Now that school is back in full swing you may be experiencing what seems to be a worldwide phenomenon for parents everywhere – the homework battle.  After spending a full day at school it’s hard to blame kids for not wanting to do homework.  And after working so hard to do what’s best for your kid, it’s hard to blame parents for getting so frustrated when kids resist doing homework.  Hopefully these things can help avoid the homework battle this school year!

  • Set a time limit. When a child, or adult, knows there’s an end to a non-preferred activity it can be a lot easier to get started and keep working on that activity. The time limit you set for homework for your child will depend on a lot of things: you and your child, your child’s age, you child’s developmental level, and your child’s school’s expectations.  Though the amount of homework your child has is likely to vary daily, It is helpful to come up with a consistent time rather than base it on the amount of homework your child has each day.  This ensures that your child knows what the expectations are and decreases opportunities for negotiation.  You can allow your child to stop early when they have less homework that day, or you can have your child read or participate in learning activities for the whole time period even when they have a lighter homework load that day.  The logistics are totally up to you – aahh the joys of being a parent!  You can read more about our thoughts on time limits for homework here.
  • Break homework time into smaller chunks. Even for adults it is recommended to take regular short breaks when sitting down to do work. This helps with attention, quality, and efficiency.  If you have decided on a time limit for homework longer than about 40 minutes for your child you should consider breaking this into two homework periods (such as one before dinner and one after).  This will depend on your family’s schedule and how your child works.  Some people do better working for longer periods of time as they get into the “flow”, and some people do better working for shorter chunks of time.  Try experimenting to see what works best for you and your child!  Whatever you choose, make sure the schedule is clear for your child so they understand what is expected of them.  Your child will likely be a more willing participant if you give them some control (or make them think they have some control) over this decision.  Consistency is usually best, but you may decide to let your child choose how to split up their homework time on a daily basis – this can be helpful for a child that tends to argue a lot about homework and needs more control over their day.
  • Ensure your child has a good balance of homework and fun after school. It is important to acknowledge that your child spends a huge chunk of time at school, often sitting in a desk.  I find it easiest to liken this to my and my husband’s work day.  School is work for kids, and coming home just to spend all of their time doing more work is not going to make for a happy, or well-balanced, kid.  Ensure that your child has as much balance as you can.  You can do this by scheduling free time at home, play time with parents, and after school classes and activities.  All three of these are important and should be scheduled regularly when possible.
  • Have a homework area. Having a set area to do work in your home, with minimal distractions and lots of readily available school supplies, can help your child get into “homework mode”.  Sometimes the hardest part of a task is getting it started.  Having a set place in your home where your child does their homework can help them get into the right frame of mind quicker, which can help them get more done as well as decrease their resistance to doing homework.  Try to pick a place with minimal distractions – it should be quiet and not have a lot of visual stimuli (i.e. pictures).  Ideally your child should be sitting in a chair that is both supportive (your child’s feet should be able to reach the ground with their hips and knees at a 90 degree angle) and comfortable, and they should be able to reach the table with their arms around stomach level.  Here is a good visual of correct positioning.
  • Be available when things get frustrating. Depending on your child’s grade level you may or may not be able to help with their homework (and you shouldn’t be helping too much – appropriate homework should be able to be completed mostly independently!).  Even if you are not able to help you should be present when your child completes homework, even if it’s just for moral support.  This is, of course, more relevant for younger kids than for high school students, but can still be important for the success of some older students.