Simple strategies to end the homework wars

Boy studying a map
Do battles over homework leave you – and your children – seething? Moira Holden looks at ways to make homework time run more smoothly.

1. Don’t make yourself out to be a ‘super scholar’

You don’t want your child to think found school work effortless – they’ll feel they fall short by comparison. Confide in them about times when you failed to do homework properly and how you felt when the consequences hit home – a bad mark, or a deflated feeling when you realised you hadn’t accomplished what you were capable of.

2. Sit down next to them

“It’s easy to become frustrated with your child, assuming the worst about their ability to apply themselves,” says author of Happy Kids Happy You, Sue Beever. “However, a response driven from this negative perspective is unlikely to get a good result. By moving to join them, side by side, you will quite literally see things from their perspective, gaining valuable insights into what they are engaged with. You can then redirect their focus, or incorporate what they are doing into the homework task. If they are simply staring into space, rest assured that their imagination is extremely active and, again, finding out what they are thinking about in a calm and curious manner is a great opener to then redirect.”

3. Head outside

“When it comes to science, make it real,” says primary school teacher Kevin Godby. “Show them a flower and point to the stamens and stigma. Go for a walk, take a book to identify the birds, and use the words ‘predator’ and ‘prey’.”

4. Praise before you criticise

If your child struggles, make sure you praise the effort they’re putting into homework. Don’t point out the wrong bits first – acknowledge the good parts before gently encouraging corrections.

5. Point out the pros and cons

“If you feel yourself getting sucked into a confrontation with your defiant child, take a moment to notice how much attention you are giving them,” says Sue. “Now you’re no longer hooked into this pattern of behaviour, you can calmly and clearly state the negative consequences of their actions, for example poor test results, teacher’s wrath or loss of privileges such as TV/computer time. Follow up immediately with the alternative positive consequences of them getting on with their homework – good results, praise and any appropriate rewards. Then leave them to decide. Walk away and get busy with something else.”