Homework Dominoes

It’s 8:30 on a Tuesday night. You’ve gone to your teenager’s room to see how their homework is going.

You: How are things going?
Teenager: OK
You: What does that mean? Are you done with your homework?
Teenager: Not really. I’m having trouble with Chemistry again.
You: That’s too bad. Did you get your other subjects done?
Teenager: No. I’ve been stuck on this since I got home.

If you’re like many parents, this sounds way too familiar. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for kids to get stuck on a concept or assignment they’re having trouble with. And then they can get frustrated, procrastinate and end up not finishing their homework till late at night. If they finish it at all.

I call this “homework dominoes.” The frustration and lack of confidence they’re feeling with one subject cascades to everything else and nothing gets finished that night. Or maybe a few nights in a row.

It would be great if our kids could get better at time management, or if we had the time to coach them to more effectively manage their time.  But we all know how hard that is. Especially if your child keeps getting paralyzed by one challenging subject.

So what else can you do? Find a good time to sit down and talk about what is causing them the most trouble. And that’s not late at night after they’ve spent hours on something and are frustrated. The weekend or when they’ve had a little distance from it is probably better.

Try to zero in on what’s causing them the most trouble. Most often it’s one or two subjects they’re having trouble with which ends up taking way too much of their time. Once you’ve uncovered the problem, focus on where they can get help. Do they have a friend who is acing the class? Is the teacher available before or after school?

But what if your child isn’t comfortable going to their teacher, or it looks like he or she will need help on a regular basis? That’s when it’s time to think about a tutor.

Getting help from a tutor doesn’t mean you or your child have somehow failed: almost every student needs help sometimes. Whether it’s help with basic concepts or an otherwise straight A student struggling with one subject, a tutor can make a difference.

Great tutors reinforce what’s been taught in class, identify problem areas and work with their students till they’ve mastered the material. The extra level of academic support a tutor provides can have a huge impact.

So how does a tutor prevent homework dominoes? Knowing someone is available to explain difficult concepts, or work through a challenging problem, can prevent getting hung up on one thing to the exclusion of everything else. And it can help your child work through it on their own without getting frustrated. A tutor also builds confidence, and that confidence flows through to the rest of their classes. Finally, a scheduled time to work on a tough subject adds structure to what can be a whirlwind of “what do I work on next.”

The next time your child gets frustrated with their homework, work together on a plan to prevent the first domino from falling. You’ll be surprised at how big a difference it will make.