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We have a 10-year-old child who is generally not interested in doing homework. He prefers to play games and watch TV. He's bored by homework which requires some patience and concentration, like learning vocabulary. Teachers require parents to make children complete the homework. My attitude is learning can't be forced, or forced learning is something else but not learning.

If the child resists to complete the homework, how much and up to which age is it the parents' responsibility to try to get him/her to do that? When do you give up? I mean besides a pure opinion, is there kind of strategy to build an attitude for that?

  • How old of a child are you asking about? – Joe Apr 10 '19 at 14:08
  • 10 yrs old..... – Akron Apr 10 '19 at 14:11
  • What kind of issues do you have with the child resisting? Is this a child who's bored by homework, finds it too hard, would rather play video games, etc.? – Joe Apr 10 '19 at 14:51
  • yes, bored, prefers to play games and watch YT. – Akron Apr 10 '19 at 15:14
  • Just to be clear, bored because it's too easy? – Joe Apr 10 '19 at 15:17
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my attitude is learning can't be forced, or forced learning is something else but not learning.

Hmm. I think most teachers would disagree with you. Most of my Latin students weren't taking Latin because they wanted to. They were taking Latin because their parents thought it would be good for them in some way (college admission/other.) How many kids absolutely love learning History? Yet they must. Most learning is forced; it is required by law.

Kids don't like homework; it's called home - "work" for a reason. It is very beneficial to be involved in helping a child manage their time and emotions associated with homework through roughly the third grade, but I completely stopped only by the time they entered high school.

It depends on the child (their maturity/trustworthiness, etc.) and the parent (are they helping or hindering? Are they giving the kids the tools to learn by themselves or tearing them down? Etc.)

I wouldn't consider myself to be a helicopter parent, but I was passionate about their overall education, so I was very involved.

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Encouraging children to do home work is challenging, particularly if they're fairly young. Particularly for a good student, homework is often boring in my experience; for many students, repetition is an effective way to learn, particularly repeating the same thing at different times. For students who learn quickly (like myself, and my son), that sort of repetition is flat-out boring. And even for students who don't learn as quickly, it's hard to see the long-term benefits.

For us, what's worked is making homework a habit, or rather a set of habits. My son's in second grade, so a bit younger, but I suspect this applies at a fairly wide age range. Homework is something that's done before games, and while that was a small struggle, it didn't take all that long for him to come to accept it as a fact; Tuesday he came home, for example, and said, "Dad, if I do a load of laundry and do my math homework can I play my video game?" That's pretty easy to say "yes" to. He doesn't see it as being forced, but just as one of the things to do.

That incentive structure is one that works well for my son, and I suspect will work well for many. Sure, it starts with complaints, and it's probably not as ideal as him choosing to do it on his own for his own reasons - but for my son, at least, external incentives are very powerful. As he grows older, the incentives will need to grow with him; right now it's a "now" incentive - do your homework for the day/week and get some video gaming time - but as he grows older, longer-term incentives may work better (particularly if he becomes challenged in an area).

We also are careful to make sure to give him a say in the rules. He largely has an amount of homework that must be done by the end of the week - not just "do this tuesday do this Wednesday" - and so we allow him to manage how that's done, so long as it's done, with the understanding that if it's not done then his Thursday will be a lot. We help him think through the consequences of putting it all off, particularly as Tuesday is the easiest day to do homework due to our pickup arrangements; but sometimes he does put it off, and that's fine - so long as it's done, and he accepts the responsibility when his Thursday is a bit boring.

If your child is finding homework boring, then one other thing you should consider is talking to the teacher. My son's teacher gave him a workbook at the start of the year, knowing that he was 2-3 grades ahead in math, and told him to work on that instead of the regular sheets of math homework - do a page or so a day of that instead. We're lucky to have a teacher who does that proactively, but other teachers might well be willing to do so if you approach them. Homework should be individualized for the student, and should be appropriate for what they need, with particular goals in mind - and while it's not necessarily practical for a public school teacher to give 30 different homework assignments, that doesn't mean you can't get involved and make sure your child has the right kind of homework. Good teachers can find the right balance, in particular by not being overly repetitive, and by helping their students see why the homework is important.

