mom and teenage daughter arm wrestling

Homework: The never-ending battle

Posted on September, 11, 2023 by

“My daughter refuses to do homework and it’s pulling her grades down.”  Sound familiar? I hear that, or some version of it every single day. What I want every parent to know is that you are definitely not alone.  As we all know, turning in homework late or not at all is a direct path to tanking grades so parents need to do something, right? The question is, what?

You may have tried several ways to motivate your child such as reminders, nagging, punishing, rewards, taking the phone away, and even bribery but these only reinforce negative behavior.  Even the thought of just doing homework can produce the same paralyzing dread in students as being asked to trudge to the top of the Eiffel Tower with an 800-pound water buffalo strapped to their backs.  Make that 900 for students who have executive function challenges.

If you ask a teenager why they don’t do their homework, they probably will have no idea.  Sure, they will have excuses, but they really don’t know. Some reasons may be:

  • Underlying mental health issues including stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Not knowing where to start then becoming overwhelmed and shutting down
  • Perfectionism stemming from anxiety
  • Trouble prioritizing
  • Do not know how to break assignments down into small incremental tasks

Of course, there are other reasons, but one thing to remember is that it’s generally not intentional. Students actually do want to do their homework, but they have this inexplicable inertia that can keep them from even getting started. 

Rather than nagging or just giving up, sit down with your teen and have a conversation. Make sure to ask leading questions and listen more than you speak. If things get tense, stop the conversation and pick it up another time. 

Once you have had this conversation with your teen, here are some strategies for increasing motivation to complete homework: 

  • Make a student contract with your student outlining expectations for homework completion
  • Set up a daily homework routine together
  • Create a study station conducive to productivity
  • Put a pause on phone use while doing homework
  • Give them “brain breaks”: 25-minutes of homework followed by a 5-minute break (they can check texts during the break)

And finally, set up a meeting with your teen’s teachers to discuss the issue and ways the school can help. You may need to consult with a mental health professional to address possible underlying issues.

Having a 3rd party such as an academic coach meet with your teen to teach strategies and offer support can help. Contact our team to learn more.