September 19, 2016

Is homework ruining your nightly family time? If you are anything like the families that I see, it has become a dreaded and lengthy battle each night.

Children are coming home from school physically tired and the last thing that they want to do is more school. Parents are getting off of a long days work and just want to relax, but feel pressured to ensure that all of the assignments are finished correctly.

How to Balance Homework and Home Life

You might have seen this viral post from a teacher that said that she was not assigning any homework to her class during this school year. Instead, she encouraged nightly reading, having a family dinner and going to bed early.

I would say she got it right. She referenced this research that says that homework in elementary school is not helpful. In fact, it can actually be harmful because it makes kids less interested in school in general.

But Our Teacher Does Assign Homework

So, what can you do if you are one of the unlucky parents whose teacher is still assigning work to be done at home. The initial worry is that your child will fail if they do not complete the homework. You certainly don’t want to undermine the authority of the teacher by saying that these assignments are a waste of time.

Homework Do’s and Don’ts


DO:                  Ask the teacher how long the homework should take (30 minutes)

DON’T:           Tell the teacher that you are not doing it at all.


DO:                  Require your child to spend that amount of time on homework

DON’T:           Stress if the homework is not completed.


DO:                  Inform the teacher that you tried but weren’t able to finish

DON’T:           EVER let them take away recess at school to finish homework


DO:                  Allow children to work on their assignments without you!

DON’T:           Give children the answers just to get it finished


DO:                  Give kids a chance to have a snack/play before they start working

DON’T:           Wait until after dinner to get started


DO:                  Play instrumental music in the background

DON’T:           Have the television on!


DO:                  Encourage the effort (you are really working hard)

DON’T:           Praise the outcome (Good Job, you’re finished)


DO:                  Enjoy family time (and dinner) each night

DON’T:           Spend all night yelling and fighting


DO:                  Consult with the teacher about your struggles

DON’T:           Worry about your child repeating a grade (it’s okay)


DO:                  Consider professional help (tutoring, mental health)

DON’T:          Just assume it will get better without interventions


In the end, your relationship with your child is more important than their nightly work (especially in elementary school). The dread and negativity that come along with homework battles is not good for your mental health or for your child’s mental health. However, we all want our children to be successful and these types of struggle could be an indication of a bigger problem.

Know When To Seek Help

If your child is having that much difficulty with homework, it could be a sign of a mental health disorder like ADHD. Other common problems include learning disabilities (like dyslexia)or sensory processing issues. Or it could be that your child needs glasses.

Before you assume that it is strictly defiance, rule out all other possible causes. Talk to your pediatrician and your child’s teacher and evaluate the need for additional services if the problem persists.

How long are you spending on homework each night?

About the Author

Jen Taylor, LCSW-C, RPT-S is an EMDR Approved Consultant and Certified Journal to the Self Instructor.  She is a therapist specializing in complex trauma, an international play therapy teacher and a published writer of multiple play therapy chapters.  Jen is the creator of the original 2017 Play Therapy Summit and many other innovative programs for mental health professionals.  Jen uses writing therapy, play therapy and expressive arts for her clients and for other mental health professionals so they can lead more joyful and meaningful lives.  Jen encourages people to try new things and create daily habits that allow for incremental progress towards previously unimaginable results.   Jen is a travel enthusiast, an avid reader, and a girl who lifts weights and runs for fun.  

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