As school starts back up again, so does homework…and with homework comes power struggles. Whether it is feeling the need to constantly check up on whether homework has been done or not, the quality of effort, or finding time to squeeze it in, homework can be a major source of stress for families. Here are three tips to help handle homework hassles and hopefully make the transition back into the school year go a bit smoother:

Make a Homework Plan

Set a time to sit down and make a plan about how your child plans to get homework done. Agree on what is allowed before or after homework [no screens until homework is done, they can play outside for 30 minutes prior to homework etc.] Some kids are early risers and fresher in the morning, others do best right after school. Don’t assume you know the best time for your child, let them guide the process. If you have multiple kids they may not all be wired the same. Write up a homework agreement and let it play out for two weeks. Pay attention to what you see [are they starting too late? Are the rushing through?] Schedule a homework check-in and let them know what you have been observing, and make any changes necessary. Working homework into a morning or evening routine that is visible for everyone helps externalize the expectations.

Put It In Their Hands

Part of what causes so much homework anxiety is that parents feel a responsibility for their children’s work. However, homework is their work, not yours. Set up a routine and then let your child be responsible for it. Schedule times when you are available to help [between 7-8am, or after dinner between 6:30-7:30pm]. Don’t allow poor planning or last-minute needs to dominate the family. For larger projects schedule trips to the library or to the store for supplies ahead of time. If there is a serious learning problem then it is appropriate to talk with the teacher or hire a tutor, but outside of that one the of best life skills a child can learn is to take responsibility for their own work. Additionally, parents often have specific grade expectations for their children. But if the child is not motivated to get the same grade you are inviting power struggles. A better way to approach grades is to ask the child what grade they would like in the class. If they say “C+” you can let them know you would love for them to get a higher grade than that, but ultimately their grades are in their hands. Then make as plan for what they will need to do in order to achieve that grade. Avoid hovering, nagging, or being overly involved with the teacher. Too often parents bring their own fears and worries to a situation they actually can’t control.

Let School Be School

There are built in consequences at school regarding homework. If your child is forgetful, it is not helpful to them to remember for them. Set up an external reminder system that lets the child take responsibility [a calendar that has due dates, a note on the door etc.] If they forget their homework, let the consequences at school play out. Or if your child simply chooses not to do their homework that week then they will have to face their teacher. Let the consequences of school play out at school, but don’t pile on at home. You can let your child’s teacher know that you will no longer be nagging or reminding about homework, because you see school as your child’s job. There is no need to add grounding or take away privileges because they got in trouble at school. Instead sit down with them and figure out what they can do differently. It is your chance to make it a teachable moment rather than a punishable moment.

Homework is an opportunity for children to learn how to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own choices. Being an advocate, a support, and an encourager is appropriate for a parent - however we want to avoid using shame or punishment as a motivator. Show faith in your children that they can do hard things and they can get the work done. And remember, sometimes the best way for children to learn is the suffer the built-in consequences that come with their decision.