What Happens When You Constantly Force a Kid to Do Homework

Each evening starts with a struggle in your home.

The story is as old as Adam:

Your schooler hasn't finished the homework for tomorrow, and you have nothing to do but fault him for laziness and force to complete that damned tasks. It's the endless war with no winners, where you play the role of a bad cop, not a parent caring for children’s achievement and development.

That's what Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish call "the family fallout from parent to taskmaster" in the book The Case Against Homework. Authors note that homework has become a family affair today, with us parents managing its every aspect. We explain concepts, help to design projects, proofread and edit (sometimes write!) essays, and even stay up late to finish his homework after a kid has gone to bed.

With all that, most parents understand those tasks bring no value to their kids as there's almost no evidence that tons of homework can help schoolers achieve academic success. Instead, the consequences of constant forcing a kid to do homework and permanent participating in the process may appear to be troublesome.

Ruined relationship

Today, the parent involvement with homework has increased drastically. A mom or a dad of a first-grader spends at least an hour to get their kid through homework each night. Do you remember your own parents or grandparents did the same with you when you were in school?

Okay, they might ask if you had homework at all or if you needed to prepare something for a tomorrow test. And yet, homework was your job, not your parents' to complete it with you (or for you). Don't you agree that relationships with our parents were the better for it?

Constant “homework wars” with your kid today are the result of the process that was set in 1990s and gave rise to the concepts of parental involvement and parent-teacher partnerships. Educators expect high levels of parent participation, so they assign tasks that your kid can't complete on his own. Aimed at encouraging parents to spend more time with kids and have a great relationship with their teachers, the concepts have turned into problems:

  • we parents don't have a clear idea of how much involvement is enough;
  • we argue with kids, begging and forcing them to do assignments with an effort;
  • we turn homes into second classrooms at nights, giving up good time with the family for homework struggles, hysterics, and resentments.

All that brings nothing to strong relationships with your kids, leading to warmth and closeness loss. Moreover, such “homework battles” can ruin relationships with your partner as well, when you frequently disagree about how to handle that homework. When a partner follows a “let them do it – or not do it” method while you are certain that it's a family who must take responsibility for all assignments and grades, quarrels and blame games are difficult to avoid.


Such a pressing on the part of schools, when parents can do their best and show kids how much we all value academic success and education in general, may lead to the situation when one day you find searches a la “do my homework” or “write my essay” in your kid's browser history.

To satisfy parent expectations, schoolers are ready to cheat the system for an A. Unable to complete assignments on their own, a kid goes to websites of custom writing services (seeing they are not that difficult to find today) and asks others to do homework for them.

Consequences may be not as obvious as it seems first: together with a reputation loss, your schooler gets a weaker immune system (the stress of guilt and the fear of getting caught come into effect here), demotivation to learn, atrophy of critical thinking, and distortion of moral.

Health problems

As a parent, you worry about your kid's future by all means. You want him to achieve all goals, make all dreams come true, and become a successful and self-confident leader who graduated from Harvard or Yale as minimum. Professor of psychology William Crain agrees that “parents today are in a constant panic about their kids' success.” He explains that moms and dads force schoolers into doing more homework because they feel it's the only way to achieve success. What they often don't consider is the negative influence this constant pressure might have on their kids' physical and mental health. Children are not immune to such anxieties.

Stresses, headaches, sleep disorder, problems with self-esteem, atelophobia – this is the short list of consequences your constant “homework battles” may bring to a schooler's health. You want your kid to be perfect, but you don't let him make a mistake or experience a failure to learn how to cope with that. Requiring perfection and encouraging the highest grades as the only way to succeed in life, you trigger your kid's future mental disorders.

Any solution to the problem?

Try encouraging instead of forcing. Create a quiet place for a kid to do homework, keep all distractions away, and don't breathe down his neck all the time. Allow your schooler to create the schedule for doing homework and agree on free times he can spend without assignments.

Make homework a kid's responsibility rather than your own, and let him deal with the consequences of not completing tasks. Explain the benefits of education, and don't go angry once your schooler gets a B or a C for essays. There's no need to make him feel guilty; instead, encourage him by saying he'll do better next time.

Yes, parent participation is vital to know what kids are doing and learning at school and demonstrate them the value of education. But does it mean forcing, arguing, and bribing for completed homework and high grades? Couldn't we participate by open communication with our children and asking teachers for brief weekly updates of what they're doing and assigning?