How to Avoid Homework Battles with Your Strong-Willed Child

How to Avoid Homework Battles With Your Strong-Willed Child - tips from a teacher & mom who's been thereIf you have a strong-willed kid, homework can be a family
battleground.  The nagging and avoiding . . . the last minute rush . . . the yelling . . . the child who “forgets” to turn it in to the teacher . . .  As a parent and teacher, I’ve seen all of
these and more. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Homework Hurdles

My son started early with pushing back about homework. He didn’t want to do his ten minutes of first grade homework. My initial reaction was,
“You will do your homework now.”
Yeah. That didn’t work. That tactic may be effective for a more compliant child, but not my strong-willed one.

You can force your child to sit at a desk and stare at the homework, but unless you’re willing to give out answers, it takes a good bit of coercion to get them to actually accomplish anything.  Ten minutes of work could take my little dawdler an hour if he set his mind to it.

It drove me crazy.

It interfered with my allotted dinner-cooking time, with bedtime, and when things got really bad, it interfered with our morning routine too.

Something had to change.

When strong-willed kids don’t want to do something, pushing them too hard can backfire. I’ve experienced this over and over with my own hard-headed children (and my own hard-headed self).

Natural Consequences for Not Doing Homework

Pretty quickly I started researching what might be more effective. I landed on a natural consequences type approach, and everyone’s stress levels have gone way down.

It’s not always easy to find a natural consequence. What worked for us was leaning on the teacher’s consequence for late work.

The first time my son flat out refused to do his homework, instead of engaging in a battle of wills with him, I emailed his teacher and enlisted her help. I explained what was going on, and how we were approaching it. I asked her not to be lenient with him even though it was his first offense. He needed a consequence to nip the problem in the bud.

His teacher supported me 100%. She was sympathetic to him, yet firm that this (a small loss of privileges) is what happens in her classroom. That night, he was much more motivated! He continued to test the “system” every once in a while, but less and less often.

How to Avoid Homework Battles With Your Strong-Willed Child - tips from a teacher & mom who's been there


Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Then, at the beginning of 2nd grade, we faced the same problem all over again. I handled it the same way, and with full support from another wonderful teacher, my son stopped refusing to do his homework.
The hitch for me was that in 2nd grade the consequence included having points taken off the assignment. It was hard for me to let go of my anxiety over letting him get a lower grade. I had to keep reminding myself that it was only 2nd grade, and the stakes were low. I knew that I was doing the right thing in the long run.
How to Avoid Homework Battles With Your Strong-Willed Child - tips from a teacher & mom who's been there


Teaching Good Homework Habits


Once we had overcome the stonewalling, my son still needed to learn time management. I could just tell him when it’s homework time, but he does better when he’s given a choice and feels in control.
Your long term goal is probably the same as mine. You want your child to internalize good work habits and be self-motivated.
So rather than being dictatorial, focus on setting limits.  Tell your child the limitations of his schedule (and yours). Then let him figure out when to do the homework. Make observations and suggestions, but let your child fail if he makes a poor decision. Support her when she fails, and be sympathetic rather than critical. Then encourage her to try something different next time.
At my house, we’ve had to go as far as saying, “if you continue to make poor choices this week, then next week mommy and daddy are going to make the homework schedule.” And we do, and he hates it, and we are all miserable for a week. 
How to Avoid Homework Battles With Your Strong-Willed Child - tips from a teacher & mom who's been there


We try to look at as a teaching opportunity rather than a punishment, though. We talk about how much easier it is to get our work done when we’ve gotten a little relaxation and play in, but aren’t too tired yet. Usually he gets back on track really well after that.

Keep Homework Positive

Don’t forget to praise your child for a job well done. Be specific. You know, like this:
“You did that without anyone reminding
“I like how neatly you wrote that.”
“Let’s play a game after dinner since
your homework is already done.”
You get the idea.


Homework can be a time where your strong-willed child develops a sense of mastery and learns good study habits, or it can be a time when your child learns how to procrastinate and show passive aggression. The choice is yours.

This school year, I’m thrilled to be working with a group of outstanding bloggers to address topics of interest to parents of public school students.  Our topic this month is Homework. Check out all of these great posts —

The Best Way to Prepare for this Friday’s Spelling Test

The Keys to a Successful Homework Time

Surviving Your Child’s Math Homework

Homework and Gifted Learners

Managing Homework Ideas & Free Homework Punch Cards


  1. Homework has turned into a power-struggle at our house too – and I only have a 1st grader. I'm trying to do the "natural consequence" thing but the perfectionist in me finds it hard to let her go to school without the homework done!

    1. I know – it's SO hard to let them make mistakes. I am really seeing a payoff this year in 3rd grade. I know we'd be butting heads about homework if I took a different stance, at least with this kid.

  2. If children don’t learn the way we teach ,we should teach them the way they learn , after few battle with my own I quickly grasp that academic way of learning is artificial , not appropriate and boring . I quickly moved from homeschooling to unschooling and world schooling . It’s because we live that we learn and not because we learn we will know how to leave ! So we are free from stupid test , grade and curriculum . Children are naturally gifted and full of life , energie and enthusiasm . They learn quick and better than us what they need to learn when they ready for it . It’s for the adults to understandt and get out of their way . We are there to give them love and trust them and provide a secure environment. ( I recommand john holt and John Taylor gatto book : dumbing us down ) by the way successful people like richard branson , Weston churchill … And many other didn’t waste their time with irrelevant boring learning . Children learn and blossom when they play when they are free to do what they wish just like us . To free them you have to free yourself from assumptions that a washbrain system had put in ur mind from years : system of control that waste people life to put them in debt ( all student are lol ) and modern slavery to engross and serve corporation profit … If people were educated and not ignorant , school would be close .

    1. Thanks for your perspective. This post was intended for parents who’ve already made the decision to go the conventional route with their children’s schooling. My aim was to provide ideas on how to support kids becoming responsible in that context.

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