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How To Get Young Kids To Do Homework

Updated on April 3, 2008
Photo: sizumaru,Flickr
Photo: sizumaru,Flickr

Is it me, or do kids have a lot more homework than when we were kids? In our school district the official policy is ten minutes per grade level. For example, 2nd graders are supposed to have no more than 20 minutes of homework, 3rd graders have 30 minutes, and so on. My fourth grader has about 2 hours a night, if you count the reading requirement. I'm not complaining. I'd rather have him challenged that not, and if he sits down to it he can get it done quicker. In addition, he's in the gifted program so he has projects to complete at home over the course of the school year. Add in sports and music, plus a sister and... well you already know how I feel because you're struggling too. Here are a few of my tricks.

Make Homework Time Non-Negotiable

In our house homework is done immediately after school. I know a lot of people argue that kids need some ‘down time' right after school. Sorry, we can't afford that. My position is that between the last fifteen minutes of school, waiting for the bus (or parent), and riding home, they've gotten in a good 30-45 minutes of ‘down time'.

My kids come in, get a snack, and open up the backpacks. Even if we have an activity after school, we do as much homework as possible before we need to leave. We also make a plan about how to complete the rest later. Having a consistent routine cuts down on the resistance to doing homework. It's just part of your day.

One thing that's helped our homework time is that I try to be present for most of the time. I find that my son really needs to be supervised or else he just flounders.

As kids get older, they will need more and more independence to complete their assignments in their own time. Setting your expectations at a young age may help when they're older. However, I'm pretty sure with teenagers you just have to close your eyes and hope for the best.

Use a Timer

For children who are easily distracted, I can personally attest to the wild success of using a timer. My son loves the feeling of beating the clock. Timers turn homework time into something like a game show. The presence of the timer gets my son to return his focus to the paper again and again.

Discuss Choices

I've been trying to get better about asking open-ended questions lately. This has been really helpful in guiding my son when it comes to homework, especially his multi-step research project. I had to finally admit that my incessant nagging just wasn't working. I was getting high blood pressure, he was getting resentful, and the project still wasn't done.

When is your project due?

Tell me about your plan for completing it?

Is there anything you could do today to get closer to finishing it?

Use Incentives

Incentives are one shaky ground when it comes to homework. On the one hand, I'm not big on lavishing rewards on expected behavior. On the other hand, I am a proponent of the threats and bribery school of parenting. It comes down to this: you gotta do what you gotta do.

Right now my daughter is working on a new WebKinz. The teacher has been concerned all year about her reading and writing skills. But for the life of both of us, we just couldn't motivate her. About a month ago we set a goal for her to take 35 Accelerated Reader tests by the end of the school year. Her reading level has improved markedly in a few short weeks. This isn't technically homework, but you get the idea.

I've also been known to let kids do something special after homework is done for the day. You just want to use incentives sparingly because if used too often, they lose their effect and kids will expect rewards every day.


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    what 8 years ago


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    Angela Norton Tyler 9 years ago

    I totally disagree with 1) insisting that kids come home and get started on their homework right after a snack. This may work for some kids, but not all. 2) sitting down and doing your children's homework with them. Why is this necessary? They work independently at school. Sitting with them does not teach responsibility; it teaches them that you don't think they are capable of doing their own work. 3) Accelerated Reader. How about reading for fun, not as a game or a test of some sort? As a teacher, I have seen kids fly through books just to check them off the list and not enjoy it one bit.

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    heavyd49770 9 years ago from Petoskey, MI

    I think you are hitting it right on the head here. I feel the best way to get kids to do their homework is to start at a young age and sit down and do it with them.

    Even if you have to answer the questions there are still learning which is the point to school anyways. By sitting down with you kids at a young age and continuing to do so throughout school you are teaching them responsibility by example.

    I believe the children with the highest grades are the ones with the most parental support.