Many parents worry over how to get kids to do homework. With all the distractions and obligations in our lives, it’s easier than ever for kids to find ways to avoid homework time.
We’ve all seen memes and online conversations about changing the WiFi password until kids do homework and finish their chores. But even when parents do this, it can still be a nightly fight to get kids to do homework.
Whether or not you agree with your child’s after-school workload, homework is a valuable tool for teaching your kids responsibility. In most cases, homework is also essential for solidifying the concepts being taught at school.
Even though getting homework finished seems like it should be a no-brainer, it’s a struggle for many families. So what’s a parent to do?
No, It Isn’t Impossible to Get Kids to Do Homework Before Dinnertime
Many families are so busy that the idea of getting their kids to finish all their homework before dinnertime seems laughable.
If both parents work, this can become even more challenging. By the time you stop hurrying around for the evening, you may even find yourself rushing your kids to do homework when they should be going to bed.
Things that stand in the way of getting homework done…
There are many things that can make it challenging to get kids to do homework. Here are some common reasons this can become such a struggle.
Kids want to play.
When my son gets home from school, the first thing he asks me is, “Can I go play with my friends?” Over the summer, I got in such a habit of saying “yes,” I sometimes forgot to tell him to do homework first.
Now, we’re in the habit of doing homework as soon as he gets home from school. (Actually, he’s in Kindergarten and doesn’t technically have homework most nights. So we have reading time instead). But he still asks me every single day. Some days, when I’m exhausted after work, I want to give in and let him play so I can make dinner in peace.
However, I maintain that it’s an important habit to cultivate. If we start doing this now, there won’t be any question that it’s a rule by the time he’s older and has more homework. Even my 3-year-old joins us for reading time, and he isn’t in school yet.
Schoolwork can be frustrating.
Not only can homework be somewhat boring, but if your child struggles with a particular subject, they may want to avoid it altogether. Add in the fact that parents sometimes don’t understand the subject, either, and homework time can easily become the most frustrating time of day.
Cheryl is a Host Mom whose twin boys are in Spanish dual-immersion classes at school. Neither Cheryl nor her husband, Noland, are fluent in Spanish. Even though their kids were only in 2nd grade, Cheryl says it became challenging to help their kids with homework each day.
But after matching with a great Ecuadorian Au Pair, Karen, Cheryl says their frustrations have been eliminated.
“With Karen,” she explains, “our boys practice their Spanish 3 additional hours a day. They get to read with a native language speaker daily and they have a patient and talented person to help them with homework at 4 PM rather than 7 or 8 PM when they are exhausted from their day.”
Though not every Au Pair can help tutor in every subject, they can certainly help with language immersion. Plus, many Au Pairs already have teaching or tutoring experience. Check out our database of fantastic Au Pairs–you could start interviewing Au Pairs as early as today!
Housework demands can distract parents.
If your kids are struggling with homework, you might feel like sacrificing cleanliness is what it takes to get kids to do homework. Or, you might give your kids rewards and consequences in an effort to keep them accountable for completing their homework.
Au Pairs can also alleviate this dilemma. Not only can they help with household chores that are related to childcare (such as washing the kids’ dishes or putting away the kids’ laundry), they can also teach kids to clean up after themselves throughout the day.
Imagine coming home to a clean house each night–not because your Au Pair did all the work, but because she enforced the rules and supervised the kids’ chore time to make sure it got done. This can take a huge burden off your shoulders and free up valuable time for you to focus on your kids.
Making dinner takes your attention away from the kids.
Even when you come home to a clean house, dinner can still stand in the way. Don’t you hate it when those “30-minute meals” take an hour or longer because you’re trying to meet so many demands?
Fortunately, Au Pairs often enjoy cooking. While they can’t be expected to prepare dinner for the entire household, they can feed the kids before you get home. This helps stave off the after-school appetite so the kids don’t harass you while you’re cooking.
Plus, well-fed kids have more energy to focus on their homework. If there’s enough time between when school lets out and when you get home, ask your Au Pair to supervise homework time until you arrive. You might even find they finish before you get home!
Evening obligations cut into homework time.
Whether it’s transporting kids to sports activities or attending a neighborhood event, evening obligations. Even if you only have one kid in after-school activities, you might need to bring all the kids with you.
Doing homework on the go can be challenging at best. Not only does this increase the number of distractions, but it’s simply challenging to write in the car.
If you don’t need your Au Pair to work at her max hours every day to accommodate your work schedule, you could ask her to help out in the evenings. Let the kids stay home and do homework while one of you runs the other kid(s) to sports and activities.
Screens & other distractions
Parents know all too well how screens can be a huge distraction–not just to kid, but for us, too! When parents are too busy on their screens, it can interfere with our ability to supervise homework time. It also sets an example of screen useage for our kids.
Not to say that parents can’t use their screens in front of their kids. Nor would it be feasible to completely remove screens from your child’s homework time; in fact, screens are becoming ever more necessary to complete homework.
However, you can limit distractions during homework time. Set up a study station to help your child focus on homework time. If you’re using screens yourself, share what you’re doing with your kids and why it’s important.
Talk to your Au Pair about appropriate screen time and limiting distractions during homework time. Your Au Pair might also have ideas for eliminating distractions.
Kids Just Generally Don’t Want To
Homework can be just plain boring. Kids, like adults, tend to avoid anything that isn’t fun or engaging. Talk to your children about why homework is important. If it’s overwhelming or your child is bored with their school work, it’s also possible that the content is either too easy or too difficult for them.
Discuss different strategies for combatting boredom with your Au Pair. It’s important for both of you to recognize that willpower is a limited resource. Your child has already spent much of their willpower at school.
You can help your child consume less willpower at a time by batching tasks. For example, adults often batch tasks by going to the gym right after work, while they’re already out and about.
If getting your child to sit down for homework time an dinner time is a struggle, you could serve dinner immediately after homework time. This way, your child has a built-in reward for doing homework, and you only have to get them to sit at the table once.
Things that help get homework out of the way:
Additionally, here are some things that really help get homework done in a timely manner (and that your Au Pair can do with the kids before you get home).
- Doing homework the moment kids get home
- Incentives for finishing (stickers, extra playtime)
- Consistent homework and after school routine
- Celebrating little successes
- Distraction-Free environment
Be sure to coordinate with your Au Pair to cultivate the process that works best for your family!
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“After years of stress and frustration, and many different nannies, we decided to look for an au pair. When Veronika arrived on January 2, 2016 our lives were forever changed. We had no idea that a real life Mary Poppins had just arrived!”
“I can honestly say that bringing her to live with us as our au pair has been the best decision we could possibly have made. She has afforded us so many priceless “intangibles” during her time here that I can’t begin to quantify her contributions to our family.”