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5 Steps To Avoid Homework Hassles


Reoccurring homework hassles are a source of considerable conflict within families that result in frayed nerves, angry outbursts, shattered self-esteem and deteriorating family relationships.

There is a solution! These five steps should help.

Step # 1 – Determine the Cause of the Problem

There are essentially 2 reasons why children resist homework; the work is too difficult or they simply do not want to do the work.

The work is too hard - If the content is beyond his/her capability, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the child have a learning problem?
  • A psychological problem?
  • A family problem?
  • An organizational problem?
  • A physical problem?
  • A developmental delay?

If the answer to any of the above is “yes”, these issues need to be resolved before the homework avoidance problem can be addressed. It is unethical and cruel to expect a child to complete homework assignments that are beyond their capabilities. It is the responsibility of the parents to advocate for their child and seek out the assistance (educational, medical, counseling, etc) that he/she needs.

They simply do not want to do the work - Your child may see the work as too boring, view it as irrelevant, or be more interested in TV, video games, etc.

This is the child that does work too fast, too slow, too carelessly, fails to bring the assignment home or does as little as possible while making excuses. He is attempting to manipulate his way out of his responsibilities. Failure to appropriately address these homework-avoiding behaviours can lead to problems, escalating into other areas of his life.

Step # 2 – Set Goals

Homework is assigned to the child by the teacher for 2 reasons:

  • to provide opportunities to practice and improve skills
  • to teach responsibility, self-discipline, independence, perseverance and time management

Both of these are worthy goals, however most parents and teachers agree that the latter goal holds far more importance than simply improving the skills of that particular exercise.

Help your child see the end goal and take steps towards obtaining it. If the assignment is a large project, break it down with small steps spread out over a period of time. This will help make the task manageable and each successful goal completed is reason to celebrate.

Step # 3 – Establish Responsibilities

The assigning and completion of homework involves 3 participants, each with their own distinct role to play. If each player fulfills their own responsibilities, the homework will be completed without a hassle. Problems occur when one or more of the participants do more or less than their own part.

The Teacher’s Responsibilities

  • assign appropriate work (amount and level of difficulty)
  • provide instructions
  • provide materials
  • provide deadlines
  • provide encouragement
  • provide feedback (to student and parent)

The Child’s Responsibilities

  • ensure he/she understands the assignment
  • ensure books and resources are brought home
  • start on time
  • do the work with limited assistance
  • turn the work in on time
  • accept responsibility for his/her efforts

The Parents’ Responsibilities

  • establish a regular homework routine (time, place, materials, etc.)
  • provide limited assistance
  • establish appropriate consequences for compliance and noncompliance
  • follow through with consequences

When each participant does their own part, the system is in balance and hassles are non-existent. If any of the players do more or less than what is expected, the system becomes out of balance, the goals will not be achieved and the result will be homework hassles.

It is important to understand that the primary participants in the assigning and completion of homework are the teacher and the child. The parents’ role is critical but secondary as their chief responsibility is to be a facilitator.

Step #4 - Determine the Source of the Imbalance

If homework hassles are occurring, it means the system is out of balance. Someone is not fulfilling his or her responsibilities. I believe the best approach to balance the system is for the 2 adult players to sit down together and determine where the breakdown is occurring:

  1. Is the workload appropriate? Is it too hard? Is it too much? Does the child understand what is expected and when it is due? Is the teacher providing feedback to the child and the parent?
  2. Is there an established time and place for homework completion? Are parents available to provide limited assistance? Are consequences for compliance and noncompliance appropriate and are they following through?
  3. Is the child bringing his assignments home? Is he/she starting on time? Is he/she asking for help when needed? Is he/she making a reasonable effort? Is the work being turned in on time?

It is not uncommon for the adults (teacher and/or parents) to be partly responsible for the system to become unbalanced. It is easy to fall into the trap of reminding, nagging, lecturing, coercing, arguing, doing some of the work, extending deadlines, etc. when the child is failing to carry out his/her responsibilities. The adults are unwittingly being manipulated into doing more than they should in hopes of motivating the child to follow through on his/her responsibilities. They, in effect, have become enablers.

Step # 5 - “Righting” the Out-of-Balanced System

Clarifying the role of the parents and the teacher is the initial step in remedying the imbalance. A united front between the home and school minimizes the “wiggle room” available to a homework-resisting child.

A daily communication system should to be established in order to ensure that parents know what the assignments are. Most schools provide children with daily planners that are ideal for this purpose. It is the responsibility of the child to clearly list his homework assignments and ensure that the teacher initials it. Failure on the child’s part to bring the initialed planner home every night results in a meaningful consequence administered by the parent (no computer, no TV, early bedtime, monetary fine, etc. for that evening).

Each day the child is expected to show the planner to his/her parents and begin the homework at the appropriate time and put forth an acceptable effort. The parents MUST refrain from reminders, lectures, threats, arguing, yelling, anger, etc. but are available to give limited assistance when requested by the child.

If the child doesn’t follow through on homework responsibilities, they will lose all after school privileges until the day’s work is satisfactorily completed (TV, computer, playtime, phone, etc). Failure to have the week’s homework assignments completed results in the loss of all weekend privileges.

The pressure is now on the child to follow through on his responsibilities. Noncompliance results in negative consequences and compliance results in restoration of privileges.


Expect your homework-avoiding child to protest, complain, grumble, whine and attempt to deflect responsibility onto everyone but himself. He may yell “I don’t care!”, “This is stupid!”, “I hate you!”. Parents must not be goaded into responding in kind. Simply acknowledge his displeasure in an emotionless manner and state “You don’t have to like it, but you have to do it”.

The keys to balancing an unbalanced homework system are:

  • Mom, Dad and teacher ensure that the homework assignments are appropriate for the child
  • Clarify the responsibilities of the 3 participants
  • Establish a communication system between home and school
  • Ensure that parents and teachers do their part and only their part
  • Monitor the child’s efforts and provide feedback
  • Enforce the consequences for both satisfactory and unsatisfactory efforts

Your child will probably not like this new system and may act out or voice his displeasure in disturbing ways in an effort to get you to capitulate.

In fact, this rebalancing system is designed to compel a homework-avoiding child to become uncomfortable enough to change his ways. It will undoubtedly take some time for your child to learn this lesson but eventually it will become apparent that homework completion is his/her responsibility. Hold firm and allow the system to teach the lessons homework is intended to teach – responsibility, perseverance, independence, self-discipline and time management.

Have you had to deal with Homework Hassles? What tips have you learned from experience?

Posted by Rick Harper in Parent, General ← Previous Post Next Post →

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