For those of us who have been there, the word ‘homework’ can conjure up visions of shouting, crying, and tantrums (and that may just be mum or dad). It can feel like a scene from Game of Thrones (without the boobs and blood, hopefully!) and cause your heart to sink whenever it is mentioned.

Of course, there will be kids who come straight home and crack on with their homework without being asked, but many teens are not so inclined, for various reasons, so let’s have a think about how we can perhaps improve things for them and their families.

Address their basic needs first

For most teens and tweens, there will be a reluctance to do more work after a long day at school, or to work at the weekend, and this will be made worse if they are hungry, tired, or worried about something in particular. So a good routine may be to always ensure they have time to tell you about any stress they have had that day, essentially to debrief and get it off their chest, whilst eating something as a healthy snack to give them an energy boost. Many kids don’t drink enough fluids at school either, so check they have a big glass of water before tackling anything else.

Learn lifelong skills

There may well be some evenings when they have other activities, or the bus home is late so time available for homework is reduced. Don’t skip the debrief or snack/ rehydration but do accept that less homework might be done that night, and more might need to be done another night or at the weekend. It’s worth getting them into the habit of looking strategically at the overall homework for the week, or further ahead if they know what’s coming, so that they build the skill of self-directed planned study for later in life (e.g. at university/ college).

Sleep on it

If the homework is revision, then a top tip is to do small amounts regularly, revising in shorter periods and allowing for sleep overnight in-between, as it is scientifically proven to improve recall. When I give my talks to 6th formers, I always emphasise that it is better to revise ‘an hour today and an hour tomorrow, than 2 hours today’. The key point being not how long they study in total but that it is split with sleep in-between, as the sleep ‘seals in’ the learning, processes memory and improves recall.


Homework can feel overwhelming if looked at all at once, so it is important that they break it down into bite size chunks, and don’t launch into it without thinking through exactly what needs to be done and how to approach it. Some of their stress may be that they feel overwhelmed before they even start, so they have a ‘melt down’ and avoid it in any way they can, procrastinating or protesting that they can’t do it. Give them space to calm down, try to avoid engaging in conflict and then together look at what needs to be done, and break it down. The human brain works at 3 levels essentially; 1. Keeping us alive, breathing and so on, 2. Our emotional brain, ‘fight or flight’ etc, and 3. Clear thinking, planning, and learning. When we are stressed level 3 is shut down and we move down to function at level 2. Your teen will not be able to learn and think when in ‘emotional brain’ (level 2) state! There’s no point in trying. That’s one reason why reducing conflict over homework or revision is so important.

If you have a son who appears consistently unmotivated than I suggest also reading my blog about this specific issue here.

Should you push your child on homework?

If your child is able to sit down and self-motivate to do homework you have won half the battle. Keep building on that and reinforce the positive. Keep encouraging them to do their best (not be the best, there’s a difference!) and encourage the lifelong learning skills, planning skills and sleep for memory processing as mentioned above. As they get older their brain will develop and they will be able to study better, plan better and process and analyse work more effectively. You only need to worry if they are consistently drifting off their usual trajectory and they don’t seem themselves anymore e.g. mood low, poor sleep, not eating, weight changes.

And remember- constant battles about homework will unfortunately condition them to dislike homework even more, and be a losing battle. This is not helpful. Another unhelpful association is a reward such as ‘playing on their PS5 after homework’, as they may be tempted to rush through the work to get to the fun. Dissociate these two activities to break this pattern. For more useful tips like this I recommend The Incredible Teenage Brain book.

When to worry about the tantrums?

If your child is consistently stressed by homework, avoiding it, and regularly disproportionately distressed, then it is worth talking to the school (of course) for support and advice, but it may also be important to consider if there might be an underlying issue such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or other neurodiverse condition. Read more about what being neurodiverse means here.

Neurodiverse children and teens have often spent all day ‘keeping it together’ and processing huge amounts of information (that is not necessarily presented to them in a way that suits their unique brain), and by the time they get home they ‘decompensate’ and feel overwhelmed and emotional. Homework is a battle they cannot face, or cope with. An expert opinion might be helpful, to look for other behavioural patterns or clues that they are managing potential neurodiversity. Your GP can help, or a school counsellor or educational psychologist.

In summary

I am not an expert in education, but have supported thousands of students through education, and hope that what I have shared here is; what to watch out for, when to worry and get help, and where to find out more, and I hope I have reassured you that homework is a common battleground, but it needn’t be all the time.

The most important message

For me the most important thing is not to miss underlying issues, such as ADHD, autism, perfectionism(leading to a paradoxical inability to compete or finish work because it is ‘never good enough’), or depression and anxiety affecting motivation and concentration. These are issues that need intervention and support, and I am always happy to share resources or signpost to expert support if you feel it would be necessary.

Don’t forget you can also ask questions and post queries on my free private Growing a Grown Up Facebookgroup (anonymously if that helps). Other parents and experts can then share their advice and thoughts too.

You are not alone!