Parenting Sucks: Taming homework struggles

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Dear Joanne,

Now that school is back in full gear, we’re back to having homework struggles. Both of my kids are in elementary school and if it’s this bad now, I can only imagine what’s in store for me down the road as they get older.  How can I get them to do their homework without battles or without me just caving and giving them the answers?


Dear Lisa,

Let’s face it. Homework is hell. Any relaxation that took place while your kids were in school is instantly sucked dry when homework begins. Instantly the battle cries start: “I can’t do this!” “The teacher never taught me this!” “Why do they have to give us stupid homework anyway?” What kids don’t realize is that parents hate homework as much as they do…maybe even more. So here are some ideas to take the “work” out of homework:

  • Let your kids take a break before starting. After school, fix them a snack (and not one that’s high in sugar so they’ll have a hard time sitting still), let them watch TV or play on the computer. These types of calming techniques are like a gin and tonic for the playground crowd.
  • Next, pick a fun place to do homework. I know the all and powerful “they” say to have kids do homework in a designated spot everyday, but I disagree. Mix things up and have some fun. If they want to, let them do their homework inside the closet, in the bathtub, or perhaps under the sheets with a flashlight. As long as they get it done, what does it really matter?
  • If they have a problem, don’t come to their aid so quickly. Set an egg timer and let them try to do it themselves for a minute or two.  Letting them work the problems out themselves gives them the pride and confidence they need to help them succeed.  If they do need your help, don’t just give them the answer. As the saying sort of goes, “Give a kid a homework problem he gets an A for a day. Teach him how to do it himself, he gets an A for a lifetime.” This also goes for projects. I get so upset when parents help their kids with their school projects. You’re not doing your kids any favors and you’re certainly not pulling the wool over the teacher’s eyes. You think she actually believes your second grader can miter a 45 degree angle on his homemade wooden diorama box?
  • When explaining a concept, make it fun. For math, use raisins or chocolate chips to help them grasp concepts (which they can eat if they get the problems right) or make the lesson into a game. For instance, when memorizing times tables, be the emcee and have your kid take one step forward when he solves a problem and one step back when he doesn’t. Give him a reward when he reaches the finish line.

Every parent and kid knows that homework is the boil on the butt of education. But if you try to make it fun and help your kids instead of solve their problems, they’ll learn the more important lesson of gaining confidence and self pride.

Joanne Kimes is the author of the bestselling “Sucks” series as well as “The Stay-at-Home Martyr.”  Visit her at

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.