When Kids Wait Last Minute to Do Homework?

Updated on May 27, 2010
M.B. asks from Evanston, IL
21 answers

I have a daughter in 12 year old daguther that waits until the last minute to do a homework assignment like a science fair project that really takes more than a couple of weeks to complete. She gets in a panic, I rush to help, and then it becomes a "we" project instead of her project.

She also gets detention once in a while and I have to drive her to school at 7 AM so she completes her homework at school. This is what the school does to kids if they do not complete their homework assignments.

She is really smart, gets good grades in school, is well liked by her peers,

What do you suggest I do to change this never ending frustration on my part and to her help to change her behavior?

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your responses.

I really don't believe that it is up to me to get her to do her homework. I think it is up to me to teach her self motivation, focus, time management, tools that will help her become an independent and thinking person. I am looking for some successful stories and strategies that have helped you to help your kids so that they became independent, self-motivated students.

As far as the school is concerned, I know that they will not hold detention after school because the teachers are tied up with after school activities and sports that the kids engage in and that there is no one in the school on the weekends. Too costly to have people in the school on the weekend to maintain it.

So, any positive strategies or successful stories so that I can learn from and implement?
Thanks, M.

Thank you all for the positive scenerios and suggestions. Please keep them coming.

Margie, what do you mean by "we have ...."? I thought this was your child's project. Please explain.

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answers from New York on

Dear M.,
Have you tried taking privileges away? If she has an event going on, don't let her go, even if her work was done already. The fact that she leaves it for the last minute and you have to work with her to get it done just shows that she knows you will help her and she will get away with it. Just sit down with her and have a talk. Let her know what the rules are, let her know that you need to know of any projects as soon as she gets them assigned at school; and if she waits last minute you will NOT help her and on top of that she will be grounded.
As for the homework, if school punishes her, why shouldn't you. Let her know that the same goes for missing homework! That she will be punished and you will be taking privileges away. You need to decide what those will be! Like going out to the movies, or a friend's house, or to the park with friends; whatever the case may be. Maybe take her cell phone away for a week (if she has one) or computer privileges; etc.
But before you do anything, you need to sit down with her and let her know what the rules are from now on. What's most important is that you follow through with what you say you will do. You must be consistent.

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answers from Springfield on

This was me! Big projects and assigments terrified me. Instead of dealing with them, I pretended they didn't exist. My dad's solution was to know my schedule. Every night he didn't just ask me what homework I had. He made me tell him what we did in class that day, what we would be doing that week, what would be coming up in the nest couple of weeks. He wanted to know about projects, tests, homework assignments, everything. He made out schedules and really helped me learn how to break it down so it wasn't so scary.

I don't think punishment is the answer. Rather than helping her to be afraid of the consequences, help her to see that it's managable.

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answers from Dallas on

I must admit, I was your daughter. The reality is no one had ever taught me how to study and prepare. Sometimes I think we just assume kids get it.
My mother ended up sending me to a tutor two nights a week. It was very helpful and by the time high school rolled around I had finally learned some solid study & planning skills.
It was also helpful that the tutor was in college and prepared me for what life and school was like and the fact it wasn't mom, made me listen that much more:)
I also think that no more helping with projects that are put off until last minute would be a good rule of thumb to implement.
Maybe just like we do with chores and younger kids. If you are not made aware of a project XX days in advance, you cannot/will not help.

