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Q: My nine-year-old takes hours to do his homework. I've tried setting the timer, and using negative and positive results. The only thing that works is if I sit there the entire time and keep him on-task, which is hard because I have two other children with homework, and dinner to prepare. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Homework provides excellent practice in developing independent learning and task-management skills that will be important in later learning and work roles in the adult world. Homework also extends after-school learning for gifted students, allowing them to read and explore topics in depth. While too much homework or homework that is too difficult should be avoided, more than likely your son is procrastinating. In any event, his homework is his homework, not yours.
As a first step, I would contact his teacher(s) and possibly the school counselor. Discuss the problem with them and develop a cooperative strategy for addressing the problem. You and his teacher can put into place a simple strategy of identifying his assignments, checking for completion the following day, and rewarding successful homework completion.
A good book to share with your son is How To Do Homework Without Throwing Up by Trevor Romain and Elizabeth Verdick. The book is aimed at students in grades three through six, and includes tips on setting up a homework schedule, how to get help with homework, etc. Another book is The Berenstain Bears and the Homework Hassle. You may want to read How to Help Your Child With Homework by Marguerite Radencich and Pamela Espeland. This book offers tips for halting homework battles with your child.
You are not alone. Homework battles are all-too-common between parents and children, whether the kids are gifted or not.
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Rita Culross is Associate Dean, College of Education, and Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Curriculum and Instruction at Louisiana State University. Culross has served as the consulting school psychologist for a public school elementary gifted program, and has written a book and several journal articles on gifted education.