Stop Homework Struggles: 6 Practical Tips for Parents

by | Nov 2, 2023 | Parenting

Homework struggles are a challenge for many parents and families. Some research suggests that as many as 1 in 4 children display signs of refusal to do homework.

And for many families, it isn’t just their child complaining about doing it. They simply won’t do it no matter what you, as the parent, do.

Homework time becomes a battle, often leading to shouting, doors slamming, crying, or kids literally feeling sick over having to do their homework, like stomach aches or headaches.

Your child’s specific behaviours can vary depending on your child, their age, and circumstances. But no matter what your child does, the end result is that doing homework is a constant struggle.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

You can help your child overcome their homework struggle and set up a regular homework routine that avoids the drama — no matter their age.

Getting in a mindset to help your child — overcoming feelings of guilt and blame

As parents, it’s hard to see your child upset and struggling — especially when it involves situations we can’t remove, like homework.

Ongoing homework battles leave many parents feeling guilty and exhausted. They blame themselves and wonder where they went wrong — especially if they overhear other parents talking about how easily their child does their homework.

As a result, it can be hard to ask for help or talk about your feelings and situation.

Parents frequently tell me:

            “I should be able to get my child to do their homework. Where have I gone wrong?”

But ongoing homework refusal isn’t about placing blame. It’s not your fault or your child’s.

Instead, it’s about:

  • Discovering what’s contributing to the behaviours
  • Finding solutions that help your child
  • Getting the right level of support

Ultimately, you and your child can create a stress-free, routine process over time.

Why some children refuse to do homework

While young children are natural learners, sometimes circumstances change for kids when they start school, resulting in negative reactions to school and its associated activities.

Additionally, homework often gets viewed as that — work. So even children who like school may balk at having to do more work after a long day at school, especially if the tasks feel more like busy work.

However, children struggle with homework for a variety of reasons. So, understanding what’s underlying and causing your child’s reluctance to do homework is an important first step. Doing this can help you start working through the problem and identifying strategies that can best help your child.

Here are some reasons that can cause homework struggles:

  • Underlying learning difficulties
  • Trouble understanding assignments or the work
  • Problems with attention, including difficulty focusing for long periods or being easily distracted
  • Feeling overwhelmed by expectations or pressure to be perfect
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of homework
  • Underlying anxiety or perfectionism
  • Finding homework boring or viewing it as unnecessary


6 Strategies to stop homework struggles and help motivate your child

When addressing homework struggles, it’s important to work with your child and adapt strategies as needed to fit their age, level of maturity, and specific situation.

Additionally, helping your child work through their homework struggles takes time and consistency. Often, it can take a series of small steps that ultimately help you and your child move forward. So don’t give up. You can overcome homework battles and create a stress-free homework routine.

Here are some ways you can help your child start doing their homework.

1. Talk with your child about why teachers give homework and why they avoid homework.

At its core, homework is a tool to help strengthen and support your child’s learning and knowledge. It’s supposed to provide them with practice so they gain mastery of key concepts, which will help them excel at school and with learning.

But sometimes it’s hard for children to understand this, especially younger ones. They may be exhausted after school and simply want free time to play and recharge.

However, discussing why homework is helpful can help them to view it from a new perspective.

Will this one step turn your child around to doing homework without complaint? Not likely. But it does help your child understand why it’s important and can eventually help motivate them to do their homework.


  • Talk with your child when you and your child are calm. Not when there’s the pressure of doing homework.
  • Involve your child in the discussion. Ask them why they don’t like doing homework and what is something that can help them complete their tasks during homework time or make it more fun.
  • Adapt the conversation to fit your child’s age and maturity. For instance, the conversation with young kids may be short but still highlights why completing their homework is important.

2. Create a scheduled time for homework — but get your child’s input on when.

Setting a regular time for homework helps it become a habit.

To minimize objections, first talk with your child about your expectations and what homework time will entail. Let them know it is not a punishment, but a dedicated time for them to do their homework and a time when you’ll be available to support them as needed.

Additionally, get them involved in identifying when they’d like to do their homework. For instance, some kids may need a break after a long day at school or may be able to focus better after eating. By having some say, it can help give them more control over the situation and be a huge motivator.


  • Look for times that you both can do most days to make it consistent.
  • Avoid times when you know your child may be distracted, hungry, or tired.
  • Consider narrowing the options by giving your child a choice, like doing homework a half hour before dinner or right after dinner. This may be particularly helpful for younger kids or those who get overwhelmed by too many options.
  • Keep an eye out on how long homework takes and how much there is. If your child works slowly, homework can feel overwhelming so they may need an adjustment to the amount or a time limit so the work is appropriate to their age. If this is a concern, talk to your child’s teacher about limiting homework to fit your child’s needs and age.

3. Create an organized space for homework.

Having a set place to do their homework can make it easier to stick to the routine. If possible, you can set up the space with common tools your child will need, like sharpened pencils, paper, rulers, and colored pencils.

Ideally, make sure there’s enough space for your child to comfortably spread out, and that also allows you to be nearby.

