How to get a Defiant Child to do Homework

It’s the battle that most parents dread; getting their elementary-school-aged children to do their homework. Following is a proven method for solving this problem, or at least reducing the angst associated with homework completion.   

It is important to remember a couple of things. First, you need to be willing to invest some time up front to introduce and reinforce any changes you wish to make in how your child completes homework. Second, you need to begin with the understanding that in a battle of wills, the child will always win by not doing what you demand.   

If your child has not been completing homework, then you need to set a time for homework to be completed each night; no exceptions. A good estimate is 10 minutes per grade. For example, third graders should be getting about 30 minutes worth of homework. It may take your child longer with all the stall and delay tactics, but when focused, the work should take about 10 minutes per grade level.

If your child insists that he has no homework, or it was done in school, etc., you will need to make it clear that homework time then becomes reading time wherein he has to read aloud to you for that amount of time. This pretty much guarantees your child will bring home their homework.   

To begin this set homework time, have your child present to you all homework to be completed, then choose the order to work on it. Announce the start and end times of the work period. Then begin. It is important that you be present and focused on your child’s progress at all times! If your child whines or gets off task, announce the extended work time.

For example, “You just wasted two minutes whining, so the new end time will be 6:32 instead of 6:00.” Most children soon realize it’s better to stay focused now that they are “in control” of the length of the work period! Any time wasted getting or sharpening pencils, going to the bathroom, etc., will cause time to be extended.   

After a few weeks, your child should be in the new habit of sitting down to work, staying focused, and completing all homework in a reasonable time. You can gradually step back from your role and only need to participate occasionally to reinforce those good habits.

If all goes well, your few weeks of effort will pay off in many years of good homework habits. Yes, it seems like a lot to ask of you as a parent time-wise, but overall, much less time will be spent once your child learns to be independent and successful at homework.