Parents often wonder if they should let their kids take a break after school before starting their homework. I understand the dilemma. One the one hand, it seems reasonable to let our children have a quick snack and a few minutes of free time. On the other hand, we want those little rascals to get that homework done and out of the way! In my experience, the Do It Now! approach does work for some students (see the quiz on Homework Personality), but most children really do need a substantial break after school.


Of course you're worried. You try to be nice and give your kids a break, and the next thing you know "a few minutes of watching TV" has turned into a few hours, a big fight and a ruined evening, right? So, what is a parent to do?

Make some Homework Sandwiches! There are only two steps:

1. Sit down with your child and discuss which activities they would like to do before and after homework. It is important to let your child come up with his own, reasonable ideas. You want him to be motivated but realistic (no, we aren't going to the movies every night!). You might be surprised by what kids find enjoyable- and how much they really want our undivided attention. In my case, I learned that my children want to help me make dinner! Who knew that what I view as a chore- cooking dinner- was a treat to them?

2. Agree that your child will be able to do one fun activity before and one fun activity after homework. Fun-homework-fun. A homework sandwich!

Here are some Homework Sandwich ideas:

- Play a video game for 15 minutes/ homework/ shoot hoops with Dad
- Eat a favorite snack/ homework/ watch TV for an hour
- Watch one TV show/ homework/ help with dinner
- Talk on phone for 20 minutes/ homework/ talk on phone forever
- Ride bike for 30 minutes/ homework/ play cards with Mom
- Eat a snack/ homework/ take a bubble bath while Mom reads Harry Potter

Some quick words of advice:

- Put a time limit on the first activity. The easiest way to solve this problem? The kitchen timer. Set it, and when it rings- homework!

- Don't allow your child to have the second fun "slice" if he or she does not do their homework. After all, a sandwich is not all "bread" and no "filling!"

- Keep a visual homework sandwich "reminder" posted on the fridge or family bulletin board. This way, nobody forgets that it's only one TV show before homework and not two.

Many parents- including myself- have found great success using homework sandwiches. You will find that if your children are allowed to do something enjoyable right before and immediately after homework, they start to associate homework with those fun activities. The entire process becomes a package deal in their sweet, little minds. (Pavlov, anyone?) The best part is that your children will know exactly what they need to do after school- and how long they can do it. And, because they chose the activities themselves, they are much more invested in the entire process.

One last thing: don't faint when your child says, "I want to hurry up and do my homework so I can..."