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Please tell me that I am not alone in this.   The dreaded homework battles.   I think that each child seems to go through them at some point: complaining about doing their schoolwork.

Just when we broke past the homework battles with our oldest son (seven years old), our second son (five years old) picked them up (he doesn’t even have real homework yet, his ‘homework’ is just what I have him do… reading, writing, basic math).  When our son fights me on homework these tips that I am going to share put it to a stop.   I will tell you what I’ve done that has worked pretty well… but I’d love for you to tell me what you do, as well!

Let me lay it out for you (this was us last year): 

Me: “Time to get started on your homework”
Kids: “No…  Mom… I don’t want to read my book.”
Me: “lets go.”
Kids: “After dinner,  OK?”
Me: “Now.”

Fast forward twenty minutes.. we are now reading.
Me: “Just sound it out”
Kids: “I can’t”
Me: “Stop saying ‘I can’t’ – you CAN!  You just have to try.  Remember what you know.  Find your word chunks and read those first.”
Kids: “Mooooooommmmmmm…  just tell me the word.”
Me: “You’ll never learn to read on your own if I tell you the words that are tricky.   You can do this.  Just TRY.”
Kids: “Mmmmooooommmmm” …

Ok- that was my life for the first 4 months of school when our son started Kindergarten last year.

Here is how we put a STOP to that (well- for the most part, anyways!):

1).  Timing:  They have to do their homework as soon as they get home.  Well, after a quick snack.
Homework comes BEFORE TV, before playtime, before sports.    Yes, we have been late to sports practice because we are doing homework, but school is our first priority.   My parents used to tell me “School is your only job” when I was in school, so I try to relay this same message to our boys.   I want them to like school, but they need to know that their schoolwork comes first, before playtime.

I have had to let our kids learn this the hard way.   Just recently, our boys wanted to play outside first (before homework) and promised to get it done before we had to leave for soccer practice, but I knew that they may not get their work done in time and I told our oldest son that “You only have one hour before we have to leave.  Do you think that you will have time to do your homework?”  He said Yes, so I let him take the lead on this, knowing that this probably would not happen, but it was an easy lesson to teach.   They played until 4:30   At 4:30 they came in to get ready and to eat.  5:00 rolled around and it was time to go to practice.

Guess what?
The homework was NOT finished and our son was thirty minutes late to practice.  He had to run extra laps for being late, but guess what happened the next day?    Yep- you guessed it.   He did his homework as soon as he got home the next day.   He taught himself a lesson that he will remember forever- work before play.

A social media ad with colored pencils at the top.

2).  If they whine or complain, they do their homework ALONE, in their room.
Our kids like to do their homework in the kitchen, just like I did when I was  younger.   They like to have me there to help them if they need it and just to be around everyone.  If they start to whine or cry, they go to their room to do it alone and bring it down to be checked at the end.  I say “I am not going to listen to you whine about this.  It has to be done and now you will have to do it alone.  If you are ready to do it without whining, I’d love to have you join us again.”
I do this for a couple of reasons:
1- If they continue to whine, I will probably end up yelling and I don’t like to yell.
2- I don’t want them teaching their younger siblings that they can get away with whining about homework.


3).  They read the directions themselves.   If they can’t that is OK, but I do want them to try.  (We can do it together, so I’ll read most and they read a little.)
So- they read it and tell me what they think they need to do ( great for reading comprehension).

4). If they come to a tricky word, I will NOT tell them what it is… at first.  I will teach them how to sound it out by finding small words in the big word. (looking for word chunks)   If they still can’t figure it out, I will tell them (a lot of times I find that names really throw them for a loop and I end up telling them the name.)

I really can not stand it when our kids say “I can’t” because they CAN.   It might just take a little more effort or work on their parts or on my part.   I just remind them “You are smart and you are a hard worker, so you can do this.  Crying will not make it better.  I will not do it for you no matter how much you want me too, so we can just finish this up now or you can whine for an hour before you do it, but either way, you will be doing it because you can.   I will help you or not, but you are a smart boy so when you are ready, so am I.”

This POST is one that really shows you why being positive for your kids is so important- I love this one. 

If you still need some help- consider using a children’s reward chart for this.  A childrens reward chart is a fun and easy way to let your kids be responsible for themselves.   In the end- that is what we want from them: Independent, responsible adults.  (Well, let be honest- we really don’t want them to grow up, but since they have to anyways, let help them to be the best adults that they can!)

What works for one child doesn’t always work for another.  We have two more kiddos (four kids total) that aren’t doing homework yet and I would love to avoid the homework battles with them in the future.   What works for your child?  Do your kids do their homework with you or alone?  Do you have them do it after school or before bed?




Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. Wow. If it were only this simple in my case. I have my 1st grader doing homework right after school & she sits there until bedtime resisting. Right now she has spent 45 minutes answering 3 simple spelling questions. She plays with her pencil. Doodles on the paper. Anything except what she’s supposed to be doing. The teacher said nothing is wrong with her. She is just a daydreamer. The teacher noted she is extremely intelligent and reads on a 3rd grade level. She is not a “gifted” child, though and it’s not an issue of boredom. She will get 100% on a test review and turn around and fail the test when it counts. Her lowest grades are ZERO percents. She is stubborn and she will hold old until the bitter end to prove her point. There is nothing you can take away from her (losing privileges, etc.) that will move her and anything offer as a new incentive (here’s a new toy, new bike, new game, candy) only lasts 1-2 times before she’s back to her old tricks. It’s absolutely PAINFUL.

    1. Have you ever tried asking the teacher if she can take a test while she is not distracted? Maybe in another room? I’m wondering if begin distracted is part of it? Same with the homework- what if you put her in a room with almost nothing in there to distract her. I ask this because this was the case with our son, too. I also had a few students like this. I wish that I had more advice for you! Sending luck your way…