Updated: Mar 29
Guest post: Cindy McKinley Alder and Patti Trombly
Have you ever felt frustrated with your kids and their homework? If so, know that you are not
alone! In our 40 combined years of teaching, we don’t think we’ve ever met a parent who
hasn’t felt frustrated, overwhelmed, or just plain confused about how to end homework battles at one time or another.
Overall, we have discovered that one of the main reasons for family stress about homework
seem to come from this: When and where to do the homework. In our book “10 Quick
Homework Tips” we offer a great way to help you conquer this problem, as well as several
But here today, we want to tackle the “When and Where” issue. Our solution: The
Quite simply, the Homework Agreement is a contract your family makes that states when,
where, and how homework is expected to be done. Having a plan before school starts in the fall allows you to avoid that “you against them” feeling that is so often attached to homework. If the year has already begun, though, there is still no time like the present to make a great
change for the better!
You know how it feels easier to get out of something if you can & blame something/ someone else;? “Sorry we can’t come to your son’s piano recital; we have a family reunion that day.” Sometimes these other things are real; sometimes, well... maybe we make them up! But, usually, “blaming something else” makes it easier to do the things you really want to do and avoid the things you don’t.
Since many parents are constantly frustrated with homework battles, we can extend that idea
of blaming something else; into the homework realm by being proactive: Sit down with your
child and come up with a Homework Agreement.
A good Homework Agreement might contain these things:
Time: When will homework be completed?
Place: Where will homework be completed?
Length: For how long should your child work on homework?
Solutions: What should your child do if they get stuck?
Because you are the parent, of course you could simply create this yourself, based on what you want. But it usually works better if your child is involved in its creation, too. To make one, try these steps:
1. First, find a relaxed time when all involved can sit down and talk calmly about
homework. Take turns talking about what is already working well for your family, and
also what needs some improvement. Jot these things down.
2. Second, choose a time. Taking into consideration what you all want, try to find a
compromise that works for everyone. Maybe you want homework done immediately
after school, but your child wants to come home, unwind, play, and push it to the very
end of the evening. Perhaps you can compromise. For example, maybe after school she gets one hour to have a snack and then do whatever she wants... and then it is
Homework Time. A well-rested (and fed!) kid is much more likely to get to work than an
exhausted, hungry one. Jot down this agreed-upon time.
3. Third, discuss where homework should be done. Your child might prefer his room,
whereas you might prefer the kitchen table so you can be sure he stays focused. Again,
is there a compromise in there? Maybe he can start out at the table so you can casually
monitor to make sure he understands, and then he can go somewhere he chooses to
finish up. Maybe there is a quiet space elsewhere, a place where he can feel
autonomous but you are nearby. Record this, too.
4. Discuss, as well, what she should do if she doesn't understand something on the
assignment. Record your ideas.
5. Now, decide how long he will be expected to work on homework each day. Most
teachers try to balance it out so kids are not overwhelmed, but we all know that isn’t
always the case. What does your family think is an appropriate amount of time per
day? Perhaps ask for the teacher’s input as well. Many have a one-hour rule: if it is not
done in an hour, they can stop. Maybe you agree, maybe not. Maybe it depends on the
subject. But coming up with a general idea ahead of time, heads off a lot of frustration.
Write down your agreed-upon length.
6. Type all of the ideas you came up with (maybe your child can make it a cute document!) and hang it somewhere for all to see. (Try the fridge!) Now you have an official
Homework Agreement! And now… you are off the hook. The next time your child tries
to get out of doing homework, you can “blame something else”; you can simply point to
the Homework Agreement and say, "The Agreement says you do it now" and walk away.
No more pleading. No more begging. The decision has been made. You get to blame the Agreement!
Note: If you have more than one child, you may need a unique Homework Agreement for each.
Since every kid is different, what is best for one may be different than what works best for
Fun Option! Consider using a buzzer (or an alarm on her phone) as a reminder of when
homework time starts. Again, this can take the pressure off of you. YOU are not the one telling her to start her homework, the buzzer is. You get to “blame” the buzzer!
This Homework Agreement is going to be a good thing for your child and your family because once the Homework Agreement is implemented, there will be no more fights about where, when, and how he will do his homework! The pressure is off of you! You never have to be “the bad guy” again! From now on, you just say, “The Homework Agreement says to!”
But the really good thing is that the pressure is off of your child, too. If she knows there are
rules, if she knows they must be followed, and she knows that begging and excuses won’t
matter, then why try? In no time, she will get used to the new rules and feel less anxious
knowing exactly what is expected of her.
A Homework Agreement is consistent. It creates good habits. And that takes a lot of stress off of kids. It helps the whole family see that homework doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
For more ideas on how to get rid of the homework battles in your house, grab a copy of
“10 Quick Homework Tips”.
Cindy McKinley Alder and Patti Trombly
About the Authors: Cindy and Patti have over 40 years combined teaching experience. They both have Bachelor’s Degrees in Elementary Education and Master’s Degrees in the Teaching of Reading.
Besides the award-winning “10 Quick Homework Tips," they also co-wrote another book for parents called “365 Teacher Secrets for Parents- Fun Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Elementary School.” Cindy is also the author of two award-winning children books: One Smile and One Voice.
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