10 Strategies to Win the Homework Battle

Does it feel like war breaks out in your home every time you mention the word “homework”? Are you worried that your children’s academic performance will suffer because they refuse to do their work? Or do you just find it as meaningless and pointless as they do? Either way, homework has been assigned and it needs to get done.

While there’s been a lot of controversy whether homework helps children solidify learning...or whether it’s just mindless busy work, the results seem inconclusive for now. Meanwhile, that stack of projects is piling up so start implementing these strategies and win the homework battle once and for all.

State Expectations Clearly

Whatever your child’s age, sit down and talk to them clearly and firmly about your expectations in regards to homework. Let them know in simple, concrete terms that they will need to devote some of their time to this task every afternoon. In some schools, you may be given a weekly homework packet in one go. In that case, decide whether you expect your child to commit to some work daily or do it all in one sitting. If you opt for the latter, keep in mind that as homework gets more involved in higher grades, an all-in-one-go approach won’t be sustainable. In any case, stick to your plan and define consequences (for example, no screen time until the work is finished).

Discuss the Importance of Homework

Children often see homework as a punishment – not as a learning tool. Talk to them about the importance of learning and discipline now and how it will help them in the future. Help them see that all this is what all their classmates will be doing at home. It is not a special punishment doled out to specifically them. They are not unique in sitting there, working on assignments.

Additionally, let them know homework is not about getting all the right answers, but to just practice what they’ve learned on their own. This approach takes a lot of the pressure off. Explain that they are in charge of their own learning and back off a bit. You want to take them time early on to set the expectations and explain the importance of work, but not engage in power struggles.

Be Consistent

Children thrive when they have a set routine and know what’s next on the schedule. So set aside a reasonable and limited time each day for homework and if possible schedule it for the same time daily. Put a large daily calendar on your children’s door and/or the kitchen wall to remind them. Children will eventually get into a rhythm with homework time.

There should also be a consistent place for kids to work. The kitchen table is a good idea, as it offers little distraction and allows you to keep an eye on them – a dedicated desk is even better. Elementary school students have been known to do better work in common rooms than off on their own.

Make a Task Chart

Rather than punish your kids, reward their efforts. On days when your children do their homework without any conflict, give your children a star or sticker...better yet, have them give one to themselves – after all, they need to own the process. At the end of the week, if your child has earned a set number of stars, you can give a reward like going out to a favorite restaurant, or picking the movie for movie night.

Sit down with your children ahead of time and let them help decide on rewards. Taking part in the process will give them a feeling of ownership.

Schedule a Little Blow-Off Time First!

By the time your children get home from school, they have been in class around eight hours already – and most of that time has been spent sitting. The last thing they’ll want to do is sit down with drill sheets. So allow them 30-60 minutes of play in the backyard before coming in to do homework. Running around with the dog, jumping on a trampoline, or swinging on the swings can help them burn off all that extra energy. And this can make it easier for them to focus.

Make it Casual

Homework time shouldn’t be seen as a punishment. There should be no test anxiety involved. When your kids come in from their blow-off time, give them a healthy snack that they’ll enjoy munching on when they work. If it’s not too much of a distraction, allow them to have some music in the background to help them relax. If your children do their homework in the kitchen/dining area, you can work on dinner at the same time – for a bit of unspoken bonding time with the both of you hard at work.

Go for Positive Reinforcement 

A progress chart is good – but positive reinforcement is even more effective when it’s immediate. Praise your children when they sit down and start to do their homework. Encourage them to focus and complete the task at hand so they can go on to other things: spending time with their friends or watching a television show with the family. Again, set these conditions out ahead of time so that your children will understand the consequences of their actions.

Consider a Study Group

For school-aged or older kids, consider letting them invite a friend or two from class over to do homework together. This will require supervision to make sure they don’t distract each other at first, but can also be a powerful way to enhance homework time and learning, especially for group projects.

Help Them Out

Sometimes children resist doing homework because they find it confusing or difficult. This is where you come in. If your children are nearby during homework time, they can ask you for help when they need it. This can reduce your child’s stress and improve academic performance: studying for things like spelling tests is a lot easier when you have a partner to help you out!
Keep in Close Touch with Your Child’s Teacher

It pays to keep in close touch with your child’s teacher – especially if your child knows that you take an interest. Share your homework strategy with the teacher and keep in touch on progress. Your child’s teacher, in turn, can tell you about the quality of the homework and if your child is really putting in a genuine effort.
Finally, if you find the struggle continues, there may be an underlying problem like learning disorders or problems with perfectionism. Speak with your teacher about any irregularities.

Ultimately, you want to keep your eyes on the bigger picture. Homework, while important, shouldn’t be breaking your family ties. Keep homework where it should be – between your child and their teacher if problems persist. You may need to work out reduced homework or other special circumstances but you don’t want to let it shatter your bond.

What techniques do you find helpful to win the homework battle?

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