This blog post is the third in our series: A Thriving School Year. Read the rest of the series HERE.
If you’ve had the distinct pleasure of raising a child who gets overwhelmed or defiant about doing their homework, then you know how much an evening or a week — or even a school year — can be disrupted.
And that is not a thriving feeling.
Homework battles can bring a lot of dread to a family. And school work can feel a lot like the enemy of a thriving family.
The secret, I’ve learned while raising twins, is in putting as much power into your child’s hands as possible while holding firm to your own boundaries and expectations.
Work then play is always the thought but sometimes that just doesn’t work for a child’s brain.
How to Handle Homework Battles with Ease
Let it go
The very first bit of advice YOU need to remember is that homework is an assignment by the teacher, not you. So as much as you possibly can, let the teacher handle it — and communicate that.
Preventing our kids from failing is the No. 1 criticism we’re seeing of parents and often from the education system itself — so let your child fail, but let the teacher know that’s what you’re doing so they can support you.
When a child turns in their homework on time and done well, hopefully they will receive great praise from the teacher and begin to understand that doing their homework brings good things to them. Good karma, so to speak.
If your child will not care if the teacher punishes them or not, then it’s up to you to make homework important enough to do by setting them up for success.
Help Your Child Create a Homework Station
More often than not, a defiant child — or an overwhelmed one — needs your coaching and guidance not your punishments or strong arm tactics.
We’ve found that letting a child set up their own basket, drawer, table or station can work miracles to get them excited to learn and do their homework.
Each child should have their own station far apart from their siblings — unless the siblings have a good relationship and can work together (This may be a day-to-day decision, of course.) This allows for creating a totally authentic experience for each child. This may mean an older child works in another room while the younger child works in the kitchen near where you make dinner.
Inside the homework station, allow them to make it as fun and creative as possible by letting them use their favorite pencils, erasers and other tools they may need.
For an older child, let them create a desk in their room where there will be few distractions. If they share a room and a desk, give each their own caddy of supplies that they can carry around or use when it’s their time at the desk.
Be Flexible Yet Firm
Children really do want to relax and play. That’s pretty much their life’s mission.
(It’s pretty much my life’s mission!)
So WHEN a child does their homework really should be up to them. The best way to figure this out is about a week into school, ask them what time would be best for them. Sit down and have a conversation. This is also a great conversation when alone in the car or at bedtime.
You can explain that there will be no television or screens or other special privileges until homework is completely finished and done well — but they can choose the exact time when that homework will happen. At that time, they can also choose what time they will get their special activity like playing with a friend or watching a show.
Write down the time they say and hold them to it. (This may be a day-to-day decision. That’s up to you.)
But let them decide when it will happen and then hold them to it.
For my easily overwhelmed daughter, sometimes she just needs a good night’s sleep and would rather get up early in the morning to finish her homework. We learned quickly that she would never go without it finished because she wants the positive outcomes at school of always doing her homework but sometimes she’s just too tired to do it at night.
You have to trust your child to know what works best for them — but hold firm to making sure they follow through with their commitments.
This flexible pattern of making decisions will teach your child time management skills and give them the power they need to pick what is most important for them.
Be Present but Busy
Homework, as a child gets older, is really supposed to be something they can do on their own.
We only started to experience that in middle school.
Until then, we were always needed for at least a minor question or two.
There is a fine line between advising and assisting — and doing it for them.
So you want to be present but engaged in your own thing.
This is my favorite time to sit nearby with my own “homework” and work on myself while dinner cooks away on the stove or reheats in the oven. The first month of school I’ll be leading our SoulShine: Finding Your Purpose Beyond Motherhood homework that I’ll be doing right along with our class. So, I am already working on my own homework basket that will include everything I need to do the journaling, the journaling mandala prompts and the vision boards and such for the class. I get excited just thinking about that little homework station! 🙂
When we keep ourselves busy, we won’t focus too much on what our child is or is not doing — giving them enough space to do it their way rather than micromanaging their every move — which can be frustrating for an already frustrated child.
RELATED: LEARN ABOUT SOULSHINE HERE
Build them Up
One of our favorite rituals is talking about our wins each night at dinner.
We’ve been doing a conversation of 3 roses and a thorn for nearly 8 years — something I learned years ago from one of the mamas in our Abundant Mama Online Program class. It’s been such a fun ritual to bring back and do each school year.
But you can celebrate wins — big and small — in anyway that works for your family.
Just don’t forget.
It can be easy to get caught up in the negative — the scarcity aspect — of a child’s school performance, their social life and their behavior. This is when we focus on all the things a child ISN’T DOING right or at all.
But that’s not the abundance mindset we want to experience as mothers.
And, it can be exhausting for your child — and, exhausting for you, too.
So focus on the good stuff and find a way to make it prominent in your everyday conversations. And yes some days it may be hard to find that good stuff … so you will have to AMP it UP as we say inside my programs.
Be Playful but Not Too Playful
If a child has decided they aren’t going to do their homework, it’s OK to prevent them from doing their favorite things.
But it’s likely not OK to force them to sit and do nothing. Sometimes their little brains just need to relax and get into a more relaxed state.
This is the best time to bring out creative, playful tools in your home and set limits around what they can do until their homework is done.
A little music. A little coloring. A little drawing. You could even take these things outside for a bit to see if it brings your child’s brain back to a place of calm and focus.
You could even take a walk or play ball outside.
These days slime and squishees are all the rage for kids as well.
The point is this: If you’ve been sitting for an hour trying to get your crying child to do their homework, you have to find a way to get them through it another way.
You can lead a child to their homework but you can’t make them do it, at least not well and not without more negative outcomes.
So, get in there and play right along with them in a calming, soothing way by doing your own thing as well.
Put a little fun in your own homework basket as well.
Life should be fun after all.
How do you find ways to make homework more fun and tolerable at your house?