As far as to what age you should be involved, the answer is probably older than you think. This article at The Conversation titled "Here's what you need to know about homework and how to help your child discusses a study (which unfortunately succumbed to link rot and I can't find) that shows that the benefits from parental involvement seen in lower-achieving students in elementary school seem to disappear in secondary school as parents become less involved - suggesting that more involvement could help, even at that age.

However, the kind of involvement matters; this study by Cooper, Lindsay, and Nye shows that positive parental involvement - not well defined in the abstract, but I interpret it as meaning actively helping with homework - is associated with worse outcomes, while supporting the child's autonomy (which I interpret to mean providing space and time to do homework, but not actively interfering with it) is associated with better outcomes, at all grade levels - and positive interference was worse particularly at lower grade levels. I'm not sure how well they controlled for ability, but it's a good reminder that at any level it's not the result of the homework that matters nearly as much as the journey. I would caution taking these studies with a grain of salt, also; they’re very inconsistent in how they define things and in what they find.

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At 10, your child (if in the US) is in 4th or 5th grade. The maximum recommendation for homework duration at that age is 40 or 50 minutes. And there's also good evidence that much of the homework typically assigned, especially prior to secondary school, hurts more than it helps. So, depending on your appetite for conflict, you could include talking with your child's teachers and/or school administrators, especially if the assigned homework is regularly taking longer than that, when your child is moderately focused on the task. If your child is doing well on assessments and in-class work, you'll have more leverage, but I don't think that should be entirely determinative.

Then, you could work with your child to set aside that fixed period of time for homework - maybe not the first 40-50 minutes after school, but a solid chunk of time where they're focused. If you demonstrate that you're on their team by helping them advocate for a reasonable amount of homework, then they may be more willing to engage in that time-boxed effort. If you have the ability to sit with them - perhaps doing some administrative task of your own - for that time, even better, especially at the beginning.

At a certain age, around 12 or 13, I think that encouragement and support, but allowing the natural consequences of poor grades to be the primary motivator, is a good approach. But that requires having first made a real effort to instill good study and time management habits at an earlier age, so that they have the internal tools to make and act on the decision that doing the homework is preferable to the consequences of not doing it.

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    "...there's also good evidence that any homework prior to secondary school hurts more than it helps." Please provide support for this. I'm sure others are curious to read about this, as am I. – anongoodnurse Apr 11 '19 at 21:04
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    Why is my post flagged for additional references, while blanket statements like "Most teachers would disagree with you" and "Kids don't like homework" are made with no documentation whatsoever? – Thomas Taylor Apr 11 '19 at 21:14
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    You stated there was good evidence. What is it? My generalizations are generalizations, not claims of facts "supported by good evidence". But I will edit, so thank you. Your article doesn't support your assertion, btw. One person does state the helpfulness of homework in lower grades is unknown, and another that busywork-type homework is of questionable value, cutting into family time. But the article concludes... – anongoodnurse Apr 12 '19 at 0:14
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    ...""As researcher Adam Maltese noted, “Our results hint that maybe homework is not being used as well as it could be.” The report further suggested that while not all homework is bad, the type and quality of assignments and their differentiation to specific learners appears to be an important point of future research." – anongoodnurse Apr 12 '19 at 0:24
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When you say that "learning can't be forced", I agree with you in so far as it's extremely inefficient to teach someone who doesn't want to learn. But that doesn't mean that you can't provide a context in which distractions are removed, learning is the only socially acceptable activity and therefore much more likely to occur.

School provides a framework that enables young people to learn when they would much rather do something else. I disagree strongly with people who believe that all learning should be fun and playful - efficient learning usually isn't much fun. Take learning another language -- learning the meaning of words is boring, repetitive and hard work, and you can't make it playful and fun, at least not without losing all the efficiency of the direct approach. Going to school means going to work. Imagine a world where kids weren't forced to go to school -- many kids would find it much, much harder to learn.

So that might be the attitude to convey: Your parents can't do whatever they want to do on a beautiful day - they go and work in an office, or cook, and do laundry, etc, in other words, they work. Kids used to work, too, before public schooling became mandatory. School actually took kids away from oftentimes hard physical work -- but not in order to give them time to play and have fun.

