These five quick tips won’t solve every problem, but they’re a start.

By Betsy Goldberg and Elizabeth Passarella
Updated August 26, 2015
Jonny Valiant
Jonny Valiant

Stay positive

No matter how irritated you are at Common Core. “Kids want to please their parents and teachers. If you’re negative about homework, they’re put in the middle, and it stresses them out,” says Nichols. Rant to your friends or husband, but never in front of your child.

Don’t push to “Get homework out of the way.”

Some kids can dive right in after school; others need to play or eat before they can settle. Try a few routines to see what works. Ellen Main, a former elementary-school teacher and a mother of two in South Pasadena, California, had her daughter practice spelling while on a pogo stick—a letter a bounce. “We’ve done homework in sidewalk chalk. She needed to be active after school and have time with me,” says Main. “This way, she got both, and the work is finished.”

Get an analog clock—and draw on it

For elementary kids who aren’t whizzes with telling time (or sitting still): Use a dry-erase marker to shade a “pie piece” of time on the glass face of an analog clock. “It helps kids understand what 10 or 20 minutes looks like and how much time has passed,” says Nichols.

Know when to break the rules

A beautiful study space may not work for every kid. “Parents need to be flexible,” says Marcia Tate, an educational consultant in Atlanta and the author of Preparing Children for Success in School and Life. “I had one child who loved a designated spot; another wanted to be near me in the kitchen with a clipboard.” As long as your child proves she can do the work well with distraction, let it go. And take fun breaks. “After every math row, I’ll try to throw a raisin in your mouth!”

Farm it out

If homework is a constant struggle and everyone is miserable, pay an older kid to be a homework helper. Keep your child on task and answer questions, says Bryson: “Don’t let the battle consume your relationship.”