Child Will Not Turn in Homework

Question: Our 13-year-old son simply does not turn in his homework regularly. Even when he does his homework, he forgets to turn it in. When we get late slips for homework from his teachers, things will improve for a few days. I really wish I knew when assignments were due; however, his teachers and guidance counselor feel that this needs to be his responsibility. Now we are getting a report every Friday on how he is doing. He is always missing many assignments. We ground him for the entire weekend, but it never helps. - Frustrated

Answer: At your son's grade level, doing homework definitely improves achievement. It is an integral part of success in school. The teachers and counselors are correct in saying that homework should be your son's responsibility. This is a very hard approach for most parents to accept.

Stop grounding your son until you find out if he is truly capable of doing his homework. It could be that his reluctance to hand in work is because he knows that it won't be acceptable since it will have so many errors. Students don't like to see red ink all over their papers. Your son might need special help to improve his academic and/or study skills.

On the other hand, if he has the skills to do his homework, a new approach needs to be developed, because your present efforts are simply not working. A good start would be to ask the guidance counselor to set up a meeting with all of your son's teachers. Make sure your son attends.

Work with the teachers and your son at this meeting to develop a plan to resolve the homework problem. Your son must have plenty of input for the plan to be successful. One option is a homework contract signed by you, your son and his teachers. It should include exactly what his responsibilities are, set definite times for homework and define the penalties for his failing to comply with the terms of the contract.