Homework Temper Tantrums: What Can I Do?

You are not alone!  For many parents, the weeknight battle of what amounts to a temper tantrum over homework may lead to a contest of wills.  Arguing, while it is exhausting and resolves nothing on either side, is a form of distraction.  Resistance can come in many ways, such as a verbal fight, or bouts of slamming doors, screaming and crying.  While children can sucker you into a power struggle, the outcome serves no purpose except an extended period of wasted time; therefore, avoid arguing and stating threats.

The reason most children struggle with the act of starting homework is they identify home with a place of refuge and connection.  The idea of coming home after a long day of school sends their brains into a free-time mode comprising relaxation, snacks, and television. The solution is not sitting by your child’s side to confirm directions and answers; instead, begin a routine using the following suggestions.

  • Do not keep your struggles at home a secret or wait and hope his or her behavior improves.Involving the teachers, counselor, and principal will establish a relationship of open communication and, in turn, ease the frustration at home.
  • Similar to the act of performing chores, homework is part of home life. It requires a pact between child and parent. Allow your child to have a 45-minute break after coming home and then agree upon a time to begin schoolwork. (Expect kindergarten children to be exhausted their first two weeks of school.  Their behavior will improve!  Be patient!)
  • Agree upon a location to study. Despite the wisdom of having a desk in a child’s bedroom, every possible distraction is present there. Considering open rooms such as a den, kitchen, or dining room table can accommodate the need for a common area.  Most children work more efficiently with other children and an adult present.  It creates an environment similar to the classroom.
  • Create a “house rule” to establish a quiet hour within the home. Preschool children, especially, can comply with the rule by coloring or practicing writing letters and numbers. Parents can set an example by reading.  (Turn homework into an hour of luxury!)
  • Breaks are a necessity; therefore, discuss a schedule, which may include a downtime lasting ten minutes. The benefits of a child playing, for instance, basketball in the driveway, taking a quick bike ride, or running outdoors with the dog can increase the mental energy needed to finish assigned tasks.
  • Parents often become responsible for their child’s homework. Whether it is receiving the assignments online or through an e-mail, the responsibility is not yours. Children must assume all accountability, which includes earning the grade.  Focus on talking about successes, as well as reflecting upon what is working to his or advantage.  If a student can understand how to redirect failure into success, he or she will try to achieve positive outcomes!
  • If your child insists you sit with him, ask him or her to read the directions and explain the assignment. Children will depend on you, unless you leave the room; therefore, give your child time to complete a few problems independently.  Another tactic is allowing the chance to ask only three questions.  Rather than bombard you with questions, the request must be of value!
  • Parents can help their children understand practical ways to ease frustration. Rather than reading, substitute an audiobook, or create flashcards to study spelling or vocabulary words. The goal is for children to become self-sufficient, which may require offering teachable lessons on time management or organization.
  • The cries of help need to be understood. The explanation may be due to sadness, anxiety, or exhaustion. Beyond the communication received from teachers and school staff, constant temper tantrums may require a deeper understanding of what is driving the behavior. A doctor may assist with answers.

The goal of homework is to review lessons learned in school.  Every assignment, despite the student’s dislike of reading, writing, or computing, is essential.  Regardless of the feelings of frustration or exhaustion, focus your child’s attention on the rewards of completion.  Homework should not consume hours.  There must be ample time for family, and friends, and most importantly, self-interests!


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