Ah, homework woes.

The homework temperature rises across the country starting around 4:00 on the east coast steadily going out across the time zones.

As a chief strategy, parents tend to adopt punishing postures with homework resistant children. Largely, this approach is a mistake, leading to greater levels of anger (in the kid and the parent) and increased shutting down.

Punishment tends to be reactive, delivered in anger in the heat of the moment.

Does the punished child sit back and reflect, “Gee, I wonder what I can do to make things better?”

Not likely.

More likely, he is placing blame in one direction – squarely on the parents. An interior dialogue such as, “My parents are such jerks,” (or saltier language if the child is older) is probably taking place.

With the child fuming and digging a deeper hole following the punishment, no one wins, even if the parents feel that they were righteous in taking a firm parental position.

After the punishment, parents who believe they have no control over their child may feel a sense of momentary victory,, but the feeling is short-lived as the child rarely assumes greater levels of self-responsibility following the punishment.

Largely homework woes are versions of control battles. I am not suggesting that limits be removed altogether, but it is the reactivity and the tone of punishment that needs to be addressed.

Assuming that the homework assigned is in the child’s competence level (often not the case, mind you), then stepping back and giving the child choices that you can live with lessens the control battle. In some cases, the child may need some homework writing help. If so, you can be there to provide that support. Alternatively, there are a number of online tools that can be used to help your child with their homework. We all understand that not every child works at the same level, which is why one to one mentoring may be something worth considering. This way, each student can focus on their weaknesses in the classroom. Soon enough, you’ll be able to see progression in the child’s skills, homework and class work. And I’m sure parents would love to see these improvements, which is why you may want to discover these student portfolios found on the ClassDojo website. You’ll be able to keep a collection of student’s work to look back on in the future. When positive changes are implemented, it makes it a lot easier for everyone. Most of the time though, a child failing to do homework is a child refusing to do home work, not a child who is simply unable to do homework. You can try some positive enforcement or bringing in new stationery to make the homework experience more exciting. Some children learn best with bright colors, so purchasing highlighters from an office supplier like Office Monster, could be quite useful. It is very important to capture the imagination of the child.

“Look, what do you prefer,” you might say delivered in a fairly neutral tone, “starting homework before or after dinner?”

You might continue, “I’m not going to make myself crazy over homework. It’s up to you. I am close by if you really need some help. (Don’t make yourself too close by.) If you choose not to do your homework (set an outer time limit), I will let the teacher know about your choice. You can talk to her about it.”

There are other natural consequences for a child choosing the non-homework path.

Try a few of these on for size:

“Gee, I know you were looking forward to going to soccer game on Saturday, but we don’t bring kids who don’t do their job.”

“It’s a shame, we were going to have a fun night at Target after homework, but I probably won’t be in a good mood to take anyone who chooses to blow off his homework and just play on the iPad.”

“In our house, cell phones and iPads are turned off for night a child chooses to not do homework. Let me know what you choose.”

Now you might think those last few examples are punishment, but I don’t see it that way. These are not delivered in anger and frustration in the heat of the moment. They are simply laying out the landscape, the rules. The kid gets the notion that there is choice involved.

Takeaway Point:

Homework woes = Control Battles

Give the kid some latitude to make a choice and then let things fall into place

Relax. Pour yourself a glass of wine and put your feet up.

Get out your calculator and add up the money you will be saving not going to Target.