Why your teenager is refusing to do their homework?

A person and children sitting at a table reviewing the homework

It can be tough dealing with a teenager who refuses to do homework. It may feel like they’re constantly testing your limits of patience, and more importantly failing to understand the consequences of this behaviour.  As a parent that’s a double whammy –because you want your child to succeed and at the same time struggle with trying to make sense of their indifference. 

We’re here to tell you that there are ways to handle the situation without resorting to punishment. Teens often struggle with anxiety, performance stress, and an overall disorientation with life which affects their ability to focus on academics.The clearest manifestation of this is often is refusing to do homework. It’s a common way of rebelling against all the expectations they feel are benign made of them by society –whether it’s looking a certain way, behaving a certain way, or achieving things. 

Being a teen comes with a lot of confusing scenarios where they don’t know how to behave or conduct themselves. As a result, being able to talk to an adult who is empathetic, and helps them navigate a range of difficult emotions without any judgment is the most fundamental requirement to have a good teen years. That being said, as a parent, establishing some rules and helping them make sense of their life is also necessary.  

Establish Clear Rules and Expectations

​Homework issues and behaviours around it don’t crop up overnight. They typically have a pattern. If you –as a parent–have been monitoring your child’s performance, you will know when you hear from the teachers at regular school parent meetings, such as the ones conducted at DPS Warangal –the best school for day scholars. 

Establish your expectations from your child well before they settle into their teens. Set aside some time to talk to them, and explain what is expected of them. How their life will be different as they become teens. Typically, parents resort to punishments because they see no other way out. But that should be your last resort, seeing as behaviour is never an overnight change. It’s a series of actions that go to create a pattern of actions. Your job is to notice them well-in-advance. But let’s assume for some reason, your child has indeed become rebellious and refuses to do their schoolwork –follow the pointers below. 

Have a clear chat about these expectations. Explain how much homework needs to be done each night. This means being specific about the amount of time they should spend on each subject and be sure to get inputs from the teachers to understand the level of work needed.  

Make it clear that homework should be done in a quiet and distraction-free environment. This means no TV, no music, and no social media. If they need to use the internet for research, they should do so in a separate room from where they are doing their actual work. Or, supervise their access so they don’t get lost down the rabbit hole called the internet. 

Set a strict deadline by which time homework should be finished. A reasonable deadline can be an hour or two before bedtime to give your child some time to spend with family before retiring for the day. However, to each family, the schedule may look different. The bottomline is establishing a consistent schedule where your child knows you will come asking questions about the homework.

If despite all of this, your teen refuses to do homework, it is important to take action. The best way to handle this situation is to sit down with them and discuss why they are refusing to do their homework. If they have a valid reason, such as not understanding the material, try to help them out. 

Use Positive Reinforcement

​Punishment for not doing homework is not the best way to get your child to do their homework. Instead, try using positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is a way of rewards to encourage a desired behavior. For example, if your child does their homework without being asked, you can give them a small reward, like a sticker or extra screen time. Supplement it with acknowledging good behaviour and motivating them to follow it, without any external rewards. This teaches them to be proud of themselves, and removes the need for reinforcement, or validation. 

Address emotional struggles

​It’s no secret that homework can be a source of stress and anxiety for students of all ages. Whether it’s a simple assignment or a complex project, the pressure to complete it can be overwhelming. For some students, the thought of not doing homework can be even more stressful than the actual homework itself. This can lead to a vicious cycle of avoidance and procrastination, which can be difficult to break out of.

If your child is struggling to keep up with your homework, it’s important to address the underlying emotional issues that may be causing your difficulties. Take steps to address the root of the problem.Once you’ve identified the problem, work towards managing them and minising the sense of anxiety your teen experiences with them. 

The power of consequences

Sometimes, it’s as basic as explaining the consequence of them not taking action. Whether it’s homework, or anything else in life, helping your teen understand the domino effect their actions or inactions can have will help them see the larger picture. 

Paint a vivid picture of the outcomes they can experience if they don’t do their homework. Most teenagers fear shame and ridicule more than anything else. This serves as a motivation for them to not only work on their looks, and behaviour but even towards their goals. Help them see what different outcomes might be possible, both positive and negative, if they choose to do what you’re asking them to do. By then letting them decide not only do you empower them to make a decision which feels like it’s their own, you also help them get into the habit of rational decision making. 

Set achievable goals

If your child is someone who is not accustomed to being focused on academics, and typically relies on last minute work to get through school, you need to help them first understand the importance of scheduling and consistency. Help them small goals –be it on finishing something within a stipulated time frame, or homework. Help them develop habits around studying and learning. Start with small, achievable goals that make them feel like they’re making progress. Make a board, and help them track their progress. Make sure that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). This could be around the amount of time they spend studying, the number of answers they get right compared to before in a subject, or even reading passages. A chart with progress helps them see clearly how they’ve improved and motivates them in the right direction. 

Reach out for professional help

​There’s no shame in admitting that your child might need help. We all need help from time to time, and there’s nothing wrong with reaching out for professional help when you need it. In fact, reaching out for professional help can be one of the smartest things you can do.

Apart from being confidential, you can be sure that you can discuss anything and everything without fear of judgment or stigma. A professional may be able to help you understand some of the challenges, and the deeper issues into your teen’s issues. Apart from helping you make sense of them, they will also reflect if there’s anything in your behaviour that can be improved to modify their behaviours. 

Balance homework with fun 

​Too much homework can be stressful and lead to problems in school, while not enough homework can lead to kids not being prepared for tests and assignments. While at DPS Warangal we often emphasize the importance of this balance through school activities, this can be implemented at home too. The key is to find a balance that works for your family. You can try quiz nights at home, or other activities that involve others in the family, too. 

One way to help kids find a balance between homework and fun activities is to create a schedule. Set aside specific times for homework and fun activities, and help your kids stick to the schedule. This can be a challenge, especially on days when there are extracurricular activities or other events, but it’s important to try to stick to the schedule as much as possible.

Get your teen to talk

​It’s no secret that teenagers can be rebellious and secretive to boot. They may start to push back against authority and experiment with risky behaviors. For parents, this can be extremely frustrating. You may feel like you’re constantly fighting with your teen and nothing you do seems to make a difference.

Try to open the dialogue by asking your teen why they’re refusing to do their homework. Is there a particular assignment that’s giving them trouble? Or do they simply not see the value in doing homework? Once you understand their perspective, you can start to address their objections.

If your teen is struggling with a particular assignment, help them break it down into smaller tasks that they can handle. They may also benefit from additional support from a tutor or teacher. If they’re simply refusing to do homework because they don’t see the point, try to help them understand how it can benefit them in the long run.

You should also avoid nagging or lecturing, as this will only make your teen more resistant. Instead, try to have calm and respectful conversations about the importance of homework.

If you’re struggling to get your teen to do their homework, talk to your child’s school counselor or teacher. They may be able to offer additional tips or resources. Remember, you’re not alone in this. With patience and understanding, you can help your teen overcome their refusal issues.