Let’s look at this realistically. After a 7 hour school day we expect our elementary school child to come home, sit down with a smile and proclaim, “I worked hard all day to be a good friend, follow the rules and learn some hard stuff, let’s do MORE schoolwork!!” It rarely happens and definitely never happened in my house. However, I do think there are ways that we can avoid homework battles and add some fun in the early years when our children are learning to do homework. Of course the ultimate goal is independence with the initiative to get help when needed but that comes in baby steps…
Make sure your child has some transition time after school. Play outside, have a snack, just have a chat to let your child recharge after a long day. Although TV, video games and computer time let your child tune out, I find it very difficult to bring my children back into focus mode after screen time so leave I that for after homework is finished.
Give your child choices. What homework do you want to do first? Do you want to do your spelling words standing or sitting?
If your child becomes resistant, tell them (in your nicest ready-to-scream-but-won’t voice), “I love you and I want to help you so let me know when you are ready.” Walk away and do something fascinating like laundry and be ready to try again WITHOUT ANGER.
If your child’s resistance persists, this is the time to let them experience homework consequences. Seriously, they are in 3rd grade, do a few unfinished assignments matter if the result is they learn that unfinished homework brings unpleasant consequences and bad grades? Show empathy when you see the grade, “Ouch that grade must bother you, is there anything you can do about it?” This is the time to give your child ownership of their schoolwork NOT turn it into a battle where the child feels no responsibility because they are so lost in the fight with you! Involve the teacher if necessary.
Sometimes a child resists homework because it is too difficult for them. Every child learns at a different rate but if your child’s resistance seems to stem from frustration, talk to the teacher. Your child may need more support at school or a different approach to homework.
Ask for help! Get a local high school or college student to work on homework once a week with your child. Your child may leave the battle behind in working with someone new.
Keep the schedule under control. Some of our worst homework nights were when sports or activities forced us to start homework very late. Now seriously, whose fault is that?
Keep a routine. Young children especially need to know when homework is going to be done.
Some children respond well to rewards. Knowing that they can watch their favorite TV show, pick a dessert or read aloud with Dad can keep them focused.
Pull out the good stuff. Fun pencils, silly erasers, multicolored pens that are only used during homework can help kids stay motivated.
Remember that many of our homework battles come from our own fear. Fear that we will be seen as uninvolved/ineffective parents, fear that our child will never succeed. It is normal for children, especially young children to resist homework. With patience and by carefully avoiding battles, you will help your child develop productive homework habits and study skills.