Back off and let son handle his homework

By Marge Eberts and Peggy Gisler

King Features Syndicate

Q: I have been struggling with my very bright, talented son since middle school. He refuses to turn his homework in on time. He is a freshman now. We have tried to be consistent in our efforts, working with the teachers, giving him restrictions, etc. It has met with varied success. The more we have tried to get a handle on his work and get reports from his teachers, the more he has fought. We are trying to tie grades with privileges and let him do the work. This is a child who tests off the chart and should be in honors classes. How can we turn things around? — Rebellious Boy

A: Homework is important, but it must not be allowed to destroy family relationships. Try backing off and letting your son handle his homework. Don't even ask him if he has any work to do or about upcoming tests or even his grades. Confine your talks about school to other topics.

If you have any questions about your son having learning problems, you need to ask the school to test him. Sometimes problems are not recognized until students get into the higher grades. Many people don't realize that students can have high intelligence scores but not be able to handle the daily work. The testing will be able to identify if your son does have any learning issues that need to be addressed.


If the testing does not show any problems, try letting your son manage his homework for the rest of the semester. Be realistic in your expectations. Don't expect all A's. If his grades fall below C's, you may wish to rethink this approach and try penalties again.

Another approach would be to enter into a homework contract with your son. These contracts work for many families. A contract formalizes how homework will be done — one thing that discussion and promises rarely do. Contracts typically specify when and where students will do their homework and how long they will study each day. They may include penalties or rewards.

Send questions to Dear Teacher, in care of the Post-Bulletin, Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395; or e-mail:

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