Susan C. Stone's Practical Parenting Blog dotcom

Avoiding Those “Homework Headaches”

Posted on: September 15, 2011

Now that school is in full swing,  so are the “Homework Headaches”. This can be a daily nightmare effecting your child’s behavior, sleep and relationship with you.  There’s begging, arguing, screaming, and punishing – and that’s just your child! Hitting the bottle and popping pills are some common ways that parents deal with this. Does it have to be this way? NO! But to avoid this dilemma, it’s important to get off to a good start. Here are some tips for making this year different and more peaceful.

1. Begin with the mindset that “we” don’t have homework – your child does! Homework is one of their first independent responsibilities and there is much to be learned from this. If you do homework for your child, sit with them the whole time  or help excessively, you are taking away the opportunity for them to become self-sufficient and have confidence in their abilities to tackle hard things. They can become reliant on your presence or participation and develop what’s called a “learned helplessness”.

2. However, it’s a good idea  to begin the year by having some involvement.  Start by determining a schedule for their homework responsibilities. For young children, set up a consistent routine of coming home, having a snack and relaxing for a half hour before beginning homework. (Without using “screens” which can be hard to turn off!)  This gives them a necessary break. For children who have after-school activities, it helps to work out the best possible schedule for each day.  You want to avoid homework being done right before bed when they are exhausted, rushed and more likely  to be uncooperative. For older children who are becoming independent, having them develop their own schedule might be more appropriate with the caveat that they must get sufficient sleep in order to be healthy and ready for the next day. Older children may also have weekend homework. Have them experiment with what part of the weekend works best for them and for family plans – some like to get it out of the way on Friday; others prefer Saturday or Sunday. A time to put ‘off limits’ is Sunday night which can then feel very pressured and lead to the “homework headaches”.

3. It’s also important to decide where your child will do his’/her homework. Discuss with your child where homework will be done and make that their regular homework place. You may have to see where your child works best. Some children need the quiet of their rooms. For other  children, despite the elaborate desks, lights, bookshelves and counters you provide them, they prefer to be at the kitchen table. This is fine if they can concentrate there and not be reliant on you sitting with them. TV is incompatible with doing homework, but some children actually concentrate better with music on. You may have to experiment with your child.

4. Begin the year by helping children get started on, or remember, how to structure their homework.  Initially, sit with your child and teach them how to lay out the various assignments they have to complete and to decide in what order they want to do them. Set the routine of returning each completed assignment to their backpacks so papers don’t get lost (or eaten by the dog!).

5.  Set up the routine of your child putting the backpack with the finished assignments by the door through which they leave in the morning. This is a habit that will ensure, more often than not, that the homework gets to school. Know that if you make sure the homework gets to school – via limousine (your car), fax or email – you are robbing your child of opportunities to learn responsibility and accountability –  that what happens to them is up to them. You are being a good parent, not a harsh one, having them learn to be responsible or face the music at school. It is a lesson that serves them well all throughout their lives. You can give your child (depending on their age) a pass or two at the beginning of the year, but pretty quickly, you want to turn the full responsibility over to them. The same goes for remembering bring their homework home! At the beginning of the year,  it is ok – once or twice – to drive back to school for a paper or book. After that it’s your child’s responsibility to either obtain the homework from a friend or to show up empty-handed the next morning. What your child learns about taking care of things is much more important than presenting the homework.

6. How much help you should give with homework is not a black and white issue.  Certainly, you need to make sure, especially with young children who are learning to read, that they understand the directions on the homework. Beyond that, you only need to available as a resource for work that is confusing or hard for them. However, to stress again, this is their homework  not your’s.  If you participate too much, the message you send to your child is that you don’t believe  they are capable of doing it themselves –  a real blow to their self-esteem. It’s also a confusing when you “teach” them how to do something in a way that’s different from their teacher’s method. The same “hands off” approach applies to projects your child is assigned. I know you may walk into a classroom with your child’s finished project and see many that look like they were done in the special effects department of a movie studio. But neither children nor teachers feel good about this outcome. The children can’t take a sense of pride in their work and the teachers are smart enough to know the child couldn’t have produced such wondrous results! Also, check with the teacher to see if they want you to correct mistakes on homework when finished or if they would rather have it turned in unedited so they can see what the children have and haven’t learned.

7. Keep an eye on how long homework takes your child to complete.  If the time seems excessive or interferes with sleep, try to discern if there is simply too much homework or if your child is a slow worker. In either case, speak to the teacher about solving the problem.

Susan C. Stone is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice. She speaks widely – on television, radio, and in Parent Education Seminars – on topics of interest to parents and teachers of children of all ages. She is also the author of the book THE INDULGENCE TRAP.  Visit her on her website at or contact her at

4 Responses to "Avoiding Those “Homework Headaches”"


Hello. magnificent job. I did not anticipate this. This is a great story. Thanks!

Routine routine routine. I would swear to anyone that following a strict routine all day, every day is the key to organized, calm, smooth running families. Especially homework schedules.

It seems to me that children are currently overwhelmed with all those home assignments. I believe that they should spend more time on fresh air. Thus, I decided that it is my obligation to make their schedule more free. In this I am enormously helped by homework help online services, such as

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