Ending the Homework Wars

One of the things that parents face and dread is the almost inevitable battle that comes each night over homework.  Children don’t want to do it.  Parents know they have to make them.  It starts off easily enough with the simple request.  This is met with the eye roll or the “Sure, later”.  Parent reasserts that it must be done, child gives lip service that it will be done, but with that edge of annoyance in their voice.  Before long, someone is yelling (it’s a 50-50 chance as to who it is) and there’s a damper on the entire night.

The thing is, there’re no bad guys here.  Of course students aren’t eager to jump on their homework after a full day at school and possibly some activities afterwards.  Of course parents don’t want to let the work slide and their kids to fall behind.

What do you do?

Depending on the age of your child, there are a few things that can help ease the homework wars and set the family on a path that will lead to peace, love, and understanding (or just no yelling).  Here are a few options that you have as a parent to help guide your child.

Don’t Badger and Let Your Child Face the Consequences

This is probably the hardest approach for parents and yet if kids are old enough, perhaps the best.  Kids often hear our threats about what will happen if they don’t do their homework, but the idea of consequences is often so abstract that what we say means virtually nothing to them.  This is a case of talking to your kids about the consequences of not doing their work and then letting them experience them.  Of course, not all kids will see the effects of not doing homework in their grades or tests immediately and so you may want to speak to the teacher ahead of time to find out what is and isn’t being done with other logical consequences to enforce.

The benefits of this approach include:

  • You don’t have to lose your mind by badgering and not being listened to. You sit down, have a talk about what needs to be done (and why), what happens if it isn’t, and then move on and enforce any logical consequence if needed or wait for your child to face the real consequences of their actions.

  • Your child learns the value of work through natural or logical consequences. Nothing is more powerful than a natural consequence because at no point can a child claim it’s “not fair”.

  • Your child is put in control. This is empowering and can help build longer-term responsibility by enabling the child to feel that s/he is trusted enough with these bigger decisions which often instills a greater sense of responsibility than when someone is harping at them.

Make Homework a Game

This method involves more parental involvement and is probably better suited to younger children who struggle with the mental effort and discipline needed to complete homework.  Take a look at your child’s homework and try to find a way to turn the content into a game.  Sometimes this is easy, sometimes not.  If not, then the goal is to turn the homework process into a game.  For example, see how quickly the child can finish a set of questions or see how much your child can improve on the second time around doing the same work.  Being present with your child as they do homework also means you can try to infuse some cool factor into the work at hand.

Do Work With Them

Sometimes the best thing we can do for our children is model what we hope they will do.  In the case of homework, setting aside time whereby we sit down and do some work as well can help them model the behaviour of making time to get it done.  Now, we may say that we have lots of other things that need doing, but I'm not saying you need to sit the whole time (though hopefully in the case of younger children, there isn’t that much homework), just sit until you complete a task (like you're asking them to do).  Goodness knows most of us have enough tasks we need to do that involve sitting down, whether it’s folding laundry or paying bills or writing the thank you notes to someone.  Your child will likely appreciate having the company while seeing you prioritize the work that you need to do over things you want to do.  Importantly, talking to them about how you would rather be doing X but you’re doing Y first is an important part of helping them understand the process of doing what needs to be done before being able to fully enjoy ourselves in our free time.

Homework doesn't need to be the battle is has become.  Our children just need to be supported and given some control to enable them to be responsible enough to do the homework on their own.

By Tracy Cassels

February 01, 2016