Best of luck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My kids had 3 projects this year. After the first one that they totally did not tell me about (2 of them are in the same class so had the same deadline and both did not tell me since they needed help, etc) and we had a rush the very last week of the project I decided action was needed. The beginning of each quarter I ask the teachers if there are any big projects to be completed and when they can be expected to be assigned and how long they had to complete. Then I know there is something and I worked with my kids to work on it a little at a time. I totally agree with you in that the kids need to be responsible for their work but they cannot be if they don't know how. It is up to us to show them. The last project they had was worked on a little at a time, and the teacher kept telling them this and they all did very well with it. I am hoping that when they enter 6th grade next year, this sticks with them but I will be on top of it as well. One thing they had to do at the school is keep an assignment notebook and I had to sign it each night--of course it only works if everything is written down.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New London on

Gosh, this was me in gradeschool, HS, college. Boy do I wish someone taught me time management skills and the importance of keeping a calendar etc. It is probably just my personality. I got As and Bs, but imagine what I could have accomplished had I started a project earlier or on time. I never did my homework, etc. If you are going to help her with the project, why don't you just help her from the start. Ask her what her projects are that are coming up and ask her to make a list of things you both need to get. Have her write things down and make lists. Don't do it for her. Sit with her and watch her write it down. She will feel accomplished and that it is her accomplishment. Once she starts feeling good about getting things done early then it will set something in motion. Also, don't rush in to help her when it is too late. Start early. Ask her about her homework and her projects and tell her... You are not going to your friends house until you have 3 things off your checklist done. What is on your checklist or to do list etc. She nees practice making lists and keeping them. A whiteboard at home is good where she can transfer her homework list to it. It just takes little things. At this age they are learning time management skills, so anything you can do will help!

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answers from Detroit on

When she gets an assignment it is really up to you to make her do it and get it over with. (Talk to her teachers and tell them that you need to be let known so here is your email addy or phone # for big assignments... just in case she doesn't let you know)
She is still in the "It can wait" age... I'll do it later is an excuse... I'm not saying to do it with her, or for her... But make sure she sits down and starts it... The work is up to her...

My daughter is only 9 but already trys with the "Its not due till friday" excuses... SO what do I say? SO!!!! Get it done now while we are thinking about it and then we won't have to worry about it later... Work now... play longer later...

Ask the school about their detention policy... WHY would they insist a parent bring a kid in an hour early? Why not give the option of an hour after school or on a weekend?

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answers from Columbus on

You could try not doing "we" projects anymore. Let her know what the concequnce is to not getting it done because she put it off, and let her learn it each and every time. Don't go to the store to buy poster board at 8PM, don't get on the computer and look up sources for her, don't type what she dictates to make it go quickly so she can get to bed!

On the other hand, if this is not a habbit, but is a sign of something else, and if you try that, and she does not seem to learn from it, you might want to look in a different direction. If you have ever wondered if she has attentional issues that keep her from following through, planning long term assignments, or you have ever suspected executive function issues that really do cause her to not be able to live up to her potential, and especially if you suspect that she has been able to pull herself up by her boot straps because she is very smart to "overcome" an issue, you might explore that question with a neuropsychologist, just to get some data about how she processes information to see if she is no longer able to overcome and could get accodations and learn strategies to do these things herself.

You will probably know in your heart which one of these scenerios applies to her...


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answers from Pittsburgh on

I still AM your daughter! LOL
My son is only in first grade but we quickly learned that homework, if done immediately after school took less than 10 minutes. If we waited til 7:00 p.m., it dragged on FOREVER! But he gets mostly daily assignments that don't require better time management--yet.
My nephew experienced similar issues as your daughter and my brother and SIL sent him to Sylvan and they really helped him learn "how" to study and he also learned better time management.
Best of luck!

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answers from Killeen on

I saw on an episode of supernanny that they set up a "homework station" for the child who was struggling with getting homework done. It was an area where the child unpacked her backpack, she has a cork board for her to tack up her project reminders and a calendar for her to write down when projects are due. I know I have to write down everything on a calendar in my house when I need to do things, so maybe that would work for her!

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answers from Indianapolis on

My family was very interesting growing-up. School was the top priority over everything else. Grades slipped, things were taken away (like after school activities).

My parents have adapted to my sister not impressing the importance of school on her kids and making other activities the more important priority. None are good students, and they make excuses for the kid's poor grades.

