So your kid hates homework? Mine too. My daughter fights me about it almost every day. And as a teacher, itsi a little shameful to me. But you know what? We still get it done every.single.day. It takes a little creativity, and a lot of energy, but there are ways to take the battle out of homework time. If you find yourself looking for a way to help a child that hates homework, here are some strategies you can try.
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Break The Time Up
Sometimes, little bodies just aren’t meant to sit still for so long. Consider building in breaks to your homework routine. Maybe they complete spelling, then take a snack break before starting in on math. While we want to get homework over with quickly, this might not work best for your child. Experiment until you find the length of time they seem able to attend to a task, and then go from there.
Take it Outside
There’s no hard and fast rule that you need to do homework at a desk or the kitchen table. Sure, routines are great- but sometimes they are the very thing getting in your way.
So if your child is fussing about their homework, why not take the homework outside? Give them the option to complete it at the picnic table in the backyard, or even head to the park and do it. That playground will offer a great incentive to stop stalling and start working- especially if you tell them they can play when the homework is done.
Change Up Preferred and Non-Preferred Assignments
Allow your child to choose what assignment they’ll do first. I know it makes sense to us to get the hard one out of the way, but your child may feel differently. Putting them in the driver’s seat can take away some of the battle.
You can also break the homework into chunks and let them take turns completing something they like (like drawing) and something they don’t (writing). Kids get fatigued with tasks over time, and it’s nice to change it up when this happens.
Bribery gets a bad rap in the parenting world, but I am here to tell you- a little bribery is fine. I’m not saying to use this one every day, but on a bad day? Break out the gummies and quarters- this assignment is getting DONE.
Sometimes I’ll give my daughter a sticker after each section she completes. Others, I’ll pay her a quarter when the whole thing is finished. And on one particularly bad day that I remember, I literally fed her a goldfish for each letter she wrote. The bottom line is that reinforcements WORK. Don’t be afraid to use them.
“But Jaymi, won’t my kid expect a reward every time they do something?” Well, I don’t know. You know your kid better than I do, so you need to plan for YOUR child. For Lila, some days we need reinforcements, but most days we don’t. The trick is to keep it sporadic, and to treat it as a special occurrence. Sometimes you can tell homework is going to be a battle before you even start- and THOSE are the best days to use this.
You also don’t want to connect the reinforcement with bad behavior. You can’t reward a full tantrum with the promise of a quarter. My daughter hasn’t yet connected the reinforcement to her hesitance to do homework (read: “If I act naughty, she’ll bust out the crackers.”). If/when this happens, we’ll be done with bribery. But until then, occasional rewards for work are ok with this teacher-mom.
Use Different Materials
We routinely complete my daughter’s homework with crayons, or even mom’s “fancy pens.” As long as your teacher doesn’t have a policy against it, changing up the writing instrument can make a big difference in your child’s willingness to work.
The same goes for other tasks, as well. Maybe instead of drawing out pictures for their math work, they could use stickers instead. You can ask your child’s teacher if this is a problem, but frankly, I never do. It’s not a huge deal, and your child’s teacher is unlikely to make it one.
My daughter hates drawing. Like, HATES. So whenever a dreaded drawing assignment comes up (and this is kindergarten, folks- it comes up a LOT), we draw together. I draw a body on my paper. She draws one on hers. I draw two eyes. She draws two eyes. And so on.
This strategy works in two ways. First, it helps structure a task that your child perceives as being “too hard.” Second, if your child is competitive, they might get a kick out of trying to make their picture better than yours, or by trying to get more math problems right.
Work Alongside Them
Once in a while, I’ll hear that “it’s not fair” that my daughter has homework when no one else does. When this happens, I remind her that we all have work. Often, I’ll even break out a task of my own and work on it while she’s getting hers done. It’s a good reminder that we all have things we need to do, and this is hers.
On other days, I’ll duplicate my daughter’s homework (either by doing the same thing or actually making a physical copy) and I’ll “race” her to get it done. This works especially well on things that are meant to be completed quickly (think spelling words, timed reading or timed math practice). It adds a little extra fun to an otherwise boring assignment, and we knock it out quickly.
Need More Help for a Child That Hates Homework?
If you’ve tried everything and your kid is still struggling to complete the homework, it might be time to talk to the teacher. I recommend sending them a nice note requesting a quick meeting. Keep the tone light and blame-free, and focus on working together to solve the problem.
There are several ways that homework can be modified for kids who are struggling. Ask the teacher if they would be willing to accommodate your child’s need by adjust the quantity, time, or format of the work. Let your teacher know the specific tasks your child is struggling with, and ask (politely but firmly) how the teacher can accommodate for your child’s needs.
Be specific here. Saying the homework is “too long” or “too hard” is not going to help you much. It’s likely to make it look a lot more like you think your kid is a “special snowflake” instead of someone with an actual struggle in need of help.
Providing concrete examples and data is crucial to getting a teacher on board with modifying assignments. Saying that your child really struggles with assignments longer than seven questions, that homework takes them an average of 90 minutes per night, or that they struggle with the written portion of spelling practice can go a long way to showing your child’s teacher what needs to be done to solve the problem.
While the rest of the class might do ten math problems on a given night, perhaps your child can do five instead. Ask your teacher if your child can complete even or odd numbers, or if they’re willing to reduce the spelling work from writing five times each to three times each. Find a way to reduce the amount of homework they are doing without reducing the skills being practiced.
This suggestion is similar to quantity, but sometimes teachers find it more agreeable. Instead of reducing the amount of work a child does, you can ask that they be given more time to work on it. If most kids turn in the homework on Friday, ask that your child be allowed to turn it in on Monday instead. That will give you extra time to work on it, without asking for a reduction in workload.
Think outside of the box on this one, and see if you can get your child’s teacher to do the same. Ask if they would be okay with your daughter practicing her spelling words out loud instead of writing them out. See if you can let them dictate responses to questions while you type them out. Ask if your child can give a book report in front of the class instead of writing it all down.
The response you get from your child’s teacher is likely going to depend on how far you stray from the assignment’s purpose. So if they’re going to be receiving a writing grade, the teacher is probably not going to be okay with your child not writing that paper. But if the point is to learn how to spell words, the way they learn it might not matter too much.
Only ask for this one if your kid is REALLY on the struggle bus with homework. But say your kid is a genius when it comes to spelling, and has more difficulty with math. Ask the teacher if your child might be allowed to skip the spelling homework for a few weeks while you try to get the math challenges under control.
It’s a hail mary, but think how much easier your life would be with a little less on your plate. And you’ll never know what’s possible unless you ask. Why not give it a try?
And if they say yes, thank them profusely and then head straight to Starbucks so their next coffee is on you. That is a high quality teacher right there, and you want them to know that their understanding is appreciated.