My 9 year old girl is currently going through a phase where she isn't getting her homework done by herself. I'm trying to find the right balance between encouraging her to get her homework done, yet, not have her reliant on me to do so. Anyone have any tips out there?

  • 3
    is it because she spends time doing something else? doesn't understand it? doesn't give it a real try and say's it's done?
    – cabbey
    Mar 30, 2011 at 0:29
  • There's a number of factors. I suspect the biggest one is she just doesn't do it because there's lots of other fun stuff to do (The fun stuff is slowly going away...), but there are other reasons. Mar 30, 2011 at 13:58
  • High fives. That's how I'd deal with it.
    – John O
    Jul 10, 2012 at 16:27

7 Answers 7


Don't waste your time trying to get her to be self-reliant right now when she hasn't already formed the correct habits for accomplishing her work. You're primary goal is to sit down with her each and every night and help her establish a system of discipline and organization. Help her learn how to study and learn. If you don't know how to help her, find someone who can. Don't sit back and expect her to accomplish the work on her own and find out that she's just not doing it. Worse yet, don't let it get to the point where she is telling you that she's done, when she's not.

Don't let her think for a second that not finishing her work is even an option. Not to suggest that you should tell her this directly, but show her through your involvement and discipline in staying engaged with her work. Stay in touch with teachers and make sure you have a clear picture of their test, project, and homework deliverables. Make a calendar and have them update and refer to it regularly. You maintain it for them and walk them through it until they learn the system and can emulate.

Also, never talk about school work in a negative way like "I know this is hard, but you can do it". Always refer to the work as a positive and achievable thing.

  • 2
    Well, ignoring the fact that is hard may lead her to feel a bit useless if she decides she's the only one that finds it hard... how about "I know this hard and you can do it." Look at Carol Dweck's research for the power of "Wow, you really like a challenge!" Nov 1, 2012 at 20:48
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    @ChristineGordon - I'm not saying you should ignore the fact that its hard, I'm saying that you shouldn't use negative language to describe it as such. Describing something as a fun challenge and showing passion and energy to solve problems is quite different than saying "I know this is hard". I think the former is an essential tool and the latter (despite showing empathy) is utterly useless and has no positive impact on learning.
    – J.J.
    Nov 1, 2012 at 21:57
  • @JavidJamae: I agree, but it is hard to say it in a way that is not taken the wrong way from the child. How can you acknowledge that it is a challenge in a way that will inspire the child instead of leading to frustration because it is hard?
    – awe
    Oct 4, 2013 at 8:30

Besides all the points mentioned about stress, a child-teacher-relation and others, I would like to mention another: boredom.

As a child I never did any homework, unless it was absolutely necessary (like I had to give a class presentation or something). Reason was there wasn't any challenge in it.

I do not want to say this is the case with your child, but it might be and it's absolutely worth checking for.


What to do depends on why she isn't getting it done. Most kids won't walk up to you and say "this is too hard" or "this teacher and I don't get along so I find doing work for him/her stressful" or "I'm worried about this bully and I can't concentrate" or "you and dad fighting all the time has me too stressed to work" or "I'm having low-grade migraines" or "my blood sugar is messed up".

When a kid who wasn't having trouble with homework starts to, something has changed, and the kid herself may not know that it has or understand the effect on her. Incentives or punishments can help with lack of motivation, but not with stress, medical issues, fear of a particular teacher, etc.

Start by figuring out what has changed, and you'll find your answer.

  • Yes, except that incentives and punishments do not help develop self-motivation, only external motivation which is exactly what he is trying to avoid Nov 1, 2012 at 20:49

You should always encourage her first, offer the help she needs or other incentives, but be strict about it to. Homework should come first, if she can't get her homework done then start taking away her fun things. Just like being an adult, you do what you have to do (work) so you can do what you want to do. If you get slack on your job and get fired you can't do the fun things either.

  • Which is pretty much what I would do, but it's nice to have confirmation. Mar 30, 2011 at 0:50
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    "Punish her until it works" is how a lot of kids get screwed up. Kids don't randomly "go through a phase" of being a bad student when they weren't before.
    – HedgeMage
    Mar 30, 2011 at 3:12
  • I'd be very careful with this approach. While removing distractions during work time can help, this could turn the work into a source of conflict. More rows, and the homework's still not getting done. At the same time, it suggests to the child that "homework is something you have to be forced to do". This is NOT the attitude you want.
    – deworde
    Nov 21, 2011 at 12:31

Based on your answer to the question I asked above, I suggest speeding up the fun stuff going away then, at least until homework is done. My parents did that to me at about 4th grade or so (when I hit in retrospect the worst teacher I'd ever had, and gave up caring about schoolwork). School was my "job", and hard work at it was what earned the fun things to do. Ideally that also means you don't get to do "fun stuff" until she's done... as part of your job is to make sure she's keeping up with her school work. The simple old mantra of you can play with your toys after your homework is done came about for a reason after all. :)

(and yes, you should hear that mantra above as "You can waste time with your friends when your chores are done" by Uncle Owen near the start of the first star wars movie... that's what was playing in my head at the time.)


One other thing. It is possible sometimes to make a game out of certain things, like spelling tennis. Things like, can she spell a word before having to catch a ball you bounce pass to her? Sometimes this kind of activity can shake it up a little and remove some of the stress associated with homework and let her know that learning can be fun and doesn't alwyas have to be about pushing pencils on paper. Speak with her teacher about what the reasons might be and see what you can find out and develop together.

  • 1
    yes, and some kids actually learn better by moving! flies in the face of how we structure our classrooms, but I think our classrooms should be responsive to children, not the other way around! Nov 1, 2012 at 20:50

kids today are different my daughter didn't even tell me she had homework. I set rules and my kids do homework when they get home. They have to do it first before play. I found giving them a cookie or treat for getting done has worked. Right now i do tick tack toe. When they complete homework when they have it and not miss more then three for her age. They get a zero. If she misses I don't put anything. The x are for if they don't turn in homework the next day. I check their backpacks because my kids don't tell me alot about imoprtant papers alot. I hope this helps. They do after after school homework help but if you have the money great if not then do something fun. The internet has alot of ideas for rewards for homework. Kids will do anything for it. even getting a scoop of ice cream.

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    I don't understand the tic tac toe... are you actually playing the game? What happens when they win/lose? Anything?
    – user420
    Oct 4, 2013 at 12:20

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