My sister is constantly helping her kids (16, 13, 11) instead of letting them fail because they didn't put forth an effort. There's a big difference between failing because of procrastination and failing because of not understanding the material or not doing it well.

I didn't learn how to study until college because I didn't have to. I was fortunate enough to be a really good student, but college kicked my rear really hard......and, I still graduated with a great GPA in a hard major (Biology).

I guess my advice is to stop enabling her and let her face her own failures and consequences. She will be much more mature and much more prepared for the real world that way.

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answers from Jacksonville on

We have a major calculus project due June first. Do you think she started yet? Only last night. But this time I have a plan. I came up with an idea for her. And I have all the necessary equipment, video camera, dvd's, white board, etc. So she has to do her part and I have been super "excited" about the finished project. Last night she finished an English project and was on my band wagon. So she at least has an idea and is thinkig about it.

I think kids get overwhelmed with the ambiguity and the sheer magnitude of these projects. Some of them are so open ended. I find if I narrow my daughters' choices to two or three of my thoughts then she can start thinking more clearly about them.

Have everything ready or go to Michael's/Hobby Lobby as soon as the assignments come home.
Read the assigment, get her thoghts on it, give her your ideas of HOW to do a couple and let her choose. Go get the supplies. Make it a family project.
Our calculus one will deal with teaching Calc to her 9 and 12 year old siblings. It might be my idea but the assignment was to do "more than a power point". She was lost.

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answers from New York on

i tell my son to go out when he gets home.. but at 5 he has to start homework.. we eat at 6.. he can do the rest after dinner.. the faster he gets it done.. then he can go on the computer or watch tv.. but not until it's done.. lay the rule down... the homework get more and more.. so right out the times you want things done.. and stick to it.. good lcuk

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answers from Dallas on

My daughter is in 9th grade and when she was in 5th grade and had larger projects to complete, the teachers had a time line set up where certain portions of the assignment were due, (EX: materials gathered, plan, rough draft, etc) and you given a grade on that portion. This way helped the students plan the projects so they were not late.

That schedule helped my daughter a LOT because she is the type to procrastinate. She is an honors student and due to honors courses, there are a lot more projects to do in high school. Of course, in high school the teachers to not implement this plan for the students becauase it is up to the student to do the work. My daughter got a great benefit of the timeline planning she learned in elementary school.

I agree with your "what happened" that it is your job to help motivate her not to have the "we" projects. I have been in the situation of a "we" project.

A huge motivator for my daughter is $$. Off tiopic here but geared toward motivation......She has been going through drivers ed and it is Awful for a 15 yr old being the one telling you what you are doing wrong while driving. SO, we implemented a plan because we want her to be observant and it's not going to hurt us to develop better driving habits. Everytime we make a legitimate driving error and she brings it to our attention, we pay her $5. That child is going to empty my bank account but she will end up being a good driver.

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answers from Salinas on

Hi- You have some good ideas here. There probably isn't a Mom out there who cannot relate to your post. You are right these are her assignments and she should do the work herself. My oldest is in 6th grade (middle school in our area) this year and while usually a straight A student her grades fell a bit the beginning of this year with about 1/2 B's but she's getting the hang of it now and is looking great. The volume of work is overwhelming and I cannot imagine handling it myself when I was 11, it's all a bit too much. I don't know any parents of 6th graders in our town who don't stay on thier kids pretty closely. I know when a major project is assigned. She is supposed to tell me immediately but if not I get an update from the teacher or see it on Power School. I help by "brainstorming" with her to help her develop a good idea that she's excited about. We buy supplies together and then she's on her own for the majority of the project. I remind her about it day to day and obviously am aware if she's working on it. A few days before it's due I check it out and give her my critique. I might help her glue stuff on the posterboard or give suggestions on a powerpoint. Big writing assignements I read and offer suggestions that she can take or leave. Then she has a day or two to finish up, practice for a presentation or put on the finishing touches. I've found that at 11 she just isn't developmentally ready to start a project early and consistently work to completion without some structure. I find that so many other parents are actually doing a large part of the work that by helping her to stay on task and moving forward is very important but I do not cross the line into actually doing the work. I think that really robs kids of the sense of pride when it's all over. They know it wasn't their work and of course they are not going to get excited about something their parents did. It's a bad cycle because the only thing kids really get immediately from school work is a sense of accomplishment. They don't see past the weekend let alone the value of and education. Good grades are only fufilling if you acheived them yourself. Anyone still doing their kids school work by 5th grade needs to seriously consider where this is heading. You can't follow them to college!

