How To Get Out Of Doing Your (Kid's) Homework
By Gary E. Dudley, Ph.D.

With the new year upon us and school back in session, many 
parents return to the duty of helping with homework. For some 
parents, however, "helping with homework" has come to mean taking 
over the responsibility of getting the homework done. Sometimes 
this means loud, ongoing exhortations (nagging) in an effort to 
make the child get the task done. Other parents, opting for 
efficiency, simply do the homework themselves and save the 
struggle. In either case, there is a serious blurring of the 
responsibility involved, and parents often feel trapped between the 
choice of "letting the child fail" or making certain that the 
dreaded homework gets finished. Having an alternative would be 
useful! 

The question of homework is often a focus of power struggles 
between parents and children whom we see. We often recommend that 
parents consider that their responsibility in regard to homework 
is that of a consultant, rather than that of the director. 

1. Your attitude is extremely important in encouraging and 
motivating the child. Take the approach that you are concerned 
about the child and his or her well-being. Avoid preaching, 
judging and blaming. 

2. Explain to the child that homework is an important part of 
learning and education. Learning is their part of the family 
contract, just as your part is working and paying the bills, 
as well as guiding and directing them. You fulfill your 
responsibility to the family - doing the homework is how they 
can help fulfill their responsibility. 

3. Tell your child that you will help them achieve their homework 
by providing an environment that is free from television, 
phone calls, noise, games and other distractions during 
certain hours each evening. 

4. Tell them that you will consult with them, if they desire, as 
to the best places and times to get homework done but that you 
will not be offering advice that is unsolicited. 

5. Tell them exactly when you will be available to help them with 
their homework, and maintain your availability during those 
times. Thus, it is important to have a regular time each 
evening when you can assist and not offer help at any other 
time they ask. 

6. Then, at the agreed-upon times, ask them if your help is 
needed. Do not encourage or advise them to accept your help, 
do not chide or criticize them if they do not ask for it. When 
your child does not finish homework, there are consequences at 
school. Avoid protecting your child from those consequences. 

7. Remember, your tone of voice and the way you approach the 
child is the most important factor. Expressing encouragement 
and the expectation that your child will be successful is 
helpful. Praise their effort, rather than their ability, and 
express your hopes for their successful education, rather than 
your demand for performance. How you handle this will directly 
affect your child's self-esteem, which is the personality's 
sole source of nourishment. 

8. Help your child to develop an internalized sense of reward for 
his or her achievement. When reaching a goal, teach the child 
how to feel good about it, rather than to expect praise or 
rewards from you or someone else. If he or she fails to reach 
a goal, help them to feel good about their effort, and to feel 
OK about trying again. Blaming and "I-told-you-so's" will only 
discourage the child from making a second effort. 

9. Finally, once in a great while, the teacher is part of the 
problem. If, while examining your child's assignment, it 
becomes clear that they are repetitive, below his ability 
level, or too difficult for your child, it's time for an 
appointment with the teacher. If you are working with a 
therapist, let him or her know about your concern, and perhaps 
a phone conference or face-to-face meeting can be arranged to 
address your concerns. 

Repeated failure at following through on homework, or chronic 
poor school achievement, may signify other problems. If your child 
has had to deal with a divorce, recent death or other loss, 
consulting with a psychologist may be in order.