As children enter
elementary school, they have their first experience with homework.
Kindergartners and first graders usually have mini mal assignments,
while older children are gradually given more. Some teachers assign
work every night and some give homework every Monday to be completed
by Friday. Many kids resist doing their homework, causing family
struggles and frustration.
“Why won’t she finish her reading and be done with it?” “Why do I
have to yell before he’ll get started?” “Why does she wait until the
last minute?” Parents want their child to be responsible and do her
work carefully and on time. They don’t like resorting to arguments,
bribes, and threats.
There are many reasons why children struggle with homework.
Assignments maybe confusing: “Did she say finish page thirty-three
or thirty-six?” “I don’t remember what to do with these math
problems.” A child who has difficulty in school or who lacks the
skills to complete her work may become angry and refuse to do—or
even acknowledge assignments: “I hate homework!” “I don’t have any
Many kids are bored with their assignments and are therefore
reluctant to do them: “I already know how to spell these science
words.” Common weekly tasks have students copying spelling words
over and over or coloring in mimeographed pictures. Even to parents,
assignments can seem time-consuming and pointless.
Some children have problems with homework because of their
schedules. They go from school to after-school activities or child
care and may not arrive home until early evening. With limited time
to eat dinner, be with family and friends, and relax, a child may
put off homework.
Parents may find that struggles intensify in the evening. If a child
is too tired or too distracted to do homework at night, her parents
should encourage her to get some or all of it done after school.
Most child care centers provide a quiet workspace. If she comes home
in the afternoon, her parents can arrange a flexible schedule of
play and homework. This is usually better than a rigid requirement
to finish homework first.
To help your child become more responsible about homework, try some
of these suggestions. Have her write down assignments in a special
notebook. When she comes home from school, find out what her
homework instructions are. That way you’ll learn what she’s doing in
school and when she has long assignments. This will help you avoid
late-night surprises: “I just remembered. My book report and poster
are due tomorrow.” One father found himself at the drugstore at 9:00
at night buying supplies for his son’s school project.
Sit with your child while she does homework. Since the kitchen is
often the center of family activity, have her work at the table
while you prepare food, read, or pay bills. Take short breaks
together. Offer your help, but be prepared for possible arguments
about assignments. Kids often take their anger out on parents since
they can’t yell at a teacher. Your child might resist your
suggestions: “It doesn’t matter if it’s neat.” “That’s not the way
my teacher said to do it.” “I know my vocabulary words. I don’t need
to go over them.” Be gentle when pointing out mistakes, and, if
necessary, set limits on your child’s way of expressing herself:
“When you can explain what you need in a calmer way, I’ll be happy
to help you.” Occasionally, if she’s bogged down with repetitive
work you know she understands, it’s all right to help her out with
If she has trouble with a particular subject, consider offering more
intensive help yourself or hiring a tutor. If your child
consistently struggles to complete assignments, speak to the
teacher. The work may be inappropriate or too difficult. You should
work with the teacher to improve your child’s academic experiences,
Your child will probably continue to need reminders about home work.
At times you’ll have to be firm: “You have to start your home work
right now.” By third or fourth grade, although she’ll still need
some help, she will be more responsible about getting her work done