SOS for Homework Part 1

What to do about behaviors that get in the way of completing homework independently

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time believing those parents that tell me they don't have to help their children with homework. They report that their kids happily start their homework soon after they get home and stick with it until it’s done. My kids certainly didn’t work that way and I spent a lot of time managing homework which left me little time to do the other things that needed to be done. And even though I thought it would get better the older my kids got, things didn't change. From personal experience and research, I found there are seven behaviors that typically keep kids from completing homework independently and what can be done about them.

1. Procrastination – putting off doing homework by finding other things to do first

2. Inflexibility – not stopping what they’re currently doing when it’s time to work

3. Disorganization – failing to write down assignments, missing needed materials

4. Rushing – finishing homework quickly but may skip problems, make mistakes, or produce sloppy work

5. Fidgeting and impulsivity – not focusing on work due to constantly moving or getting up frequently

6. Daydreaming – not focusing on work due to thinking about other things or just staring out the window

7. Frustration – having homework meltdowns because the work is too hard or overwhelming

Most often, these behaviors arise because children have not yet developed the necessary skills for working independently. Dr. Ross Greene, author of Lost at School and founder of the Lives in the Balance organization, says “Kids do well if they can” not, “Kids do well if they want to”.  So motivation (i.e., rewards and consequences) won’t work to change the behaviors that are getting in the way and may in fact make things worse. 

How, then, do we help our kids develop the skills they need?


The first step is to determine which of the above behavior or behaviors are getting in the way of starting and completing homework independently. You might want to take some time to observe your child over the next week. Be curious about what is really going on. Ask your child some questions to find out his/her perspective on what’s working and what isn’t. 

Then, read SOS for Homework Part 2 for specific strategies to improve each behavior so you can create a plan to develop the skills needed for independence.

If you find there is something that is working well now, please share it in the comments. I love to hear about successful strategies!