, Newburyport, MA


December 4, 2013

The Daily Parent: How to avoid the homework wars


2. Try to facilitate rather than intimidate. I’ve been there. You can beg, plead, bribe, cajole and threaten, but these tactics only achieve temporary acquiescence and, in the long run, lose effectiveness entirely, forcing you to continually find ways to up the ante. It’s best to stay positive even when you don’t feel that way.

Use praise, focus on what kids are doing well, downplay poor performance and, in any way you can, defuse the tension. Humor is always good! A little levity goes a long way toward cooling things down. Let your children feel that you are on their team. You expect them to do their homework, but you will not engage in power struggles that exhaust everyone and serve as a passive-aggressive method that kids use to continue avoiding the work.

3. Shift the responsibility from you to your child. This can be hugely challenging, but it is crucial that children learn as early as possible that if they do not do their homework, the consequences fall on them, not you. The only way they can learn this is if you are willing to let them fail. As long as you are providing appropriate support and a structured environment, it is OK to let your child assume the bulk of the responsibility.

Young children who are just learning to do homework obviously need hand-holding, but older kids, especially those nearing and in middle school, can be expected to be increasingly independent. They can come to you with questions, but it is not your job to “get them through” their homework every day by standing over them and interacting with them the whole time. Step out of that role and let your upper elementary or middle school child try to fly solo, especially on routine homework. If he or she does not do it, let the zero or the “incomplete” be his or her teacher.

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