiding the Homework Trap (page 2)

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Updated on Jun 24, 2013

Fixing a Broken System

Your young student doesn’t have to fall victim to the homework trap. By heeding uncommon homework advice, you’ll give him the structure he needs to stay ahead—both at school and at home.

  • Tick-tock. Define homework time by the clock, instead of requiring him to work all night long. The standard in the field is ten minutes per night per grade, so don’t make your child work a minute more.
  • Transparency. Protect your kid being penalized for your new homework system by keeping in touch with his educators. Inform teachers of your time-based decision and request modifications in the class grading system. Three options are:
    • Full credit, without penalties, if you certify that he worked the required time;
    • A failure floor of 60 for assignments that are not done, turning incomplete work into an ordinary—rather than a super—F;
    • Recalibrate grades so that homework factors in no more than ten percent of the child’s final grade.
  • Share the knowledge. Your teacher probably hasn’t heard of this approach to homework, so help get her onboard by sharing your model. Provide her with written materials to support the changes you seek, and rally fellow moms and dads to take up your cause.
  • Focus on study skills. For older students, ask that the school assign a study skills teacher, who helps your child with the homework at school, and works with the teachers to establish priorities among the different assignments.
  • Take charge. Tread lightly in pushing this point, but if disagreements can’t be resolved, be ready to assert that, for matters in your home, you are the one in charge.

When presenting this model to the school, keep in mind that, whether or not your child’s teachers agree to all of these recommendations, there can be no question that the current pattern of unrelenting pressure to get all of the assignments done is doing him far more harm than good. Students across the country need homework relief—are you ready to advocate for change?

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. Through his career, he has served children, adolescents, and adults, offering individual and group psychotherapy, as well as marriage and family counseling. Prior to starting his private practice, Dr. Goldberg served as clinical director for a children’s resident treatment facility, as director of a psychiatric day-treatment program for the chronically mentally ill, and as the head of a rural mental-health center. He is a member of the American Psychological Association, author of the new book The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers, and currently works in his own private practice. For more information, please visit the Homework Trap website.

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