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answers from Charlotte on

M., I haven't read the other posts, but I did see your 'what happened'. I agree with your premise that it's your job to teach self motivation, focus, time management. The thing is, she may be too young to learn the lesson yet. You have to decide if she is going to pay the price and and take her lumps, or if you are going to help manage her.

One thing that I found helpful for my 6th grader a few years ago was for him to have to have a signature from me on his list of assignments. If he didn't have my signature, he lost a recess. For the first time, he remembered to ask me to sign his assignment sheet. And, M., I would not sign that sheet until I had looked at his completed assignments, and until his bookbag was totally put together for the next day. It solved a lot of problems. When the teacher checked for my signature, he also checked to make sure my son had written everything down. If he had not, my son lost his recess anyway!

One difference in your school and ours is that detention was more punative. If you got detention, you were having to work on an extra assignment, not your homework. I thought that was smart, and I agreed with it. The homework still had to be done, and then the new homework on top of it, after coming home. It's too easy for a child to just say, yeah, mom will have to drive me in and I'll get my homework done. Never mind that she loses points because it's being handed in late. I doubt you can do anything about that part, but you could ask.

If your daughter's teacher won't do the assgnment sheet idea, you could withhold after-school privileges if she doesn't write an assignment sheet for you. Do you teach her by letting her fail without help? Do you let her wait til the last minute by helping her with a last minute assignment? Do you teach her by demanding that she list her assignments or she loses privileges? This is something you have to decide.

Hopefully when she is older, she will be more responsible. Good luck!


answers from Norfolk on

I tell my son "The way to fun is to get the work done" and now I'm hearing other parents tell their kids the same thing.
If you get it done early, then you have time to fix problems if they come up, and you can relax knowing that you've finished your work.
If you get it done at the last minute, then you are up the creek without a paddle.
Right now the school has the parents sign off on when a project is assigned and everyone is aware when the project is due. This may change in middle school. I think a planner or calendar might help with keeping track of a dead line. If you have all activities and deadlines mapped out, you can tell when the work has to happen in order for it all to work smoothly.



answers from Chicago on

I agree with you. I work in guided study, a resource class and each and every single day the kids have to write in their agendas what their work is. We sign it. The kids have to bring it home and show parents. The kids have to do their homework. Reminded by us, daily with a projection of several days ahead of time when to do it. This class is helpful for a particular group of students but no reason you cannot do the same or similar type of thing. Most schools have homework hotlines these days. You can check if there is an issue. You are very correct she and she alone is responsible. And she has to accept the consequences. You will minimize your a.m. drives if you back her but do not become part of the project. If she continues do see if there are guided study classes in school this year or next year, they do some of their home work in it.Some kids goof off there too.Some are wonderful about it. It sounds like she actually enjoys the peaceful detention time at school, when she is 'permitted' to just study. Some of those homework times in other situations are the times when the kids try to sit and chat. As far as big projects go, if you have all of the things you can provide in the materials she needs, just cheerlead her on and don't let her wait until the last minute. Another problem to be aware of however, is that sometimes when students get things done early, they forget to turn it in. So that would be another issue. Ah, being a parent just can be so hard sometimes...



answers from St. Louis on

I believe that it is up to us to teach them, but there comes a point when they NEED to start doing things on their own!

