Picture this everyday scene: Your kiddo’s form teacher calls you in the office, complaining that he’s late ― again ― in handing in his homework. When you take him to task, he makes an effort, then slips back to his bad old ways.
If you don’t correct your child’s lax attitude towards deadlines, Dr Hana Ra Adams, a psychologist at German European School Singapore, cautions that procrastination can become a problem when the child is older, when he’s about 7 to 9 years old. Moreover, his ability to be punctual in school and completing his assignments on time will impact the way he’s viewed as a prospective employee in time to come.
Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre, points out that there are two reasons why your child is procrastinating: A lack of interest and distractions. Outside of that, you should also consider if junior gets enough sleep. Dr Adams points out, “Insufficient sleep is associated with lower academic achievements. The National Sleep Foundation reports that children aged between 6 and 13 need nine to 11 hours of sleep daily.” She adds that fatigue of the eyes, neck and brain when studying can also compromise his attention span. So, get junior to take periodic breaks and close the books for several minutes.
Packing in too many activities outside of school won’t just exhaust him, this can cause avoidance due to stress or fear of failure.
It’s a given that discipline isn’t a habit your child will develop overnight. It may take a lot of patience, cajoling, and even setbacks. But you can do it. Dr Adams and Koh share their suggestions:
1. Involve junior to putting together a timetable He might be more willing to adhere to a schedule in which he has a hand in helping to plan. Koh advises, “Planning it according to their levels of concentration and energy levels will mean they will be more likely to follow [it].”
2. Or leave it to them to set the timetable You can play the role of a reviewer and supervisor, instead. But make sure the timetable include time for after-school activities, breaks, unpack their bags, as well as for snacks and dinner, Dr Adams notes. After these have been included, pencil in the homework or revision time. If he has after-school activities on a particular day, you might want to leave out revision time as it may compromise bedtime.
3. Take baby steps Start with simple tasks before expanding the schedule, Koh stresses. When he can follow the agenda successfully, he will feel encouraged to continue. Before he knows it, checking the schedule has become part of his routine.
4. Don’t overload their schedules Strike a balance between work and play and set realistic goals. Packing in too many activities outside of school won’t just exhaust him, “this can cause avoidance due to stress or fear of failure,” Koh points out.
5. Be flexible initially While junior’s just getting started, be flexible about when he does those tasks. Take revision, for example, though he must finish revising a subject within that week, he is, free to choose, for instance, to revise English on Tuesday or Wednesday, as long as he does it within the week.
6. Motivate them, but not through fear Use rewards to spark their interest and willpower to stick to the schedule. These bonuses can range from praising him to spending quality times indulging in family activities he loves. When you discipline him, the undue emotional distress might instil fear and cause. Koh cautions, “Once the fear is gone or if your child chooses to give up, than you will have nothing.”
7. Eliminate or limit distractions Keep the home environment conducive and minimise unnecessary disruptions in his studies. Dr Adams states, “Switch off electronic devices that can distract your child and you.” Keeping away your phones and devoting your full attention to your kid will help him learn that homework is important.
8. Prepare necessities before starting Have the materials you need all there, so your children won’t spend 15 minutes looking for pencils.
9. Better yet, create a dedicated space for homework Your child is going to need a consistent and quiet work space in their bedroom or a spot in the home that is conducive to study. This is also an effective way to prevent him from misplacing his work.
10. Be present Dr Adams notes, “Some children need help in organising their homework. [And] parental supervision [can] help overcome homework problems.” Your presence will give them the reassurance that you are always on hand, should they ask for help. You don’t need to be in the same room with him, just make sure that you stay close and remain accessible.
“[As parents, we] won’t be in class to help them with tests, so it’s up to them.”
11. Go through their school diary This way, you can help him prioritise schoolwork, since you’ll know how much he needs to do in a given amount of time. Basically, you want to ensure that he won’t miss an assignment or isn’t able to complete it in time. You also want to help him develop the habit of monitoring his own deadlines.
12. Be a role model Think back to the time when you were late to your peewee’s playdates and you laughed off your lack of punctuality as being “fashionably late”. Your child is going to imitate your behaviour. So, be. On. Time. If you have to work at home, do it when your child is doing his. Dr Adams stresses, “By seeing you take your work seriously, your child will see their job as being a student seriously.” Children often learn more from an example than by hearing your words.
13. Explain to junior that he is learning for his own benefit The amount of effort they put into their work shows up in the grades they get. Dr Adams says, “[As parents, we] won’t be in class to help them with tests, so it’s up to them.” Otherwise, speak to your child’s teachers to find out how you can better enhance your kid’s learning.
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