10 Ways Changing My Attitude Ended the Homework Battle

Photograph by Twenty20

When my son started kindergarten he proudly came home with his one sheet of homework per day. I made the mistake of saying to a friend who was lamenting her third-grader's homework, "I actually like homework. It gives me a chance to see how my kid is doing."

"Just wait," she said having been through this already with her two kids. "Wait until he has an hour of homework and you have to be the one to help. You won't like homework so much anymore."

She was right.

RELATED: 13 Things Prince George Needs to Know About Preschool

When my now 8-year-od son started coming home with close to an hour of homework per day, I started to dread it. By the time we got to his homework each day, he was cranky and unfocused. He'd beg to do it in the morning, only to wake up and be equally as cranky about having to do it then. I began to resent homework. "It's his homework," I thought. "But the responsibility is all on me."

We all started to resent homework and it became a fight each and every day.

My son dreaded homework too, especially his required reading. He loved reading and was a die-hard book lover, but the requirement of reading after having done his homework sent him into a bad-mood tailspin.

Truth be told by the time I got the kids home from school each day, especially if one of the kids has had an afternoon class or enrichment at school, it could be 4:30 or 5 p.m. Once I made dinner, fed the kids, gave them baths and tried to give them a few minutes to relax and play, it felt like the day was over. My kids go to sleep early and don't do well when they're tired. (What kid does right?)

So my weekday afternoons felt like a race to the finish line, with homework being a major detour along the way. We all started to resent homework and it became a fight each and every day.

Many of my friends experienced the same homework battles with their kids and most surrendered by hiring tutors after confessing that their kids didn't fight with the tutor about homework. But I didn't like the idea of getting my son a tutor just so I didn't have to deal with his homework. We have enough kid-related costs in our houses. I'd be glad to get him a tutor if he needed it because he was struggling, but I felt like it was frivolous to get him a tutor because I was struggling.

That's when I realized the problem with my son's homework just might be me. I wondered if I changed some things about how and when we did homework, maybe it might go a little smoother for everyone. So I made some changes. Gone are the fights, crying jags and near-bedtime attempts at homework. Here's what I did.

1. We always do it as early as possible!

This was the biggest game-changer for me. Instead of letting homework be the looming, dreadful thing we did after doing everything else in the afternoon, we always do it as early as possible before my kid is totally wiped out and cranky. That means we sometimes do it in a coffee shop before soccer practice or in the lobby of the little one's dance class. We can't always do it early, but we usually do. It's taken a lot of time off the homework process and has my son occasionally saying, "Homework is fun!"

2. I stopped looking at homework as something we were doing just for the sake of finishing.

We had always approached homework as something to get done as fast as possible so I probably rushed my kid through it rather than took the time to give him time to ask questions, make a mistake and actually learn what he was working on.

3. I make dinner earlier in the day or make something quicker and easier for the kids at dinner time.

I work from home, so if I'm really organized during the day, I can make dinner while I'm working and just re-heat it when the kids eat. It saves me trying to make dinner for them while I'm trying to help with homework. I've learned that for my son to pay attention to his homework, he needs my attention on his homework. And yes, sometimes that means they have a frozen pizza for dinner. But at least that pizza allows me the time to sit down and be helpful to him.

4. I made homework our top priority and stopped feeling resentful that it was all on me.

I'm not mad that I have to take my kid to the doctor so why be mad about homework?

Truthfully what I hated most about homework was that if my kid didn't do it, it was really my fault that he hadn't. I stopped resenting the process and began to look at homework as one more thing that's just a part of my job. I'm not mad that I have to take my kid to the doctor so why be mad about homework?

5. If I want my son to give homework his undivided attention, I give him mine.

It's hard to give his homework undivided attention because I have a younger child and other things to do. Afternoons with kids are busy, and sitting down for an hour to do Singapore math can be tricky. But I give the little one her own homework, which might be drawing or practicing her letters, turn off my phone, and focus. He does so much better on his homework when I'm not buzzing around screaming from the other room, "Just read the instructions!"

6. When he gets frustrated about his homework, I don't.

When my kid gets tired, bored or doesn't understand his homework he gets frustrated. I don't. It's difficult because I usually am frustrated and dying to finish up, but I stay cool and calm, which helps him to do the same.

7. If he doesn't understand a concept, I find a different way to explain it.

Homework is about reinforcing concepts, not learning new things. So I know my son has already heard the concepts he's working on in homework. But if he doesn't understand something, I try to find a quick fun way to explain. Sometimes I'll use jelly beans for a math problem or another fun diversion because he gets to eat them at the end . As he gets older it'll be harder to divert his attention, but for now it helps.

8. I let him know when I don't understand a concept.

Confession alert! There have been a few homework assignments I absolutely had no idea how to do. So I wrote a little note on his homework for the teacher that read, "Balthazar's mom has no idea how to do this. Please don't hold it against him." It lets him know even adults don't always get the concept as well as letting his teacher know he'll need some extra attention on that one the next day.

9. I don't correct things the teacher doesn't correct.

My kid is at an age where best-guess spelling is allowed and even encouraged. So if there is something like spelling that the teacher isn't correcting, I don't correct it either. I don't want him to feel criticized by me.

RELATED: Kids Don't Need Homework in Kindergarten

10. I ask for support materials in advance from school.

Not only do I make sure to read all the notes and info that comes home for parents from school, I also ask at the beginning of the school year if there is support material I can have on hand that will help me know what the kids are working on in school. We didn't have Singapore math when I was a kid so it's helpful to know how the teachers are teaching a concept so I can help my son with homework in the same way the teacher is.

Explore More: elementary school, advice, education
More from kids