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You: “Have you done your homework yet?”

Your child: (No answer.)

You: “Hey, don’t ignore me! Turn off the TV and start studying for your Algebra test.”

Your child: “Algebra is stupid! I don’t get it. It doesn’t matter if I study —  I’m just going to fail the test anyway.”

Your child stomps to his room and slams the door, and you’re left standing there, worried, angry and upset.

And it was ever so: the nightly power struggle over homework. You know how important it is for your child to do the work in both the long- and short-term. It’s their main responsibility — their “job,” so to speak. And perhaps more importantly, there’s a lot at stake; doing the work is the only way they’ll be able to finish school and graduate.  As a parent, you understand all this, but your child doesn’t seem to be motivated. (Or, as James Lehman says, “They are motivated, but they’re just motivated to resist you.”)

If you are trapped in this power struggle with your child, you are not alone. Half of the parents who took our recent poll said they fought “every night” with their child over homework. 71 percent reported that their kids regularly refused to do the work at all. So where does that leave us as parents?

“When your child’s grades start falling, that’s when you’re invited in to set firm limits around his study habits,” says Debbie Pincus. She recommends creating a study plan that might include having your child do his work in a central location in the house, and for you to step up communication with his teachers.  “A schedule should be in place each night whether or not your child has homework. He can read, review or study if he doesn’t have any assignments during that time. Let him know that these rules will change when his grades begin to reflect his potential and when you are not getting negative reports from teachers about missing homework. When he accomplishes this, tell him you will be happy to have him be fully in charge of his own homework again.”

Related: How to get your child to do homework.

“The hard truth is that you cannot make your children do anything, let alone homework. Instead, the idea is to set limits, respect their individual choices and help motivate them to motivate themselves.”

Elisabeth Wilkins is the mother of one son and the Editor of Empowering Parents. She and her family live in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.


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