Oh, the dreaded homework power struggle!
Homework unhappiness occurs for almost every family and how to make homework easier is a question that I was asked often as an elementary school teacher and I am asked now as a parenting educator.
Parents want to know how they can make homework less difficult and, believe it or not, there is a solution! There are tools that can be used to soothe frayed nerves and temper the homework situation.
Before I share the tools though, it is important to understand that most children are exhausted by the end of the school day.
Students have been navigating learning, friendships, recess, and more. Although school is an exciting and enriching place, it can also be tiring emotionally, socially and academically.
When your child walks in the door from school, they are in need of time and space to decompress and reset. It is difficult for most children to go straight from school to homework.
But, don’t just take my word for it!
The first tool that I suggest is holding a family gathering around the table to talk with your child about homework.
Carve out some time on the weekend when everyone is calm and ask your child what they need to make homework feel successful.
- Do they need a snack while they do their homework (this is often very helpful!)?
- Does your child want to play Lego or soccer for 30 minutes before homework begins?
- Would your child benefit from doing homework alone in their bedroom or sitting at the kitchen table?
- Or, perhaps your child wants to try doing their homework straight after school (this can work for some).
There is no right answer of how homework should be done, but I have seen greater success when children come up with a homework plan and have a bit of a break between school and homework.
After you have created your plan, try it for a few weeks. Do you notice a difference in your child’s behavior around homework now that you have tweaked some things?
If not, you can gather again and revise your plan. Know that this plan will continue to ebb and flow as your child grows, but the tradition of inviting your child to help create the plan will remain.
It is important to have your child create a homework plan with you because they will be more engaged and thus power struggles around homework decrease.
In my upcoming book, Break Free from Reactive Parenting, I share a great deal about power struggles.
A power struggle is when you and your child are engaged in an argument where both of you want to control the situation. When parents find themselves in power struggles with their children, reactivity often occurs (examples of reactivity are yelling, bribing and/or overreacting).
Homework is one of the top situations that evoke power struggles throughout the school year.
And, as a parent, you feel the disappointment of this because after school is the time that you finally get to see your child after their long day away.
Changing the narrative around homework, will decrease power struggles and give your home more calm!
I shared the first tool for changing the homework narrative – creating a homework plan with your child.
The other important tool for decreasing homework stress is finding a place of neutrality within yourself before homework begins.
So many of us parents go into homework with a “hurry up” attitude. We want to get through homework as fast as possible and onto our next task of the evening. However, we need to remember that homework is a time where we get to connect with our child. It is an opportunity to spend time together!
I invite parents to take a moment before homework begins to find a pause within – that may look like a brief meditation, dancing to your favorite song or holding a piece of melting ice in your hand and noticing the way it feels as it turns to water. Whatever you choose, use the moment as an opportunity to bring awareness from your mind and into your body.
Whatever your pause looks like, let yourself enter into a more neutral state before starting homework so that you can set the tone in your home.
Homework may never become your child’s most favorite activity to do. That, of course, is okay!
Homework is meant to be a review of what your child is learning at school.
Additionally, homework can teach organizational skills, time management and deepen your child’s understanding of their academic subjects.
To teach those skills though, you will need to spend time helping your child create healthy homework habits and finding ways to make homework feel more approachable. Begin with your family gathering, calm yourself, and my hope is that homework begins to feel less like a chore and more like an opportunity for connection!