Homework—How to Keep the Peace and Help Your Child

Being a parent is tough—juggling dinner prep while sending a work email, paying bills, doing the laundry, organizing carpools—and all you want to do is sit down and relax! But then your boss calls, peppering you with questions about a report that is due the next day. While your boss is likely trying to be supportive, you’re finding that it’s really not that helpful. When it comes to children and their homework, they can feel the same way.

Knowing how to support children with their homework can be tricky for many parents because they are often unsure how to balance letting their children work it out alone and offering help. A recent study(1) found that parents helping with homework was linked to higher levels of motivation and engagement, but too much involvement was linked to lower levels of academic achievement.

If children are struggling with homework by either procrastinating or avoiding doing their schoolwork, parents may find themselves nagging or reprimanding their children. Unfortunately doing so usually results in power struggles, creating a conflict between children and parents that causes unhappiness in children and negatively affects the parent-child relationship. Going forward, children may be less likely to seek their parent’s comfort and support.

Also, instead of focusing on how they will feel if they don’t do their homework and have to tell their teacher it isn’t done, children will focus on resisting their parent’s forcing them to do their homework. This can actually interfere with a child finding his own motivation to want to do his work. If parents stay positive and available to help without putting pressure on him, he will be more likely to find his own motive to learn and want to be successful. This self-motivation stays with children even when parents are no longer around to guide them, such as when they go off to college.

So, when homework feels like it's moving towards a battlefield, how can parents instead support their children while also maintaining a positive relationship?

Understanding Your Child’s Perspective

Often when children struggle with completing their homework, it is almost always due to an emotional response. So, when considering how best to help your child with her homework, it’s helpful to consider why homework is a struggle by identifying what’s upsetting her about the work. Here are some things to consider:

A Bad Day Sometimes children have a bad day–they can’t find their favorite pen during English class, they weren’t able to sit next to their friend during lunch, or they forgot their gym shoes and felt embarrassed.

Learned Process Doing homework is a learned process. Young learners don’t automatically know how to do a worksheet, how to approach every math problem, or where to look to find answers