Homework and Bedtime Arguments: 8 Tips for Calmer Nights with Kids
"Why can't I get my kids to get their homework
done and off to bed without the constant screaming, bickering, and crying?" If
you've asked yourself this question regularly, you're not alone. Parents tell me
that homework and bedtime battles are some of the most nerve-wracking,
exhausting moments of parenthood. No wonder. When everyone is coming home tired
and cranky, homework and getting ready for bed are prime fodder for arguments.
But with some simple, thoughtful changes, you can develop a Calm Evening Plan
that will make things a lot less stressful for you and your kids.
Have your child divide their homework into doable
sections: what they want to start on immediately after school, what they wish to
work on after chores or dinner and what to finish up later in the evening.
I've found that the most effective plan for eliminating homework/bedtime woes
starts as soon as your child gets home, not at the end of the day when everyone
is tired and probably not at their best. It's also important to make it
realistic so that it works for everyone, you can follow it consistently, and you
don't ask too much of yourself or your children. Here are eight tips to help you
create your Calm Evening Plan. You can try all of them or pick and choose.
8 tips for calm evenings-after school through bedtime
Hold a Quick Family Meeting. Begin the process on a weekend by calling a
family meeting. Let your children know that after school time, right up through
bedtime, is going to run differently from now on. Keep it simple and let them
know the goal: to get as much completed before bedtime with as little stress as
possible. You can say, "We're going to try something different starting tomorrow
after school so things work better for all of us."
Set Expectations and Consequences. Establish rules for what has to get
accomplished as soon as your children get home from school. For kids of all
ages, this can include putting shoes and jackets away, emptying lunch boxes and
water bottles, and setting up their homework at their study space. Tell them
ahead of time what the consequences will be if they don't do their chores, and
be sure to follow through. Setting some simple ground rules can keep chaos from
erupting after school. If your child complains about homework after school,
point him back to the ground rules and consequences.
No Screens. Watching TV or playing video games when first arriving home
from school make it difficult to begin homework or chores and should be
eliminated from the afternoon ritual. So does having access to other electronics
(phones, tablets, etc.); have a basket handy where all electronics go as soon as
your child walks in the door. When you want your child to have their electronics
returned or to be able to watch TV is a personal choice. Just be clear that
permission to use the phone during a break involves a specific time limit and
then the phone goes back in the basket.
But what should you do if your child needs his laptop or tablet in order to do
his homework? One solution is to have tablets and laptops parked in a visible
place and allow your child to "check them out" in order to use them for
homework. This means they alert you that they need them, what they are using
them for, and the length of time they will be used. Using electronics in a
specific area of the home where you can monitor their use can also be helpful
for younger kids who may or may not be able to stay on task.
Allow Decompression Time. Allow your kids a certain amount of time to
decompress, but make sure the amount of time is decided upon prior to when "down
time" starts. If your child has a lot of energy, a 15-minute bike ride can help
release it. If your child is tired, a snack may be the answer. Just remember to
stick to the agreed upon time limit.
Divide Homework into Doable Sections. Homework should begin after decompression
time so that it doesn't interfere with bedtime. For kids of all ages this tends
to be a challenge, so breaking homework up into doable sections can help. Some
parents find it helpful to have their kids divide their homework into sections:
what they want to start on immediately after school, what they wish to work on
after chores or dinner, and if necessary, what to finish up later in the
evening, after they shower or complete an extracurricular activity.
Some children need breaks in between assignments. For younger children,
set the timer (15 minutes is usually good) and explain that once the timer goes
off, they have to sit back down and continue. Older kids can set their own
breaks, but make sure that break doesn't turn into an hour on the phone. Let
them know how they can access you for questions; for example, what's a good time
to call you at work? For younger children and middle schoolers especially,
determine how you'll check in on their progress.
Set up Mom or Dad's "In Basket." Have another basket or a small area set aside
for kids to put anything that has to be turned in the next day or later in the
week. All permission slips, envelopes for money for field trips or the
cafeteria, notes from teachers or coaches, or information about upcoming events
get placed here. After dinner each night, review what's in the basket and
organize accordingly with each child. This will help ward off frantic early
morning searches for that note from the teacher.
Consider also using a long-term planner. Each child has their own slot in
which long term paperwork goes, like rubrics for long-term projects, reminders
for picture day that's not for another month, outlines for book reports, or
After Dinner, Focus on the Morning. If homework still needs to be completed,
continue enforcing the "no electronics, no distractions" rule. For younger
children, it may be time to start getting ready for bed. But no matter what, for
everyone it's time to get ready for the next morning. Completed homework goes
into backpacks, along with school books, signed permission slips, snacks, water
bottles, and gym/sports gear. Once these are in order, backpacks get placed by
the front door.
For children ages 8-12, have them create a checklist that gets kept in an
accessible spot (say, the refrigerator). They can use this to help them get
organized in the evening and as a double check in the morning. Teens can be as
spacey and disorganized as toddlers. But, this doesn't mean that you should
treat them as you would a toddler! On the contrary, teens need to focus on
getting more organized the night before in order to prevent lapses in the
Establish Bedtime and "Get Ready" Time. Devise a nighttime sleep plan that you
commit to adhering to each school night. This includes setting an expectation
about what time is bedtime, and that getting ready begins around 30-45 minutes
before your child is in bed. (Any shorter and your child will feel too rushed;
while any longer invites stall tactics.)
For younger children, this routine might include bath time, getting pj's on, and
a few stories before they are tucked in. Kids this age also enjoy picking out
what they will wear the next day, which prevents early morning hassles for you.
If your child has trouble falling asleep, stay calm and stick to your plan,
telling them that you expect them to go to bed and stay there. For teens, set an
expectation about their bedtime by saying something like: "I'd like to see you
in bed by 10:30. Let's talk about how much homework you still have to finish
Consistently following a calm evening plan for your family may seem impossible
many nights, and truthfully, some nights you won't be able to follow every
expectation you set for yourself or your children. But having a plan is the key
to reducing the stress and disorganization that most parents experience during
the school year. Remember that it doesn't have to be perfect, just reliable,
realistic, and in place.
("Homework and Bedtime Arguments" written with
permission from Empowering Parents)
by Dr. Joan Simeo Munson
Dr. Joan Simeo Munson earned her Ph.D. in
Counseling Psychology from the University of Denver. She has worked with
incarcerated individuals, families, adolescents, and college students in a
variety of settings, including county and city jails, community mental health
centers, university counseling centers, and hospitals. She also has a background
in individual, group, and couples counseling. Dr. Munson lives in Colorado with
her husband and three energetic children. She currently has a private practice
in Boulder where she sees adults, couples and adolescents. Joan is an expert
author for Empowering Parents, producers of
The Total Transformation
comprehensive step-by-step, multi-media program that helps you change your child's behavior.
out this article for more tips:
Strategies To Help You And Your Child Survive Homework!
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homework and reading charts.
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