Homework Tips for Teens

Table of contents

In this article, you will find:

Making the time

Homework Time Management: Teen-Style

Perhaps the greatest gift you can give your child is the gift of time management. (Okay, okay, so you're disorganized. Don't worry; what you need to teach your teen is right here. And wouldn't this be a perfect time to get better organized yourself?)

  • Some schools provide students with school planners. If yours doesn't, then you should. Take her to a stationery store and let her choose a daily calendar that she's comfortable carrying. One that devotes a page per day and leaves plenty of room for keeping track of assignments. (Some students prefer a small flip-top notepad for assignments.)
  • Teach her to note the following information for each assignment in each subject: date, subject, assignment, due date, and date handed in.
  • Purchase homework folders for each subject, and teach your child the merits of categorization. That way, when it's time to pull out the social studies handout, your teen knows just where it will be.
  • If your child needs help with time management, hold his telephone calls until after his homework is done.

Doing Homework in Bites

Help your teen to break a long-term assignment into parts. Sit down with her and help her break down the steps that might be involved in writing her year-end term report on China, for example. Those steps might include the following:

  1. Choose a specific topic by doing some general reading.
  2. Get the topic approved by the teacher.
  3. Visit the library and check out books, periodicals, and computer reference materials on the topic.
  4. Read and take notes. (Most students could benefit from some guidance here. Slogging through an entire 600-page book on China's Long March is overkill for an eight-page report. Show her how to use resources selectively.)
  5. Write a rough draft and edit it.
  6. Produce a finished copy.

Starting with the project's due date, show your teen how to calculate how much time she can devote to each stage. Mark a due date by each step.

Foiling Procrastination

A lifelong bad habit like procrastination starts with simple things, like chores and homework. If you sometimes procrastinate (and don't we all?), you know the feeling. You wait and wait, hoping the task will go away…then when it doesn't, you're stuck sweating it out at the last minute, doing a halfway job. You never feel good about it—not before, or during, or after the project.

Here are the five major reasons people procrastinate, and what you can do to help your teen get past each of them:

  • They don't know how to do something.

    If your teen is stuck, encourage her to go in early to get some help. Middle school kids are usually quite open about problems, so if you start this “academic coaching” early, you're more likely to have some influence later on. If you're a math whiz, for example, you may find that you and she develop an extra bond because she can turn to you with her algebra questions.

  • They have poor work habits.

    Much of this advice will help here. A good time management trick that can take your teen a long way is teaching her to do the hardest assignment first. After she's finished with that, it makes the rest of the night look easy.

  • They're afraid of not doing well, so they don't try.
  • This has to do with your teen's mind-set. Don't pressure her when it comes to scholastics. What you want to instill is curiosity and a pleasure in learning that will help her tackle things she's never tried before.

  • They'd rather be doing something else.

    This is where plain old self-discipline comes in. You can help by setting guidelines; for example, homework should come before television or telephone time.

  • They feel it has to be perfect.

    Perfectionism is equally insidious. Writing and re-writing an assignment before it is finished is not good use of homework time. Teach her quick-fix methods (like using correcting fluid, erasable pens, and computer word processing programs) and don't push for “perfect.” If you already have a perfectionist, give her a limit on the number of times she should allow herself to re-do something (two times?).