Let’s face it: Homework can be almost as frustrating for parents as it is for kids. Getting kids to do their homework can be a challenge, and when they do sit down to study, a host of other problems can emerge. But your child’s study sessions don’t have to stress out the whole family.

Doing homework may not be as fun as playing video games or chatting with friends, but it shouldn’t be something that kids dread. “Homework should inspire students rather than bore them,” says Sharon Marshall Lockett, author of Home Sweet Homework. Your child’s assignments should not be busywork, she says, but should help him build a skill, test a skill, or learn something new.

You can help by being a homework monitor, stepping in to answer questions or offer encouragement, but not doing your daughter’s assignments for her. Supervising your child’s homework gives you a chance to see what she’s learning and how well she’s grasping the material. It helps you understand her learning style and shows you care about her education.

Many kids resist studying by asking why they have to learn things they’ll never use in real life. If your son shows little interest in his assignments, you can make them seem more relevant by pointing out ways you use the math and language arts skills he’s studying in daily life.

A common rule of thumb for homework is 10 minutes per grade per night. So a child in 3rd grade should have 30 minutes of homework, and a child in 6th grade should have one hour. Two hours per night is often recommended as the maximum for a high school student. Keep in mind that some students work faster than others. If your child does not understand the material, it may take him longer. If he’s especially bright in that subject, he’ll finish sooner.

Parents who feel that their kids are overloaded can be vocal, but they’re in the minority, says Harris Cooper, a professor of education, psychology, and neuroscience at Duke University and a longtime researcher on homework. He points to a 2007 MetLife survey in which about 15 percent of parents said their kids had too much homework. About 60 percent said the homework load was just right, and 25 percent thought their children had too little homework.

If you think your child takes too long to finish homework, try to determine whether the problem lies in having too much work or managing time poorly. “One of the things homework is supposed to do is to teach time management and self-discipline,” Cooper says.

Make Homework More Fun

If your child complains of boredom while doing homework, consider shaking up the routine a little to make study sessions more fun. Lockett suggests these approaches to keep kids engaged.

Get help from friends: If your child is struggling with an assignment, let him call a friend for help or invite a friend over to work on it with him. You might also invite neighborhood kids over and let them do homework together. Have them sit around the dining room table and help each other.

Incorporate physical activity: Set mini goals for homework and allow time for stretching, jumping jacks, or a snack after each goal is completed. For a kid who can’t sit still, find active ways to study, such as tossing a football while calling out the multiplication tables or fidgeting with small toys while memorizing facts.

Turn the tables: Let your child teach you a lesson. Let her give you a quiz and a grade.

Divide and conquer: Instead of spending equal time on every topic, encourage your child to hone in on what he doesn’t know and skim the content he has already learned.

Talk it through: Encourage your child to study out loud. By tapping his sense of hearing, your child will be more likely to remember the concept without spending additional energy.


8 Cures for Homework Headaches

My child has too much homework.

Help break assignments into manageable chunks. Ask the teacher how long homework should take. If it’s taking your child longer, he may not understand the material.

My child claims to never have homework.

Check with the teacher to see whether he is assigning homework. Some do not. If your daughter says she completed her homework at school, review it to make sure it meets your standards. Encourage her to spend her homework time reading a book of her choice.

My child won’t do her homework.

Let her know that school is her job and that you expect her to do her homework. Set aside a time and place for her to do it, and review her work. Enforce appropriate consequences if homework doesn’t get done.

My child procrastinates.

Check your child’s progress on long-term projects daily so he doesn’t fall behind. Enforce a set time for homework so he can’t put it off until late at night or just before the bus arrives in the morning. Some kids need more homework oversight than others, and a procrastinator often needs especially close monitoring.

My child is disorganized.

Help her find tools to get organized and work with her on a system she can manage. Show her how you stay organized and remind her of the consequences of disorganization, such as losing an assignment.

My child is a perfectionist.

Set limits for time spent on homework. Praise her good work while letting her know you don’t expect her to be perfect because perfection is unattainable. Encourage interests in other things such as an activity, socializing, or just chilling out.

My child argues with me over homework.

Set a firm time and place for homework. Spell out clear consequences for not doing it. Then step back and let your child take responsibility for his learning. Review his work upon completion. Let him know you’ll loosen the reins when he shows he can do his work without arguing.

I can’t help because I don’t understand the assignment.

Seek guidance from the textbook and your child, asking your child to walk you through the steps to solve the problem. Math instruction in particular has changed over the years. Resist the urge to teach the problem-solving method you learned, which can create confusion.

Journalist Patti Ghezzi covered education and schools for 10 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She lives in Avondale Estates, Ga., with her family, which includes husband Jason, daughter Celia, and geriatric mutt Albany.