PCOM Moms Next

May 2016

Homework Hassles

Homework hassles; it’s a problem that has been plaguing parents since the inception of school. After seven hours in the classroom, who wants to sit down and do homework? Certainly not most 6- to 8-year-olds. They would rather play with their friends, participate in an after-school activity, or simply unwind in front of the TV. Because let's face it: Homework may help your child learn, but it's still a major chore.

Kids this age are getting used to the idea of having to do assignments on their own, and many of them are more concerned with socializing than with schoolwork.

So don't be too surprised if your child complains about their workload: Almost half of parents said they have serious arguments with their children about homework. But it doesn't need to be a source of stress. These strategies will make studying a lot easier on you both.

Start with a snack and exercise. You can't expect your child to focus when he has an empty stomach. Robin Lanahan, of Portland, Oregon, keeps turkey jerky, protein bars, bottled water, and trail mix in the car for her son, Owen, 7. "He's always starving when I pick him up from school, so the first thing I do is give him something to eat," she says. Lanahan then lets Owen run around the playground for a while. "By the time we walk in the door, he's ready to do his homework."

Establish a routine. Ask your child to suggest a regular time when she'd like to do her schoolwork (such as when you're making dinner). Have a backup plan in place for days when she has a piano lesson or soccer practice. If your child has a playdate, suggest that the kids take a break to do their homework together. Your our child may want to do his reading assignment on the ride home from school, since this makes good use of "dead time."

Help him get organized. Set up a well-lit work area that includes a desk, sharpened pencils and erasers, a children's dictionary, and color-coded folders for different subjects. And let your child do homework at the kitchen table if he wants to. Just make sure he works independently rather than taking advantage of this location to ask you endless questions.

Put her in charge. The most important purpose of homework is to teach your child responsibility for completing an assignment. If she forgets to bring home her spelling words, have her call a friend to get them. While it's fine to offer gentle reminders ("Remember that you have math and reading assignments on Wednesdays"), don't nag your child to get her work done. Let her deal with the consequences if she doesn't.

Free up their schedule. If your child has too many extracurricular activities, he'll have trouble finding time for homework. He'll also miss out on downtime, which is important for sparking creative thinking. To keep Owen from feeling overscheduled, Lanahan limits him to just one extracurricular activity that takes place no more than twice a week. "On the other days, he comes home, does his homework, then plays outside with his friends," she says.

Don't break it up. Once your child begins her homework, encourage her to complete it before getting on the computer or playing "one quick video game." Rather than refreshing a child's focus, frequent or lengthy breaks can distract her and make it easy for her to procrastinate.

Be a role model. When her son, Ari, 7, is working on his math homework, Julie Hoffman, of Baton Rouge, makes a point of sorting her mail and paying bills. "I want him to see me working alongside him and to know that what he's doing will have a practical application in his life," she says.

Stay positive. Praise your child's good work, and don't overreact to his errors. When he asks you to test him on his spelling words, say "great" each time he gets one right. If he makes a mistake, say "almost," spell it correctly, and have him try again.

Give her guidance, not answers. It's fine to assist your child with her homework, but never do an assignment for her. "This robs a child of her pride of ownership of the task and creates a pattern that is hard to break," says Cathy Vatterott, PhD, associate professor of education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Just remember: Homework is their job, not yours.

Steve Cuffari

Steve Cuffari, MA, MFTLicensed Marriage and Family Therapist, MFT 44845


Since the year 2000, Steve's clinical experience has been focused on strengthening the emotional bonds of couples and their families. Steve and his parenting advice have been featured twice on TBN's show, "Joy in Our Town."

In addition to doing therapy, Steve is an Assistant Professor or Psychology at Vanguard University. Since 2000 he has taught several classes: Developmental Psychology, Behavior Modification, Social Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Psychology of the Family, and Foundations of Christian Life. Steve holds a Master of Arts degree in Religion from Vanguard University, and a second M.A. from Azusa Pacific University in Clinical Psychology.