Homework Headache

Do you find yourself battling it out most nights of the week trying to get your children to complete their homework? Is there a constant battle to get your kids to sit and complete assignments on time?

Conflict over homework tasks is one of the most common concerns parents complain about and is there any wonder. What word can you think of that contains ‘work’ that is particularly pleasant anyway?

Workdays, housework, roadwork even a gym workout can be painful. Perhaps the only ‘work’ that everyone looks forward to are fireworks, but not the fireworks that happen immediately after the slightest mention of homework.

A google search will produce thousands of articles suggesting a whole range of ideas to help avoid this source of conflict that occurs in many homes however if any of these actually worked then there would be harmony at home. So why then is the regular rumble over homework still the norm in most households?

Parents of older children might have experienced the effects of the twilight zone that materialise when they reach the age of part-time employment. Teens who have lunch boxes that could double as science experiments and fermenting bath towels under their bed are suddenly enthusiastic about sweeping the floors at McDonalds. How does this happen? How does one do the complete 180 degree flip from harvesting previously undiscovered strains of mould in an untidy bedroom to happily scouring a fry hopper.

The important point here is not to waste time trying to explain this phenomenon but instead to tap into this power to help alleviate the pressure homework brings most nights.

Teenagers working part-time jobs earn a small wage, not enough to make much of a dent on the cost of living but enough to give them a feeling of independence. They also feel that they play an important and, in their mind, irreplaceable part of something worth while. Both of these essential beliefs are not addressed with the seeming monotony of most homework tasks. Instead children are encouraged to provide conforming responses to a group of closed questions.

Try these simple pointers to help alleviate the stress around homework tonight at your place:

1. Working together at the same time as your child completes their homework helps to contribute towards a sense of collegiality. Whether it be documents that you need to complete yourself or understanding what it is that they have been tasked to complete, it all contributes towards the idea that they are part of something more. As too does communicating the benefits of getting on with it and getting it done. There are many things that we have to do even when we don’t want to however persisting towards completion is an important skill now and well into the future.

2. Remaining involved also allows you to extend your child’s thinking beyond the required tasks. Science questions that require your child to weigh up the reasons behind global warming can become an existential examination of the fate of low-lying nations if sea-levels were to rise. Mathematics problems exploring area or volume can be taken out to the park or the kitchen when cooking or baking a cake.

Regardless of your opinion or the latest research that shape our thinking, homework is here to stay. A narrow focus on the failings of homework does a disservice to the potential benefits that happen as a result of this process.

If you were to ask most working adults they would prefer holidays and relaxing by the pool over the grind of the workplace at any time. The idea of mandatory tasks to be done at home, well after the workday has finished holds little appeal. This is no different for children. It is no coincidence, if given the choice, kids would much rather be at the playground, on the Playstation or on a playdate at any time rather than sitting to complete their homework.

About the author: Tim Heinecke

Tim Heinecke is Australia’s number one student engagement guru. Being a father to four school-aged children as well as having been a school teacher for more than 20 years gives him insights into better ways to inspire young people. Tim is the founder of the Student Engagement Institute and he has shown thousands of teachers and parents how to better engage children in their own educational journey.

Learn more about the Student Engagement Institute here.