In Ask Nicole

Ask Nicole: Homework Routines Are Your Friend!

By Nicole M. Young, MSW

My children are young adults now, but I still have “homework battle scars.” I remember feeling like our lives revolved around due dates for homework assignments and school projects. I’ll admit I wasn’t always successful at staying calm, especially when I was tired from working and they needed hands-on help from me or procrastinated on starting projects. But as my kids grew older and learned to manage their time and study habits independently, the light at the end of the tunnel grew brighter. My kids learned they were responsible for completing their homework (I wasn’t going to save them), and I learned to trust they would get the work done…even if it was at the last minute. It wasn’t easy, but the effort was worth it.

Dear Nicole, School barely started and I’m already having daily battles with my 7- and 9-year old kids over homework. They goof off, take forever to get their assignments out of their backpacks, and then have a hard time sitting still and concentrating. I lose my patience when it’s bedtime and they haven’t finished their homework, but I don’t want them staying up too late and being tired the next day. How can I get them to do their homework?  Charles

Dear Charles,

Good question! Homework time is a common challenge in many families. It’s often difficult for kids to focus on homework because they’re physically, mentally, and emotionally tired after school. Or kids are ready to do homework, but find the assignments hard, tedious, or overwhelming. They may need help or encouragement, but it’s hard for parents and caregivers to be present and patient when they’re tired at the end of the day. Here are some tips to try:

Help your children make the transition from school to home. Let them have free time when they get home so they can relax, have a healthy snack, or get their energy out. This also gives you a chance to spend quality time with them and find out how their day went. Agree on the amount of free time they can have and give them a 10-minute “warning” before free time is over so they can start the transition to homework time.

Establish a homework routine. Set a time for doing homework that works with your family’s schedule. Although the specific time might vary each day depending on other family activities such as work, afterschool care, or extracurricular activities, having a regular “homework time” will help children learn that it’s part of their daily routine, just like eating, getting dressed, and going to school. Arrange a space for each child to do their homework that’s comfortable, has enough room for them to work, and minimizes distractions as much as possible. Set a few simple ground rules that focus on what you want them to do instead of what not to do – e.g. Get all books and supplies ready before starting homework. Finish homework before screen time.

Offer “just enough” help and encouragement. Stay near your children and check on their progress, but don’t do their homework for them. Give descriptive praise to acknowledge their efforts and progress – “You’ve finished five questions already. Keep up the good work!”

If they want your help, ask questions that encourage critical thinking and problem-solving, such as “What do you think that means?” or “Where could you find the answer?” If they have difficulty finding an answer after 1-2 prompts, then provide or guide them to the solution so that they stay engaged in the learning process instead of giving up.

If they are overwhelmed by the amount of homework they have, help them break it down into smaller segments that feel more manageable. Let them have a small reward after finishing each segment of homework, such as taking a stretch break or listening to a song. When your children have finished all their homework, let them choose a special activity or game as a reward for completing their homework routine.

FINAL THOUGHTS: A few positive parenting strategies can help take the hassle out of homework for everyone. If the problems continue, ask your children’s teachers about other school-based assistance or resources that could help determine whether there’s a learning disability or challenge that requires a different solution.

This monthly column provides tips for anyone who is raising children, based on the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have a question or idea for a future column, please email me at

Nicole Young is the mother of two children, ages 19 and 23, who also manages Santa Cruz County’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, the world’s leading positive parenting program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (Mental Health Services Act) and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit, or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or

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