First, STOP HELPING HER!!! I think this is enabling her behavior.

I have 4 chidlren and I was having this problem with my 9 year old. The rule in our house is come home and do home work immediately. Then you study if you have a test to prepare for.

I spoke to her teacher and explained that I was now turing over the responsibility of doing homework to my daughter. I would still be checking her agenda and going over homework that was complete, but it was time that she learned what the consequenses would be if she did not complete her assignement.

We told her that she has been taught the importance of school and what we expected of her. The rule has always been, we do not care what grade you bring home as long as you put forth 100% effort. That means if you get a B, you better have turned in all your assignments and studied for every test. If not, you will suffer the consequenses.

We let it go for an entire quarter. She lost a few recesses and suffered the consequeses at school. Then she had to deal with the consequenses at home. I can tell you she quickly turned herself around for the next quarter.

Yes, as parents it is our responsibility to guide them, but there comes a time when they need to step up! Your child is 12 , that is 7th grade, yes?

You need to set strict rules of what you expect from her. Sit her down and go over them. Make sure she understands what the consequenses will be for not following them. You need to stop helping her at the last minute complete her projects. Be firm and say no.

THere should be no tv, computer, phone or activities until she has homework done and studied. If she has an agenda, check it periodically and ask her what is going on in school. Encourage her, but also remind her she needs to establish good study and work habits before she goes to high school. I know it's hard because some teachers let them do their work in school and we don't get a chance ot check it.

Ultimately, your daughter needs to suffer some consequenses of not completing her work. Maybe also throw a reward in there too. Come up with an incentive for her to do well. Maybe $5.00 for each A she gets? Maybe a special event if she makes honor roll? Something she can work towards. Some kids just aren't motivated.

With summer coming, you have a little bit to decide how you are going to handle the situation. I would sit her down before school and just tell her how it's going to be.



answers from Chicago on

Funny, I used to do the same thing when I was her age. hated homework and cried when it took hours to complete. I told my kids this and they've all achieved A's & B's and on Honor roll multiple semesters/years.
A: Mom or Dad: I have a job, I go to work, have a boss who tells me what to do and I need to get it done in order to collect a paycheck. I can't sit back and not do it. YOU go to school, you have teachers who tell you what to do. It is your responsibility to do the work, get it correct and do it to the BEST of your ability. You will be judged (graded) for it. You want to succeed, so you will do your best.
After that, (since 3rd -4th grade for all 3) I rarely had to "step" in to help them with projects, homework etc. Occasionally I had to run to the store for paper or printer ink, but they did the work on their own and managed to graduate. Builds their self-esteem too, because it's THEIR work, not Mom or Dad's. Good luck



answers from Chicago on

1. Contact her teachers and ask them to e-mail you homework assignments and project assignments with the due dates.
2. Have her get started early and if she waits till the last minute DO NOT help her. She will never figure it out if you alway bail her out.
3. If she get detention and has to be at school at 7:00 have her walk if it is not that far away and weather permitts. You can trail in the car to make sure she is safe if that is an issue. If you have to take her then she looses TV or something she likes at home for the same amount of time.

She has got to learn to do this herself and if you keep helping her when she puts it off she will keep doing that. I am a teacher as well as the parent of 3 children that all got the procrastination spirit. I had to learn to stop helping them out and let the chips fall where they may. My daughter is finally getting a clue and getting her work in on time. My boys still haven't figured it out. She won't like getting those bad grades because she didn't have her work in on time and she will get it together.



answers from Chicago on

this will not end until she learns the consequence of her action. she doesnt get to finish the homework if t isnt done all by herself by bed time. She is young enough that one bad grade isnt going to ruin her life ( not that it would in highschool, but you know it only get harder) and if she learns this now you wont have to continue to deal with this behavior as it isnt going to end all on its own until she sees the consequence of it.

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