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How to Handle It When a Child Hates Doing Homework

You know your child should develop effective study habits, but when homework time rolls around, you’d like to jump on a boat and sail away. His dislike for homework is turning your household upside down.

Since homework helps a child extend learning, take on responsibility, work independently, manage time and problem-solve, it’s important that your child gets on the right homework track, says Judy Voigt, mother and former Nevada educator. Put some tried-and-true practices into place so the relationship you have with your child can stay positive as he learns to navigate his way through homework. Evenings at your house could be back to normal in no time.

Act As a Guide

When a child hates homework, sometimes it’s because he just doesn’t know where to begin. Sit with him when he first starts his homework. Talk about each assignment and see if he has any questions about how to tackle them. Help him break longer assignments into manageable parts. Once he starts working, stay close to check on his progress and answer questions. This helps you tune in to what he’s learning and makes it easier to communicate with teachers.

“When your child gets frustrated, you might be tempted to just give him an answer, but that’s a mistake,” says Voigt. He’ll learn to depend on you and won’t think for himself. Support him and help him problem-solve and figure out strategies, but don’t do the work for him.

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Create a Practical Study Area

If your child isn’t comfortable in her study spot, she’ll be irritated and distracted and want to chuck the homework altogether. Involve her in the design of the space. Some kids work best in isolated areas; others like to be out in the open at a dining table or a desk that’s near family members. Make sure the area is quiet and well lit.

“Don’t underestimate the power of the right tools,” says Voigt. Set the space up like an office. With your child’s help, gather supplies that she’ll need throughout the school year. Include items such as a stapler, a calculator, pencils and paper, a ruler and art supplies. She won’t be as quick to cut corners if needed materials are at her fingertips. Hang a bulletin board and a calendar so she can keep track of due dates.

Establish a Routine

If your child hates doing homework, he’ll fight you every step of the way. Create a predictable pattern. If he knows what to expect ahead of time, he won’t be as upset when you interrupt his football game to tell him that it’s homework time. Allow him choices in the development of the routine. When does he think he’d be most productive doing homework? Most kids want to grab a snack and unwind for a while when they get home from school. Others need to dig right in while they’re in the school “mode," then kick back afterward. Stick to the routine, and it will have a calming effect on your child. Build in breaks so he can get fresh air and stretch his legs between assignments.

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Develop a Reward System

Good grades are enough to motivate some children to do homework, but others need an additional push. Design an incentive program that gives your child something to work toward. “Rewards are not bribes,” warns Voigt. Don’t bargain with your child: “If you finish this math sheet, I’ll give you five dollars.” A reward is given when a child accepts responsibilities for a given period of time.

Develop the reward system with your child. She’s more likely to buy into it if she feels a sense of ownership. It can be as simple as getting to do something special when the work is done, such as talking on the phone, pulling a small item from a grab bag or playing a game. It might be a more elaborate plan that involves earning points all week to “purchase” a reward, such as a trip to the mall with friends on Saturday. Goals for rewards must be specific, says Voigt. If your child’s problem is forgetting to write down homework assignments, the goal could be, “Write all homework assignments in the daily planner Monday through Friday.”

Use Available Resources

Children hate doing work they don’t understand, and you may not remember the material well enough to give a reasonable explanation. This heightens your child’s angst. Take advantage of online resources. Math is often a stumbling block, and sites such as math.com offer detailed explanations and examples.

Most teachers will provide help to struggling students before or after school, says Voigt. Some schools have programs designed for the purpose of helping children with homework. See if your child’s school has such a program. If you have the budget, hire a private tutor. Some children butt heads with parents over homework, yet they respond well to outside tutors.

Communicate With School Personnel

Discuss your child’s homework frustration with his teachers. Perhaps the instructors need to put modifications in place. They may be able to provide notes or tools for assistance. They could have suggestions you haven’t considered.

“When a child seriously struggles with homework, there could be an underlying problem, especially with younger children who haven’t yet been identified,” warns Voigt. Perhaps your child has a vision or hearing problem, a learning disability or an attention disorder. Speak to the school counselor or nurse for advice.

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