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3 Things to Do When Your Kid Cries over Homework

“Noooo… I can’t do it.  I don’t have the time!!”

Have you heard this from your child when she sits down to do homework?  My gosh, it wrecks me.

I can feel her overwhelm. What can I do but jump in and try to help?

“It’s ok sweetie, let’s write down all the things you have to do to get it out of your head.”

“NO!” she pouts back, “That won’t help.  I don’t know any of this and I have to get started now.”

What do you do with that? 

You see the problem, you know the steps to take to fix it and yet your child pushes you away like you couldn’t possibly know what she’s talking about or what she’s dealing with.

I have a feeling its what our parents used to think about us.

Homework can become one neverending nightmare.  What do we do when our kids struggle with it and yet refuse our help?

First, you need to make sure you have a great routine set up. I show you how in my FREE Quick-Start Drama Free Homework Guide. Grab it here.

Second, we need to prepare with a great response.

Read: How to Stay Calm and Win the Homework Battle

#1 We step back.

Kids want autonomy.   They want control over their lives.

Sometimes our well-meaning suggestions threaten that sense of control – especially as they get older.

FYI: This post contains affiliate links to products I love and recommend.  It costs you nothing extra if you purchase through my link, but I may get a small commission.

In her book Untangled: Guiding Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood, Lisa Damour, Ph.D. tells the story of a girl Trina, whose mom tried to control her homework.  Well-meaning mom would stand over Trina making sure every problem was answered and correct.

Well, Trina did her homework.  But then, she refused to turn it in.

Only after Trina’s mom stepped back from homework to make it truly her daughter’s responsibility did Trina start turning in assignments.

Read: How to stop the homework fight even if your kid outright refuses to work

How to step back effectively

How did she do this?  She offered her help, but then tied Trina’s grades to the level of maturity she showed.  The more maturity she showed by her participation in school, the more privileges she had outside of it.

This consequence makes sense because 1) Trina’s parents needed to know they could trust her and 2) They truly wanted Trina to succeed.  It wasn’t punitive but rather a stepping stool to growing up.

With homework, we can offer our help but then we need to step back when our kids refuse to take it.

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#2 We can’t reason with emotions

When I don’t want to do something—like, really don’t want to do something—I get emotional. You may do it, too. If you ever want to cry just thinking about doing all the dishes piling up in the sink, this will speak to you. 

We’re stressed. We’re overwhelmed. It’s a natural reaction and some people are better handling it than others.

Our kids get this way, too. After all the after-school activities and demands on their time, kids get understandably tired.

Kendra, a mom from Chandler, Arizona, says this is exactly how her son reacts to homework. She explains that, “if he’s mad and tired, he’s writing mad and tired.”

When our kids cry and look miserable, it triggers a huge protective instinct in us parents. We hate seeing them this way and think of any way we can make it better. Sometimes that means giving in and releasing them from homework for the night; or maybe it means you’re by their side as their personal cheerleader – cheering them through math, one painful equation at a time.

“C’mon you can do it. Just one more. Just one more.”

I release you from that responsibility. Not only does it stress you out, but your kiddo can feel your stress as well.

When emotions get high…

Instead, take a break.  There is no reason that kids need to power through homework in elementary school and middle school.

Is your kid overwhelmed? Take the homework away.

One of two things will happen:

  • Either they’ll keep crying and break down further which gives you the chance to swoop in and give some serious cuddling.
  • Or they’ll stop the crying to get their homework back. 

When this happens, you know that the tantrum was manipulative.  It was to get something out of you, whether it was the answers or your step-by-step coaching. 

#3 We need to teach kids to motivate themselves

We ‘re all forced to do unpleasant tasks (hello, pooper scoop in the backyard!) And yet, by the time we’re adults, we know how to push through those less-than-desirable tasks to achieve the results we’re after.

Read: The Four Skills Kids Must Master in Elementary School Homework

In fact, this is a necessary qualification to be successful. If success were all fun, everyone would get there.

We must treat homework the same.

  • Those twenty math facts need to be practiced.
  • Those spelling words you don’t know how to spell need to be written.
  • That math worksheet you’re scared of: the quicker you’re into it, the quicker you’re out. 

As a parent, we don’t have the time or energy to be a constant cheerleader to our kids. 

And, even if we did, it wouldn’t serve them in the long run. 

That’s OK because I’ll teach you strategies that you can then teach your children on how to motivate themselves through difficult (and boring) assignments. 

The Answer to Homework Hell

When our kids complain through nightly homework, it digs into us.  I’m hesitant to say it causes us physical pain, but it kind of does.

However, by stepping back, not trying to reason with emotions and teaching our kids how to motivate themselves, we will see improvement.

Our kids will fight us less.

Homework time will be less of a dreaded task. 

If homework is a struggle and you need support as a parent, go get my book Drama Free Homework: A Parent’s Guide to Eliminating Homework Battles and Raising Focused Kids. In it, I walk you through creating a homework routine that’s right for your family.

Want me to PERSONALLY teach your child the necessary homework skills?  Then, Homework 911 is for you. 

JoAnn Crohn

CEO/Founder at No Guilt Mom
JoAnn Crohn, M. Ed is a parenting educator and life coach who helps moms feel confident in raising empowered, self-sufficient kid while pursuing their own goals & passions.

She’s an accomplished writer, author, podcast host of the No Guilt Mom podcast, and speaker who appears in national media. Work with her personally in Balance VIP

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