Homework & study skills

Should I Stop Supervising My Teen’s Homework?

By Jim Rein

My son is in 10th grade, and making sure he does his homework has always been a big struggle. I feel like I’m constantly nagging him. Would it be better for me to stop supervising his homework and let him deal with the consequences at school? What’s the best way for me to keep an eye on how much he’s doing without making him feel like he’s still a little kid?

Jim Rein

Former Dean, Vocational Independence Program, New York Institute of Technology

While this is a very common issue, there is no one answer that will fit every situation. Perhaps a better way to approach this question is to start by asking yourself whether your son has enough supports in place to enable him to do his homework on his own.

Many children with learning and attention issues avoid homework because it’s too difficult and reinforces their low self-esteem. It’s also common for kids to have trouble figuring out how to get started on an assignment. Or they have a hard time coming up with a plan for completing it.

No matter what the situation, communication with the school is crucial. Can your son get tips from the teaching staff on how to start or finish his homework? If he got more help at school, you could be more of a cheerleader at home instead of a police officer.

There are also several changes you can make at home that might make homework less of a battle. If your son has attention issues, he may have to exert tremendous effort at school to stay focused. Building in time to exercise or unwind before he gets started on his homework could be helpful.

Encourage him to schedule break times during homework that allow for movement. This can help get his juices flowing and make it easier for him to concentrate when he sits down again.

A homework station can help him encounter fewer distractions. His work area should be separated as much as possible from siblings, pets, TV and text messages. Use Parenting Coach for tips on things like setting limits on the use of social media.

Breaking assignments into chunks can help your son see that each task has a beginning, middle and end. This can reduce his frustration. It can also motivate him to stick with it.

Also, keep in mind that 10th grade is often when students start thinking about what they want to do after high school, such as going to college or getting a good job. You can relate these long-term goals to the importance of today’s homework.

There are other ways you can set the stage for homework success. But perhaps the most important is talking with the school and understanding what kinds of homework assistance are available there. Help your child view these options as positive supports rather than as negative consequences. Make sure you praise him for any progress he’s making.

And lastly, if your child can’t get enough homework support at school, consider getting a tutor. This could help him develop strategies for tasks like getting started with his assignments. You can always ask his teachers for feedback and suggestions regarding his performance at school.

Avoid being critical of his teachers. Instead, ask them how you can support what they’re doing. And be sure to share any strategies that are working at home. Forming a partnership with the school—and with your child—can make the high school years go more smoothly for everyone.

About the Author

Portrait of Jim Rein

Jim Rein

Jim Rein, M.A., has lectured around the country on postsecondary options and summer programs for children and young adults with learning and attention issues.

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