What to Do When Your Child Won’t Do Homework

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Dear “And You Will Have Kids,”

My son is 11.  He refuses to do his homework and just wants to play video games when he’s at home. I’m tired of arguing with him and getting calls from his teachers. He just doesn’t care at all about school or his grades.  What do I do?

Frustrated Mom

Dear Frustrated Mom,

It sounds like a very frustrating situation!

The first step is to determine if your son is just trying to test boundaries or if he is actually having trouble doing the homework because he doesn’t understand the subject material.  If he’s having trouble with his homework because he doesn’t understand the material, he may try to avoid doing the work. If this is the issue, you’ll need to talk with his teachers to come up with a plan of action to help him. 

If he isn’t having issues with understanding the material, but isn’t completing his homework because he’d rather be playing video games, that’s a different story. I’d sit down with your son and tell him that the arguing is over.  If he refuses to do his homework, there will be consequences for him at home and also at school.  For example, if he chooses to not do his homework, this means he has also made a choice to not play video games.  In other words, he can only gain this privilege after he does his work.  This could be a powerful incentive!

Explaining to him why it’s important to do his homework might also help. For example, it’s important to do homework to help with your grades. It’s important to get good grades because it will help you to get a better job which will allow you to have a more fulfilling life.  Something like that anyway!

I’d also call his teacher (or teachers) and ask for a conference.  I’d ask for them to also set consequences for him at school if his homework is not done.  It may be that he can’t go outside for recess or something like that.  I’m sure that the teacher’s have deal with this before and will have all sorts of suggestions that have worked in the past.

After agreeing on a plan of action, the hardest part will be sticking to it!  Your son will most definitely test you to see if you are really serious about “the homework plan”, but the testing should be temporary.  If the homework issues continue or things get worse even after implementing a homework plan, you may want to consider taking your child for some counseling.

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