Since my 13-year-old daughter entered junior high school, the only thing that she cares about is the way her hair looks and wearing the most fashionable clothing. She has lost all interest in spending any time with her homework, and her first report card certainly shows this. I have tried not letting her watch TV or use the phone when doing homework, but she just rushes through it so she can get back on the phone with her friends. How can I turn this situation around? -- Homework Battles


It's definitely not unusual for teenagers to downgrade schoolwork in favor of their social lives. Just the same, doing homework at this level is important because it usually equates to higher achievement. And it doesn't take that much time if children focus on it. The best way to do this without destructive family battles over homework is for parents and children to agree on a homework contract. In this way, the responsibility for doing homework becomes the child's.

A contract should lay out the time that will be devoted to homework each day, even when children do not have assignments. This time needs to be at least one hour and should really be slightly longer for a seventh- or eighth-grader. The rule of thumb for homework time is 10 minutes for each grade in school. Thus, if your child is a seventh-grader, she should be doing 70 minutes of school work each evening. The time can be used to do homework, review or do additional work in a subject.

To make sure that you and your daughter have a good contract, the following provisions should be included:

  • -A specified time for homework
  • -A special place where she can be observed
  • -Rules that no television, phone conversations or computer messaging can take place
  • -And finally, there might need to be penalties for not following the contract, such as no television or phone usage for two days.

We have a sample homework contract with more detailed information that you might like to use. See Resources to get this contract.