How many households in America each night hear the refrain, “Go up to your room and start your homework”?
For struggling children, however, the ones that are easily “lost in the woods,“ these children usually have great difficulty functioning independently even in a comfortable and functional workspace that has been set up in their room. These kids do not do well with the lack of structure that tends to be a part of doing work up in their room.
In their room, such kids often are adrift at sea, distracted by an endless supply of entertainment awaiting them. Think of these kids as free-floating molecules with little to anchor them or to bring them back to the task. Without some level of structure, there is little to help them get started.
An alternative that provides some anchoring is getting the child in the habit of sitting within a relatively close range of a parent, preferably at a dining room table, apart from any action going on in the house. Ideally, a parent can be sitting close by doing quiet work (e.g., reading, bill paying, etc.) Just the presence of an adult quietly sitting close by helps to settle things down for the “free-floating molecule” child.
It would also be helpful to establish a “quiet time” where the tone of the house would be relatively lower than usual.
This may mean shutting off the television and having other children quietly (if they don’t have schoolwork) in a different portion of the house. (You may need to spend time training the other kids in the house to practice the quiet time so they know what is expected.)
Many families with whom I have worked have found an hour and a half of “quiet time” to be ideal. Mind you, quiet time does not mean that house has to be “library quiet.” It’s just that the tone and energy of the house is lower than usual.
Some children may resist this type of structure and insist on doing their work in their room. Establishing this routine as early as possible as the way that homework is done will pay off dividends later. Many teenagers that I work with are particularly “free-floating” in their room. They have a very hard time getting started and seeing tasks through to their conclusion.
It’s never too late to change the routines, but the earlier you create the tone and the routine for homework the better.
Just commanding to the child to “go up in your room and do your work,” may not cut it for many kids. For a significant segment of kids, the free-floating molecule types, up in the room may be a danger zone of driftiness.