This is going to come as a shock to you, but sometimes? I
fight have spirited discussions with my kids. Mostly about things they don’t wanna do…that I want them to do. For a long time, we’d have these “discussions” about homework, until it hit a fever pitch a few years ago. One of my children and I went around and around every night, having the same argument each time, and making each other miserable. And though it took a while, I learned stuff. The tips below won’t solve all your homework woes (sorry), but they’re a good place to start.
1.) Breathe. Relax.
I don’t know why, but homework battles can incite levels of rage in me usually reserved for telenovela villians and evil dictators. Actually, I do know why. When it comes down to it, I can’t make my children do homework. I can sit and argue and plead and threaten but — like eating and going to the bathroom — I can’t actually force them to do it. So it becomes a power struggle I know I could lose and that makes me crazy. It helps to take a step back and gain some perspective. We’re not curing diseases. We’re doing homework. One of us is seven years old. Breathe through the nose and out the mouth. It’ll be okay.
2.) Know what is reasonable.
Out of a combined 15 teachers between my kids so far, most had reasonable expectations. But we have had the occasional teacher who overloads kids with work. A very general rule is that children should have 10 minutes of homework for every grade they’re in (first graders would have 10 minutes…fourth graders would have 40…see what I mean?) If your child has drastically more than that, I think it’s unrealistic to make them sit still and complete it, especially after six hours of school. Talk to the teacher and look at other measures, but don’t punish the kids with that.
3.) Have a routine.
Start at the same time each day. We usually play for 45 minutes (again, they’ve been in school for six hours — they need to run around), have a snack, and then begin. We do homework in the same place every day. All the homework supplies (pencils, pencil sharpener, erasers, etc) are stored in the same place so kids can find them quickly. We don’t do any screen time (unless a computer is required for the work) until after all homework is done. Kids do better when they know what to expect.
4.) Set a timer.
Half our battle is getting kids to stop wailing about not wanting to do homework and just start doing it. Like many things we don’t want to do, the anticipation of how much they’re going to hate it is way worse than the actual work. I set a timer and have them work for ten minutes. Then we take a five minute break — get a snack, run around outside, read — and then work for ten more minutes. They can see that they have a break coming up and suddenly everything seems more manageable.
5.) Outsource it.
Sometimes I need to step back and have my husband work with one of the kids because we all need a change of pace or a break from each other. Sometimes I’ll have the older kids help the younger. The shocking thing is, siblings who will bicker over anything and everything are surprisingly good at homework help. It’s nice to feel needed.
6.) Don’t do it.
At some point, just stop. Part of teaching children to grow up is teaching them there are consequences for their actions. What happens if they don’t do their homework? Are there consequences at school? Maybe they need to face them. Besides, if the purpose of homework is to reinforce what they’ve learned, that gets lost in power struggles and complaining and angst, and it’s all pointless. I wouldn’t make this a permanent solution, but if it takes one or two days of consequences at school to encourage kids to get their work done, try it.
And you? Do you have any solutions that work for your family during homework-time? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!