10 Tips: How to Get Your Child to do Their Homework

So you’ve found yourself engaged in the ‘homework battle’ with your child, hey? The endless trying and struggling to get them to do their homework? You’re not alone! As you no doubt know by now, lots of children simply do not like doing homework. It’s a chore. They would much rather be out with friends at the beach, shopping, kicking a footy, watching TV, playing XBOX – literally anything else (except perhaps cleaning their room… maybe even that?).

Even though homework is given to your child by their teachers, the very nature of it – being homework, after all – unfortunately places it within your jurisdiction. Your role becomes that of an intermediary, a middle figure, seeing to it that your child meets their obligations to their teachers. When you’ve got a child that just doesn’t want to do their homework, though, this becomes a tricky space to navigate. You’re only trying to help your child learn and grow and get the most out of their education (and keep them out of detention, too) – but you become a ‘baddie’ in the process.

So what do you do? Here are our top 10 tips for conquering the struggle and getting your child to do their homework.

1. Take an interest.

Simple gestures, such as asking your child “how was school?” or “what did you learn today?”, can play a fundamental role in winning the homework battle. Asking these kinds of questions signals to your child that you’re interested in them and their learning. A child – and anyone for that matter – is far more likely to listen to what someone has to say if they know they are genuinely interested. These sorts of questions also help to naturalise dialogue about school, making it easier for the two of you to have discussions about homework (and anything else school-related).   

2. Focus on the why.

Have you ever heard your child ask about their homework: “what’s the point?” It’s a fair question, and one worth discussing with your child. Ask them about what else they’ve learned in the subject, and even draw on your own experiences to try and identify why completing a particular piece of homework is important. Humans are curious by nature, and understanding the reasons for doing anything is a crucial bit of motivation.

3. Offer support, praise and encouragement.

It’s helpful to support your child with their homework, particularly when they’re struggling with it. Be there to answer any questions they may have. Even a physical presence can help – have them do their homework in the same room as you. Similarly, offer encouragement and praise when your child does well. This helps to create a positive atmosphere around homework.

4.  Set a good example.

Children may not take in what you say, but they will follow the example you set. Let them see you be disciplined and productive with your own work, and this will rub off on them.

5. Create a study-friendly environment.

Where your child does their homework will have a big influence on their ability to concentrate, and ultimately the quality of work they produce. At a minimum you should help them create a space that is clean and orderly, light-friendly, and free from distractions. It can even be a good idea to include something motivational too, like a life-goals poster, or a photo from a favourite holiday.

6. Help them make a plan.

Often children can find starting their homework or assignments the most difficult or daunting part. Sit down with them and help them make a plan of attack. This can be as simple as asking them what work they have due the next day, approximating how long it might take, and setting out defined blocks of time for work. Helping your child breakdown a piece of work into smaller parts can also help them know where to start.

7. Have a set dinner time.

This might sound a bit trivial, but it can make a big difference! Having a set time for dinner each evening will allow your child to factor it into their schedule and help them establish and maintain routines. When it comes to completing homework, a set dinner time can serve as a helpful orientating device – for example, “I’ll aim to complete all my homework by dinner, and then I can have the rest of the evening to relax”.

8. Let them own the consequences.

Homework is the perfect means by which to teach your child about owning the consequences of their actions. I’ll bet that a big part of your urging your child to do their homework comes from not wanting them to get in trouble with their teachers. Naturally, we want to protect and defend our kids. Occasionally, however, it may actually prove beneficial to allow them to take ownership for the consequences of their actions. Doing so will remind them that they are accountable to other people, and that ultimately it is their homework (not yours), and they are responsible for it.

9. Use rewards (not bribes).

A little bit of added motivation never goes astray. The trick is to set rewards for long-term behaviour – handing in an assignment on time, achieving a particular grade for a subject, etc. This will encourage your child to make longer-term adjustments to their approach in order to achieve a reward. Short term ‘bribes’ – “finish your homework and you can have some ice cream” – don’t instil significant behavioural changes. If anything they establish a pattern of your child expecting something for doing the homework, rather than the expectation being that they do the homework.

10. Make Sunday a school night.

Treat Sunday afternoon like you would any other school afternoon. From 4’o clock onwards, it’s normal routine. That includes identifying what’s due the next day, and what assessments/tests are on for the week. This is also a great way to get your child in the right frame of mind to be on the front foot Monday morning.