Sometimes a designated space is not possible, you may need to pick up the homework station each day so the space can be used in other ways — which also works. In this case, try to store items nearby to make setup and clean up easy. You may also need to help your child organize the space as they set things out.


  • Find a spot that fits your child. For instance, some children may like to be around other family members while working on homework so they don’t feel left out or alone. Other children may need a quiet space that minimizes distractions.
  • When possible, make the school items they need fun — like a ruler in their favorite color or a fuzzy pencil that’s only used at homework time.

4. Talk with your child’s teacher about the homework struggles.

Homework is supposed to support learning — not make it a battle. If your child is having ongoing homework struggles, reach out to their teacher. Let them know what’s happening during homework time, including any potential underlying issues that may be contributing to the problem.

Your child’s teacher may be able to provide insights on strategies that can help at home. Additionally, they may be able to work with you on modifying assignments or expectations to fit your child’s needs.


  • Reach out as soon as homework becomes a struggle.
  • Ask your teacher if there are other supports or resources within the school system that your child may benefit from and can help with the homework issues.
  • Some schools require medical documentation before a teacher can approve homework accommodations. In these cases, a learning or psychological assessment can provide the necessary information to help support your child’s learning at school and home.


5. Be available and nearby when your child is doing their homework.

Many children benefit from having a parent nearby who is monitoring the homework process. Your involvement will depend on your child’s age, level of independence, and situation.

For young children, you may need to sit with them throughout the homework session. For instance, children may need help with reading instructions or understanding the assignment. They may need prompts to help keep them on track with tasks and to ensure they don’t accidentally skip problems.

As children get older and more independent, you may only need to be nearby in case they have a question or specific problem.

Additionally, you can also help monitor their emotions and mood. For instance, if they’re getting overly frustrated, you can intervene. Ask them what’s happening and what can help. You could even suggest strategies like taking a quick break and walking around to clear their head before returning to the task.


  • As children get older, sometimes parents may not know how the subject is now being taught (like math), or it’s a class they didn’t have in school. Even if you don’t know the topic, you can still support your child. Help them brainstorm how they can figure out the solution. For instance, is there a friend they can ask to help work through the information or an online resource or video that can help.
  • Ask your child what things you can do to help them. For instance, they may ask you to review their work to double-check problems or make sure they answered all questions.

6. Let your child experience what will happen if they don’t attempt their homework.

It’s okay to let your child experience the natural consequences of not attempting their homework, especially prior to high school level and above.

Sometimes kids need to discover what it feels like when they don’t follow through on an obligation.

That said, in this case, talk with your child first. Explore with them what may happen if they don’t attempt the assignment. Ask them how they may feel as a result. Sometimes, talking it through can help them choose to do the task even when they don’t want to.


  • If your child chooses not to attempt a homework assignment, talk to them after they experience the consequences. Ask them what happened and how it felt.
  • Avoid getting angry or upset with them.

4 things to avoid when talking about homework with your child

1. Don’t call homework their job.

This emphasizes the ‘work’ in homework, making it seem like drudgery. Instead, the goal is to try and help your child start viewing homework as important, helpful, and (ideally) fun.

2. Avoid using “no homework” as a reward.

This can emphasize that homework is something to be avoided or that students need a break from instead of being a useful tool to help your child learn.

3. Don’t use punishment to get your child to do their homework.

It’s frustrating and stressful when your child consistently won’t do their homework. As a parent, it’s hard to know what to do at times.

However, nagging until they give in or the possibility of punishments ultimately don’t work. Additionally, these approaches can interfere with them eventually developing the internal motivation and self-discipline to do the tasks on their own.

Ultimately, the goal is for your child to be self-motivated to do their work. But this skill can take time to develop. So, sometimes the use of rewards can be helpful in the beginning to assist them with this process.

4. Don’t do your child’s homework for them.

Watching your child meltdown over homework is hard, and it can be tempting to help alleviate the distress by doing some or most of your child’s homework for them. While this reduces their immediate stress, it does not solve the larger problem. Instead, it can reinforce your child’s acting out or distress behaviours, since they learn that it leads to them not having to do the work.

Instead, work with your child to support them while still having them do the work. For instance, help them break down complex tasks into more manageable chunks. Have them talk through the problem out loud.

If they struggle with certain subjects or topics, talk to their teacher for extra assistance or encourage older children to speak with their teacher. If possible, you could also consider hiring a tutor for extra support.

How to handle your child’s homework struggle if they keep refusing to do it.

While incorporating the above strategies can help resolve problems with homework struggles, sometimes more specialized help is needed.

In some cases, children may have underlying challenges that are contributing to their homework refusal, like attention deficit disorder, learning difficulties, or emotional and behavioural challenges.

So, while the above strategies can help, children dealing with these additional situations may need more support to address the specific underlying struggle.

At North Shore Psychological Services of Nova Scotia, our psychologists can help you and your child work through struggles with homework.

Our experts can help you identify underlying emotional, behavioural, or learning factors that may be exacerbating homework issues. We can help you create a homework routine, including strategies tailored specifically to your child’s needs, so homework stops being a struggle. We can also assist with a learning or behavioural evaluation if needed to get accommodations at school.

Because our goal is to help support you and your child so school and learning become fun.