It’s that time of year again—changing leaves and cooler weather are on the horizon and our news feeds are filled with smiling children toting backpacks for the first time.  While this seems like a beautiful scene, it often quickly devolves into the dreaded “homework battle” for parents and students alike.  Is there any way to avoid this struggle that often continues well into high school?

Thankfully, the answer is “yes”!

Start a Routine

The most important thing to do is set a routine from the beginning of the school year.  This is especially important for students with certain special needs like ADD/ADHD.  Involve your child in the process by allowing them to pick times and locations for homework.  Have a designated spot for homework time where all supplies can be found in one place to eliminate the excuse to hunt around the house for a highlighter or index cards.  Establish a time and routine; for example: come home, have a snack and break from school, begin homework at 4pm.  This can vary depending on students’ schedules with sports and extracurricular activities but the important part is to stay as consistent as possible.

Give Your Child Ownership

School teaches lessons beyond the core subjects.  Two of these lessons that students learn from homework are time management and prioritizing.  Giving students ownership in their homework time will teach these skills in a more long lasting way than simply giving them direction.  Allow students to chime in on their preferences of what works best for them.   This tends to help students feel like they have control over the process rather than always being told what to do, which in turn leads to less resistance from them.

For example, let’s say your child says that he needs a snack and some downtime after the school day before beginning his homework.  You agree that that plan sounds reasonable and that homework time begins at 4:30 until it is completed. Now, your child knows at 4:30 that it is time for homework. If he tries to stretch the time, remind him that this was the time that he agreed worked best.

Get and Stay Organized

Another factor in the homework battle is knowing what needs to be done on any given evening and having all of the necessary materials to complete these tasks. In the beginning of the year, start good organizational habits and reinforce them each evening.  Again, allow students to take ownership of a system that works best for them.  They are the ones that need to use it and the best system is only effective when it is used.

Keeping an agenda is critical.  These days, agendas take many forms.  Personally, I confess that I was never good at keeping a written calendar.  However, now that I have Google calendar that syncs with my phone, I keep up with it regularly.  Give students an opportunity to put a system in place that they can commit to using.

Another key is having a system for remembering homework materials to and from school.  This can be especially challenging for students with certain special needs like ADD/ADHD.  One way to ease the process is to have a folder with pockets.  The left side can be for completed homework that needs to be returned to school; the right side can be for incomplete assignments that need to come home.  As students get older and have more assignments for each class, an accordion folder may be a better option with a tab for each course.  To make these effective, students should use them only for homework and keep notes and other handouts separate.

If students are often leaving important materials at school or vice versa, help your child create a checklist of items that need to come home each day and items that need to be returned each day.  This could then be laminated and the student can use a dry erase marker to check the list each day then erase to start over the following day.

Provide Incentives

In an ideal world, students would all complete their homework and try their best in school because they understand the intrinsic value in an education.  However, this may not be the case with all students and, until that is developed, extrinsic motivation can help.

For younger students, there could be a reward system where students earn a sticker each night that homework is completed and work towards a reward after a certain number is earned. For older students, stickers would not be motivating but the idea of earning privileges may be.  They may earn more freedom on the weekend, computer time, etc.

Call for Backup

If putting these tips in place does not put an end to the homework battle, a tutor may be able to help.  We often hear from parents that having an objective person outside of the family to be the “enforcer” helps relieve some of that stress that was on the parent.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, feel free to contact us to talk about your individual situation.