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Help! It's Time for Homework...

girl jumping over books

​Author: Jennifer Resetar, Ph.D.

School is back in full swing, and parents once again face the difficult task of getting their children to complete homework. You may have already heard some of these comments:  "No, I don't have any homework"; "I'll get it done later"; and "I did my homework at school." Perhaps you've even had a few arguments with your child over doing homework. Or, you may anxiously be waiting for a note or call from school to let you know your child has not been turning his or her assignments.

You are not alone. Parents face the challenges of homework all the time. But rather than worrying or scolding your reluctant student, work on getting the school year back on track by trying some of these suggestions:

  • Schedule a regular time for doing homework. For example, if your child doesn't participate in after-school activities, let him or her enjoy a snack and unwind for about 15 minutes after getting home. Then, have him or her begin an hour to an hour and a half of homework time.
  • Identify a homework location. The ideal location for homework is quiet, comfortable and free of distractions. Make sure the homework area is well-stocked with everything your child will need (e.g., paper, pencils, a ruler, a calculator, etc.). Phones and the television should always be off during homework time. 
  • Ensure that your child is bringing homework assignments and materials home. Give your child a planner in which he or she can write down information about homework assignments and upcoming tests. Ask his or her teachers to initial it every day at the end of each period to ensure that your child has documented assignments correctly. Some schools now provide this information online, and you can check assignments online to see if they match what your child has written in the planner.
  • Supervise homework. This is important for two reasons: 1) Your child may need assistance, and 2) your child may have difficulty staying on task without your prompts and motivation. The older your child is, the less supervision he or she should require. Be sure the level of assistance you offer fits your child's abilities. Don't do your child's homework for him or her, but provide support so your child can complete assignments with as little help as possible.
  • Establish a homework routine. For example, have your child empty out his or her book bag before beginning homework. Then have your child open the planner to the day's assignments and show them to you. Next, have your child gather the necessary materials. Finally, have your child choose the order for completing homework assignments.
  • Help your child set goals. Work with your child to set daily goals for homework completion. For example, you may determine together that it should take about twenty minutes for your child to complete a two-page math worksheet.
  • Check your child's work. When your child indicates homework is done, go over it together to make sure it was completed correctly and accurately. If your child has been studying, quiz him or her for a few minutes on the material.
  • Select homework rewards. Sit down with your child and identify rewards he or she would like to earn for completing the planner, bringing home all necessary materials, having the teacher sign the planner, completing homework, completing homework accurately and accomplishing goals. Behaviors that earn rewards should be those that are currently the most difficult for your child.
  • Follow through by providing rewards or negative consequences. Regardless of your child's homework performance, there should always be a consequence. If your child accomplishes the agreed-upon goals, then provide the designated reward. If your child's homework is sloppy and incomplete, have him or her redo the assignment until it is done correctly. Your child should have access to his or her reward and privileges (e.g., television, phone, video games, etc.) only when homework has been satisfactorily completed.

Consistently implementing these suggestions should improve your child's homework performance. If you do not see improvement, ask yourself if your expectations were initially too high. If homework problems continue and cause problems with your relationship with your child and/or his or her grades, consider meeting with your child's teacher or school team. Or, ask your child's pediatrician about a referral to a psychologist who addresses homework and school concerns.