Our 7 year old (2nd grader) really struggles with getting his work done on time in class, and when he does finish things his work is really sloppy (handwriting, coloring, etc.) When he comes home he has to finish his homework and we'll make him re-do anything that was sloppy. We've tried explaining to him to slow down and do things right the first time, not just rush through them.

I think a lot of it comes from the fact that it is something he really doesn't want to be doing anyway, so he wants to finish it as quickly as possible. We've tried explaining to him that he's not saving any time - in fact, it's taking longer than it would normally because he has to re-do it. In many cases he doesn't get as much time to play as he'd like because of it. So he's seeing the repercussions of his decisions, yet continues to make the same decisions.

He can actually do a good job when he isn't rushing through things; his reading is excellent and his math skills are good as well. He's more than capable of doing the work when he slows down a bit.

What can we do to help him with this?

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    Great first question! Welcome to the community. Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 23:29

1 Answer 1


It sounds like he is already experiencing the natural consequences of not having play time, which I think is appropriate, but I would also investigate why he's not able to finish the work in class in the first place. Is he easily distracted, overwhelmed, over-stimulated, confused, etc? Could you ask the teacher, observe him, ask him? I'm happy to provide strategies for whatever you find out at that time.

In the meantime:

  • This is his problem, not your problem. (To ease your stress, not getting hw done in 2nd grade isn't really going to cause lasting harm while he figures this out. Better now than in HS).

  • Be empathic and encouraging:

    "You seem frustrated and I have faith in you."

    "This seems hard for you and I know you like a challenge."

    "I know you want to finish quickly so you can play and I know how proud you feel when you've done your best work."

  • Prompt reflection after he's 'finished'"

    "Is this your best work?"

    "How do you know this is (not) your best work?"

    "What does it feel like when you do your best work?"

  • Avoid jumping in to rescue him, but help him be his own judge:

    "I notice you rushed through your homework tonight."

    "I notice you double-checked your homework tonight."

    "I noticed that you were able to re-do the work and fix it so I know you know how to do this math/spelling/etc."

  • At a time separate from hw time, start a conversation with genuine interest and respect:

    "I notice you tend to rush through your homework a lot, and then it isn't really your best work. What is happening for you?"

    "I know you want to finish homework quickly so you can play and I notice that rushing through your work and having to spend time correcting it is actually cutting down on play time. I wonder if it would be faster to just give it your best the first time through?"

    "What does it feel like for you when you do best work?"

    "What does it feel like for you when you turn in work that is not your best?"

    "What would help you remember to slow down and do your best work? For me, sometimes lighting, music, a desk, etc/whatever can help."

  • Sometimes a change in schedule may help. Some kids really do prefer to come home, have a snack and play for a predetermined time, and then do homework. This can be more effective than the reverse. In my after-school programs, I provide kids the choice of doing homework first or second. Be sure to have a set schedule agreed in advance and keep a timer if he doesn't know how to tell time. (I know this is hard to give in to, but really, if the goal is to get the homework done, does it matter when?)

  • Great Answer! This method is not likely to give you immediate results, but it is the most valuable way to handle this in terms of long-term results. I would add that keeping your home focused on effort in general (not just in relation to his schoolwork) is likely to make this answer even more helpful, more quickly over-all. Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 23:34
  • @balanced mama, good point. Long term results are all I'm ever interested in :) Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 12:14
  • I've got this one sister in law, that if it doesn't work the first time, she figures it doesn't work at all, so I often clarify this out of habit. I've also had tons of parents who tried something for a week and then reverted back to punishments because "it wasn't working" so I did think the clarification might be helpful here. Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 15:27
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    @balancedmama, certainly, I was just expanding your clarification to include everything I've ever written here, ever, and will ever write. :) Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 15:29
  • @balanced, although, maybe you are on to something - I just got downvoted for my response ("you can't") to the question 'how do you operate a successful sticker chart' - long-term vs short-term I'm guessing Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 15:32

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