Being a child doesn't mean you have license to do just what you want -- it means your place of work is this big building that all the other kids go to every day, and the more effort you put into your work there, the more you get out of it. And usually, the more you apply yourself in school, the faster you get done with any homework you bring home.

I don't think the parent's job is to force the child to do homework. Our job is much harder: It's to teach the child self-discipline. Everyone prefers to do what's fun over what's perceived of as work. But most adults have learned that some work must be done. And we have learned this is because our parents and school taught us.

When nobody teaches us self-discipline, we get taught by living with the consequences: Bodies start smelling, clothes start stinking, the kitchen starts crawling, the house fills up with trash, we get fired from our job etc. So when you ask when to give up getting your ten-year-old to do homework, you basically say that he/she should learn by living with the consequences: Getting bad grades and possibly having to repeat the school year. That's one way to teach, but it's a fairly brutal way - akin to teach a child how to swim by throwing him into deep water and watching him try not to drown. I'd suggest you take a different approach.

Maybe you could widen your approach to homework. Start giving your child more chores. Have him/her do the dishes, rake leaves, do his/her laundry etc. Say that since he/she isn't willing to do his/her share of the work (the homework), you aren't willing to take up the child's share in household work. Do everything you can to make the child understand that work isn't something that only adults do; we all have to work for part of the day, and often work needs to take priority over something fun. Once the child starts to understand this, maybe you can focus again on the homework issue.

I would also insist that the child does all the chores before he's allowed to play. Once the chores get done consistently, you can relax this rule (but if my kids are any indication, ten-year-olds still have big trouble with doing chores at their own leisure without forgetting them).

I believe that teaching self-discipline is very much a parents responsibility and doesn't end at a specific age - it's an ongoing project, and the amount of reminding and fighting over your different ideas on what should have priority right now will certainly differ from child to child.

  • "Kids used to work, too, before public schooling became mandatory. School actually took kids away from oftentimes hard physical work -- but not in order to give them time to play and have fun." This is a horrifying answer. Chores are a useful part of learning, and at that time, were also a part of survival. The advancements of society that allows more leisure time should not be denied children. Their work day is appropriately shorter than adults. Play (not necessarily if its 100% screen-time) is a critical part of self-directed learning. – Thomas Taylor Apr 11 '19 at 15:09
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    I'm not advocating denying kids time for free play. I'm saying that being a child doesn't grant you an exemption from all work. While play is important for child development, so is learning that sometimes you have to do things you don't like to do, especially when kids are a bit older. If you don't learn that as a child, you won't function very well in our society. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Apr 11 '19 at 18:57
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    @ThomasTaylor - Please don't label anyone's answer as "horrifying". It's not nice. Also, just fyi, I did not interpret Pascal's answer as anti-play. Mechanization/child-labor laws allowed for the education of agricultural children/children working in factories. That says nothing about free time. – anongoodnurse Apr 11 '19 at 21:08
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Whether homework helps with the subject at hand or not, homework does teach kids to do unpleasant tasks in order to get something they want.

In my kids' case, we told them "school is your job." You don't have to earn money to pay for your housing, food, clothing, etc...but you do have a job and it's school. As long as you do your job, we'll pay for everything.

When they were in k-3, they wanted to do homework because they wanted to fit in and earn approval in the classroom. We helped, but only with things where they were having trouble understanding something. Later they started to resist homework (grades 4-6). Other privileges like screen-time were dependent on whether or not the homework was done.

As they got older and entered middle school, we stopped managing homework and said: here's a cell phone. Enjoy it until your GPA falls below 3.5. Then you'll lose the cell phone until the end of the next semester and your GPA comes back to at least 3.5. For us, that was all it took, they managed their grades themselves because they wanted the reward

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Yeah, I'd much rather play video games and stay home than go to work every day (oversimplification to illustrate the point).

Your child is ten. They have no entitlement to video games or TV. Perhaps access to those things should be contingent on homework being finished first.

Don't phrase it like a punishment; instead, help them to understand that people have responsibilities, and if they shirk them, there are negative consequences.

And yes, there can be discussions of how much homework is appropriate as well as how to develop interests in school subjects. But if your child is under the impression that they deserve video game time and TV time, then I would nip those right in the bud*.

*Please note: I'm not advocating for no screen time, just a paradigm shift in how it is viewed.

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