use an incentive
How your child approaches homework is just like any other behavior. And if you want it to change, you're going to have to motivate him. Discuss with your child what he thinks might be an appropriate incentive for completing his homework for the week. Then go visual. Chart up his progress in a high traffic area (the fridge?) so he can see his progress. (Or better yet, have him update his chart). Scholastic has a sticker chart for younger kids. Click here for a daily routine chart that includes homework. But keep in mind that just like any other behavioral change, it's going to take time. So stick with it. And feel free to change the incentive from time to time to keep him motivated.
One of the highlights of my day is when I ask my students to take out their homework (not the mindless, tedious kind. The meaningful kind). Instantly, I get a line of kids all with an excuse crazier than the last. Excuses range from "We HAD to go out for ice cream" to "I came home and then I immediately went to soccer practice and didn't get home until 9 and then I had to eat dinner, take a shower, and go right to bed." Wow! Soccer practice for 5 hours? Sounds more like child slavery to me. I am constantly preaching to my students the importance of after school activities. But students need to learn to manage their time at an early age so they can fit everything in. Often, they need parental help to schedule homework time, and then a consistent "no excuses" approach to following through. That might mean sitting down with a calendar on Sunday afternoon. Wincalendar has downloadable calendars that you can customize and then print. First, fill in the days and times your child has an after school activity. Then discuss when homework can be scheduled in. So on Wednesday, when your child has soccer practice from 4:30-6 and then has to stay to watch his older brother's game from 6:30-8, and then you have to drive teammates home and don't get home until 9pm, your child will know to bring his backpack and complete his homework during his brother's game.
don't push it
Teachers don't want to torture their students. Unless they are my former high school math teacher. Mrs. Mezjak. She was pure evil. But the rest assign homework with the thought that their students will go home, complete it easily, and bring it back. But if your child has been at it for hours and you can tell he is fried, the best thing to do is stop. Write a note or send a quick email to your child's teacher explaining the situation, and ask her to sit with him to make sure your child is clear about the concept. But make sure to say that you will finish the homework the next night.
Start by having your child go over her day and then teach you the concepts she learned by guiding you through the homework. Pretend that you don't understand so that she will have to explain it to you. If there is anything she can't explain, help her to fill in the blanks, and be sure to let her know how proud you are afterward. A little positive reinforcement will go a long way in building her confidence.
use technology to your advantage
If you are constantly having to pry your child's fingers away from the computer, suggest that he use the internet to study. There are lots of new websites out there to help your child in any subject complete with games and quizzes. I recommend spellingcity - a website where your child can type in his weekly spelling words and then play games to learn them, and mrnussbaum - an interactive website that covers all subjects.
set time, set place
This may seem like an obvious one, and yet parents often tell me their child completes their homework at the kitchen table while dinner is being made. But put yourself in your child's shoes: how much work could you accomplish if your cubicle was placed in the kitchen of a restaurant? Not much, right? Instead, go ahead and wipe the dust off that desk in your child's room that she HAD to have and yet has never used. When picking a time, make sure to find a balance between your child's needs and the family's. If your child needs a break when she gets off the bus, make sure it's not more than an hour. Anymore than that and she will have to stop for dinner, which may lead to an argument later.
listen to music
Let's face it: no one likes to do household chores, work out, or eat vegetables. But I find that if I put on a little music, suddenly it's not so bad. I have experimented with this in my classroom, and I have noticed a huge difference in my students. There's less chatting and more productive working. So why not try it at home? Pandora is a great internet radio site that let's you customize your radio stations (Enya Radio is my new fave). No computer in your child's work place? No problem! Pandora has a free app.
hire a tutor
If all of the above fails and you still want to pull your hair out, you may want to hire a tutor. Especially if your child is a little older. Teens and tweens have hormones and emotions that quickly take over and decide that you know nothing. And you will continue to know nothing until your child hits 18. But tutoring can be expensive (rates range between $30 and $80 an hour depending on where you live, the subject material, and the tutor's experience), so how do you know if a tutor is right for your child? Consider these questions: 1) Does your child struggle to complete her homework correctly? 2) If, after completing homework and studying for tests, does she receive poor grades on tests and quizzes? 3) Does she need help with her homework but refuse to accept yours? 4) Is your child preparing for a state test, the PSATs, or the SATs? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to consider hiring a tutor in your area. To find one, talk to your child's teacher first. Many teachers offer private tutoring services to supplement their income, and having your child's teacher perform the tutoring is advantageous because she knows your child's strengths and weaknesses. She can also tailor the tutoring to her lesson plans and reinforce all of the concepts in a consistent manner. But if your child's teacher doesn't offer tutoring, she may be able to recommend someone else, or you can contact the school's guidance counselor or assistant principal for reputable tutors.