Homework battles can turn into an exhausting nightly struggle that stresses both you and your child. Addressing this family issue can be challenging, but good communication and early action can make a big impact.
Get in the Right Mindset
Before talking to your child about avoiding homework, take a step back. How are you feeling? Anxious? Angry? These emotions can affect how your child responds to you. Take a few deep breaths, stay calm and approach the topic with empathy.
It’s important to be okay with your child failing a few assignments so they can learn that their choices have consequences. It shows them that failing is part of life, but it doesn’t make them a failure.
Talk to Your Child
You can make plenty of assumptions about why homework isn’t getting done, but your child is the only one who really knows the answer. Give them a chance to explain without the fear of your angry reaction or rapid judgment. Listen to their answer and work together to find a solution. Encourage your child to take ownership of their education.
Why Your Child Could Be Avoiding Homework
There are many reasons, major and minor, why a child might refuse to do schoolwork. Take the time to understand what could be affecting your child.
Your child’s teachers are a valuable resource. Talk to them about how your child seems to be progressing with important concepts and skills. Work to understand details such as:
- Is your child struggling with a particular subject, unit, concept, or skill?
- Is there an unreasonable homework load across all your child’s teachers?
- Is your child getting along with his or her classmates?
- How well is your child responding to his or her teachers?
- If your child struggles with a particular assignment format, would the teacher consider offering options for students to choose? (e.g. write a paragraph, draw a picture, create a diorama)
Your child may be testing his or her limits. Make sure they understand what you expect as well as the consequences for not meeting those expectations. Be consistent with established boundaries and follow through with consequences. If they must complete homework before watching TV, stick to that. Your child needs a reliable, consistent structure surrounding homework routines.
Family Pressures & Attitudes
Look in the mirror. Think about how your attitudes might be influencing your child’s attitudes toward schoolwork. Are you contributing to the problem in any way? This might include nagging, hovering, or trying to do the work for the child rather than stepping back.
Your child could be struggling with health issues that make it harder to do homework. Sleep, physical activity, healthy eating, fresh air, and positive social relationships all influence success in school. Issues with vision or hearing or physical issues such as wrist pain could deter your child from doing work, particularly if he or she is attending school online. You may also need to talk to your pediatrician about the possibility of a learning challenge such as dyslexia, processing deficits, or ADHD.
How to Help Children Focus at Home
Some children don’t view home as a place to work, so the right routines and workspaces can help them settle and focus. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while for you and your child to find a structure that works. Ask for your child’s input and work together.
Creating a new routine:
Establish a schedule.
Plan an after–school schedule with your child: for example, math homework 3 pm – 3:30 pm. English homework 3:30 – 3:45 pm, etc. Your child knows if he or she needs more time for one subject and less for another. Make sure your child understands which days the routine is in effect, especially as holidays come and go.
Plan breaks in the schedule so your child can have a snack, play with a pet, or get some water. It can be difficult to redirect attention away from devices, so avoid electronics such as TV, video games or phone time until homework is done for the day.
Start homework together.
Starting each homework assignment with your child can help them feel confident that they’re on the right track. If the homework topic is unfamiliar to you, make it a fun journey of figuring it out together. Even more empowering – get your child to teach you!
Change the homework location.
Set up your child’s homework area in the kitchen, dining area or living room. You can keep an eye on their progress and be more available if help is needed.
Encourage Your Child
When you’ve found a routine that works for you and your child, encourage your child with praise and occasional rewards.
Stickers aren’t just for little kids – tracking good habits can help to keep any child motivated. Consider offering rewards if your child collects a certain number of stickers. This could include a favorite meal or treat, picking the movie for family movie night, or hosting a sleepover with friends.
Homework doesn’t need to be a daily battleground. Talk to your child. Listen with empathy. Create a plan and a new routine together. Once you find the system that works, your child and your family life will reap the rewards.