The Importance of Remaining Task Oriented

It is important for you to accept the feelings of frustration your children may occasionally have with homework. It is also important that you then redirect your child back to the current task, explaining what needs to be done and how to best to do it.

Feeling frustrated, at times, is a normal occurrence of life. Nonetheless, if it occurs too frequently, there is a problem to be addressed. In response, if you become irritable or angry, your behavior will only heighten your anxiety as well as your child’s frustration. Perhaps a good initial question to ask your child is “In what ways do you want help?” In this column we offer specific suggestions for assisting with homework in different subjects.


  • Read topic sentences.
  • Read headings
  • Read questions at the end.
  • Teach the SQ3R technique to review content material. This stands for Scan, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. Scanning requires a survey of the material, including pictures, featured key words, and a summary. Questioning means turning each bold faced heading and word into a question. After the reading the material thoroughly, bold-faced type should be recited out loud. Finally, key words and questions raised from bold-faced titles should be reviewed.
  • Work sheets and work books should be divided into fragments or chunks. Encourage your child to work on one chunk at a time.
  • Have your child work with a friend and read out loud, taking turns as homework is completed.
  • Present key vocabulary words in a sentence format when they are introduced. This may give immediate meaning to an unknown word.
  • Allow your child to select high interest material for reading reports and projects.
  • Encourage your child to orally discuss what he or she has read and even use a tape recorder to record highlights.


  • Use calculators to check computations.
  • Estimate answers before computing the problem.
  • Use color codes highlighting math symbols that change on worksheets. For example, make plus signs green and minus signs red.
  • Encourage your child to use one inch graph paper to help organize columns.
  • Use real life examples, visual models, and manipulatives as often as
  • possible.
  • Attempt mnemonic strategies to help your child remember multiple steps in math problems.
  • Interesting software or active games should also be considered for tedious math review and drill.


  • Encourage the use of a computer with a spell and grammar checker as a strategy for self-correction.
  • Provide lists of most frequently misspelled words.
  • Provide lists of homonyms (e.g., their/there).
  • Make use of coloring specific letter combinations that appear difficult for your child to remember.
  • Encourage the use of manipulatives when studying for spelling tests, such as letter tiles and magnetic letters.

Storywriting or Report

  • Have your child draw small sketches of a sequence of events or ideas for the story that will be written.
  • Teach a “webbing technique.” In this technique your child first provides a main sentence describing the theme of the story then three related sentences are provided. Make an oval around the first sentence and draw three extended lines from the oval. Have your child provide three supportive sentences. Draw an oval around each of these. Then for each of these supportive sentences provide a number of additional sentences related to the supportive sentence. Then have your child sequence these sentences and write the initial story draft.
  • Break writing assignments down into parts or chapters that you can check.
  • If your child experiences significant written language problems, consider acting as a secretary or working with your child’s teacher to allow tape recorded reports to accompany written products.

Homework can also play an important role in helping you understand your child’s learning style. Watch your child as homework is completed. Provide feedback and ask your child’s opinion about what appears to work best. Avoid non-productive comments such as “you will never go to college if you don’t complete your homework” or “you’re just like me I couldn’t understand math either.” Such comments shift the focus from the task to your child’s self-worth. Although misery may love company, it is unlikely that telling your child that you struggled in math will make your child feel better. It would be better for you to say “you seem to be able to answer more chapter questions when you look at all the picture captions, charts, graphs, and subtitles before reading” or “let’s make a list of the steps to follow when doing these math problems.” Such comments provide children with a direction to accomplish tasks by using strengths rather than trying to motivate them with parental fears.

Authors: Dr. Sam Goldstein and Dr. Sydney Zentall