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The Informed Parent

I Hate Homework!

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Oct. 01, 2012

It’s October. The excitement of the new school year has dwindled, and you are beginning to see the joys and struggles the year will bring. The “H” word--homework, may already challenge the patience of you and your child. Homework tends to create more parent/child conflict than any other school-related issue.

There are steps to take to relieve the tension around homework. With busy family schedules, they may not be easy to follow--especially in the beginning. However, once implemented, homework will be less stressful for everyone.


Choose a time to sit quietly with your child and discuss the need to make homework less of a struggle. It is not a time for blame. Using words that make the child believe he is at fault won’t solve the problem. Say something like, “I know you don’t like to do homework. I never liked doing it either, but it’s a fact of life. Let’s work together to see if homework time can become easier for both of us.”

Use An Effective Plan

  • Do homework at the same time each day. When the designated homework time approaches, the body clock begins to prepare the child for a time of concentration. If he attends daycare, homework may be done there. You still need to look it over before he returns it to school. Choose a consistent time to do this.
  • Do homework in the same place each day. Whether your child works at a desk in his bedroom, at the kitchen table, or with a pillow on the floor, using a consistent place says to the body and mind, “Oh, yes. This is a workspace. Now it’s time to settle down and work.”
  • Prepare for homework. Provide a snack or a drink of water and suggest using the bathroom before starting. These activities serve as distractions once your child has begun to work..
  • Gather all necessary materials. Remind your child to have his books, pencils and other supplies in the homework area before he begins. Not having them provides an excuse for not staying on task.
  • Look for problems. Before he begins his homework, have your child look it over and ask any necessary questions. Provide the information he needs. Interrupting homework to ask questions becomes a disruption. If he has questions in the middle of an assignment, he can go on to other work and ask for assistance during his break.
  • Use a timer. Timers can serve as motivators. Children see how long they have worked and how much time they have left before a break. They can be used for “Beat the Clock” games. If a timer works for your child, let him set it himself. Unless it distracts, he needs to have it in easy sight.\
  • Take homework breaks. The thought of having to sit until homework is complete can be defeating. Building in breaks helps the child focus more fully during the work time. Kindergartners and first graders can work for 10 minutes, then take a three-to-five minute break. Second through fourth graders need to work for 20 minutes before taking a five-minute break. Older children can work for 45 minutes and adolescents for an hour before taking a five-minute break. Encourage your child to use breaks for taking a drink of water, using the bathroom, stretching and asking any questions that have arisen. This is not a time for playing or watching TV.
  • Special situations. If your child has special needs or has an extremely difficult time settling down, look at the homework together and decide how much can be done in a five-minute segment. Leave while he does the work. After five minutes, return. If the work is complete, acknowledge him and check it. Negotiate another five minutes of work. If it has not been accomplished, simply reset the timer with a statement such as, “I know you’ll have the work done when the timer goes off,” then leave.
  • Acknowledge. When the homework is complete, acknowledge the achievement. Even if it has not been done to your child’s ability, find something to speak positively about. You might say, “I like how you finished your homework. I know that next time you will use your neatest handwriting.”


Following this plan may sound impossible for your family. If you can’t commit to all of it, choose what you can. The most important point is to work with your child so that homework time does not cause conflict. Commit to this or your modified plan for two weeks. Follow it as carefully as possible. Evaluate after two weeks and tweak it if necessary.

Be Consistent

Following a homework schedule consistently will assure that it works. Consistency is one of the hardest things for families. Working parents, busy children, and unexpected events seem to work against it. Consistency is a habit that, when developed, makes life easier for everyone.

Celebrate Success

Acknowledgment creates greater success. We all want to be appreciated. By acknowledging your child and yourself for each small step in creating a positive homework time, you both remain willing to stick with the plan.

While following an effective homework strategy will not work 100% of the time, you can expect it to work most of the time. Effective parenting takes time, as well as developing new skills and habits. What you can expect with commitment and consistency is that the “H” word will take less time and cause less friction than it has. The positive effects will benefit you and your child. 

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