Pre Teen Doesn't Want to Do Homework, but Won't Go to School Without It Done

Updated on February 03, 2008
J.H. asks from Greenwich, CT
7 answers

I have a perfectionist for a son. He's 12 and extremely bright, in all advanced classes. But, he hates homework and doesn't like to do it, procrastinates or lies about having it done - or just downright blocks the fact that he has it. He always seems to remember in the AM when it's time to leave for school, then he refuses to go to school without it done. It is a battle every morning to get him to school. We've tried so many things - me sitting down with him, reviewing what needs to be done; a teacher coming to the house to help; studying with friends; staying after school to do work there; but nothing helps. He just can't seem to get past this. Anyone been there, have any advice? He's usually pretty great otherwise. It is just the homework battle (and he's had a problem with homework since 1st grade - it has only gotten worse). We've tried rewards, punishments, etc. We've tried not commenting on homework too and telling him it's his responsibility - he just will put it off until the morning, then refuse to go to school! He's very sensitive about things too. He'll feel really bad about getting us (his parents) upset about the constant battles, promises to be better, but nothing changes. The next morning, it is the same thing. He's not crazy about going to school as he has been picked on sometimes (about being a smart nerd), but he's really not nerdy. He's good looking, tall, athletic, swims on the swim team, a great skier, likes to play tennis, etc. He is extremely smart on the computer, which is one of his issues - he doesn't like to get off when asked to (and we've taken away the keyboard, mouse, etc., if he doesn't do the homework and used it as a reward for doing the homework). We just can't seem to get him really motivated to change his behavior and it is ruining our family time together.

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answers from New York on

Hi jeni.
What happens at school when he turns or doesnt turn his homework in? There is something maintaining this behavior (extra attention) or may be even "escape" from positive attention from the teacher at school. sometimes if kids are always being "good" the teacher uses them as a model or example for the rest of the class and the rest of the kids resent him hence the "nerd" label. Is he able to finish his homework during freetime at school? When I taught 3-5th grade, if homework was a problem, I would let them complete it during their freetime at school. maybe if you explained the hardship at home with the teacher and how it impacts your family time she will permit it. just look at what happens before the homework has to be done, during and after. you can usually figure it out with close attention. (: good luck!



answers from New York on

Dear Jeni,

You certainly have a difficult situation in your household. Children can be very stubborn at times; but they can also have problems that, as a parent, we know nothing about. You would think raising our own species would be easier than it is!

Well, here are my thoughts that may be of some help to you, and I hope they give you some confidence as a parent. Many things our children do or don't do are not our fault! We are not "bad" parents. But, in truth, our kids can be downright naughty at times!

Remind your son that doing homework at this age is his responsibility. If he doesn't do it, it's on him. Explain to him (as you might have done already) that going to school and following instructions is his JOB. That is the main job he has right now. His wages are his grades. If he learns to do his job well, he will be able to handle other jobs as he grows older.

If he absolutely refuses to go to school, take the responsibility to call the school and tell them what is going on. They will send a "truant officer" to pick him up and bodily (if necessary) take him to school. That in itself might solve your problem. (I had similar trouble with my second oldest about the same age. It may be a case of "school-aphobia" or something similar. It is not to be taken lightly because that is a serious disorder in some children.)

Make sure your son's pediatrician and any specialists you might have for him, as well as his school counselor and principal know the situation. They will work with you. Furthermore, the whole family has to support whatever decision you (and the advisors) make for dealing with your son's behavior.

Perhaps some private, away-from-the-home, heart-to-heart talks with him might eventually reveal why he is being so stubborn about this. Maybe something happened in first grade that he never talked about that discouraged him from doing homework. He may just be lazy; or he may be tring to control his own world; or he may find it difficult to concentrat at home. To him, "home" is not "school" and vice versa. Also, if he truly thinks he is so smart and doesn't need to do the work, let him find out by watching his grades more carefully. If they go down, he will know he must do the homework.

I know one tactic recommended over and over again is to be sure your child does his homework at the same time every day. When he comes home from school, he may be hungry and tired. If you give him 30 min. to an hour to eat a healthful snack or meal and play outside for a while (no computer until evening after homework is finished) before he starts his homework (it may take a while to establish this pattern), you might eventually get some results.

Patterning gives children security, and security helps them learn better. Of course, something like that will take your undivided attention; so plan on being CONSISTANT and don't give up or give in! Remember, you are the parent. You are the leader.

Do not overlook or dismiss the possibility of a mental or emotional disorder at this age. Psychological disturbances are as problematic as a broken leg to a marathon runner, or a broken arm to a professional tennis player. They should be diagnosed or ruled out in order to help your son become the best person he can be.

Finally, if your family attends a place of worship, you might ask your pastor or priest or deacon if he will come to the home and you, your husband, and son pray together about the homework situation. This will impress upon your son the vital importance of "doing the paperwork for his job" and perhaps change his outlook on the issue.

Also remember, whatever happens, make sure you, your religious leader, the school, and your medical personnel are all working together to resolve this issue.

Discipline is "doing the same thing the same way the same time the same day until it sticks!"

Punishment is "repremand for deliberate disobedience and must be appropriate for the crime."

Use them both wisely.



answers from New York on

This just sounds like a ploy to either not go to school in the first place or go in late. What you might need to do is have his teachers email you with the daily homework so when he gets home you know what needs to be done and just sit with him until he finishes it all. I know that may sound a little ridiculous but it will teach him that you are not kidding around and that things have to change.



answers from Syracuse on

Hi Jeni,
This may be harsh, but maybe you could try making him go to school on a morning when he hasn't done his homework. Then he would have to deal with his teachers' disappointment, not yours. I know you said he refuses to go, but at 12, it's not really his decision is it?




answers from New York on

My Dear..U think U may need medical advise for him ?
My daughter is 14yrs old now..& she's the type that can't do home work w/out the TV or music (still)'s been like that since 1st Grade..& sometimes we have to look into the childs diet..All different things..I do suggest a Dr.'s visit & explain it to him or her the situation...

Good Luck



answers from New York on

I, too, have a son who resents having to do homework. He thinks it is stupid to come home and do more work after spending 6/7 hours a day in school. We spend 3 hours a night doing homework. It could have been done in 1 1/2 hours but the remaining time is spent fighting. We have taken away things that don't matter (cell phones, iPod, etc.) It seems to matter when we threaten and follow through with taking away his sports, overnights, etc. with friends and teams. We make him call his coaches and tell the reason why he can't be at the game - "I didn't want to do my homework" becomes awefully embarrassing.



answers from New York on

You have to choose a one hour time period during which your son has to do his homework daily. The place should be where he is visible to you - and not necessarily immediately after school - give him a short break. If he refuses to do the homework, he still has to sit at the agreed upon place -(NOT HIS ROOM) - near you - for an hour during which time he can read - but not work on the computer or watch tv, or listen to music etc. NO PHONE either. If he doesn't do the homework - wake him an hour earlier in the next morning. But, he still has to do the homeork hour daily - Let him use it, or waste it doing nothing. BE FIRM - DO NOT GIVE in OR CHANGE THE RULES! Eventually he will realize he might as well use the time. I was a teacher in a regular middle school and this was one of the ideas we found worked well when parents had this problem - they usually were happy with the results! Remember- he has to sit where you can see him for an hour - whether he does the work or not. Don't fall for the "I need to go to the bathroom - or I need a snack - etc." Good Luck!!!!

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