Subscriber OnlyYour Family

Homework: ‘Within a few minutes of reading, despite me trying to help, my daughter will start screaming’

Ask the Expert: Many informed primary schools opt out of homework in early years and support parents to become involved in children’s learning in other ways

When you continually spend time battling with your child to do homework, it is very counterproductive. Photograph: iStock


Our daughter is six, but we suspect – as does her current teacher – that she may have some ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) traits. She has no formal diagnosis. We are writing to see how best to help her with her homework.

Summer of Family: This summer, parents are looking for tips, advice and information on how to help their children thrive during the holiday months. You can read all about it at

We moved as a family last summer, so she changed school and seems much happier than in the previous school, which was quite strict. She had weekly tests and some experiences definitely affected her academic confidence. She would say things like, “I am no good at writing”. She was four at the time!

Her reading is a little behind her peers (as noted by her teacher) but she has been progressing week by week and is doing a little extra one-on-one time with her teacher now, which is going well.

When she comes in from school I try to create a calm environment for homework and to not hurry her. We have some down time and then a healthy snack before starting. But within a few minutes of reading, despite me trying to help, she will start screaming that I shouldn’t be telling her the words. She can really be upset and tell me she hates me before she storms off.


I try to stay calm, give her a few minutes, suggest we maybe do spellings instead and come back to reading. Sometimes this works and we will get there in the end, but I really want the experience to feel more positive and calm for her, so that this doesn’t build into a very negative association.

I have noticed a pattern that, before things escalate, she may say she is still hungry, or something is sore (a finger) or she needs the toilet – and so it can take about 20 minutes to get through three sentences in the book.

We want to ensure we are supporting her in the right way and want to avoid this pattern continuing such that homework becomes a really negative experience for her. She is an extremely bright, able, caring and creative child and we want to harness that and support her in the areas she needs a little extra help.


You are right to be worried about homework becoming a negative experience for your child. When you continually spend time battling with your child to do homework, it is very counterproductive. Not only does your child not learn anything, it can actually hinder their learning and reduce their interest in school work.

In addition, such negative experiences are stressful for both you and your child and can damage your relationship. Many research studies question the value of parents doing formal homework with their children, especially when it is often stressful and has few educational benefits.

Does homework have any benefits for primary school children? Jen Hogan and Dr Leah O’Toole discussOpens in new window ]

Why homework has merit and can be a force for goodOpens in new window ]

Sometimes, teachers set homework for children as parents expect it (rather than it benefiting the child), or because it is a way of communicating to parents about the school curriculum (when there are other ways to do this). As a result, many informed primary schools opt out of homework in the early years (or make it project-based and voluntary) and support parents to become involved in their children’s learning in other ways.

Below are some ideas to support your child’s learning in school

Set up a daily playtime with your child

Young children learn most through playful, enjoyable activities and this can work best when the play is supported by parents. More important than a daily formal homework time is a daily playtime with you as their parent. Set up a 20-minute playtime when you can be totally available to listen and where your child has access to interactive toys and activities (such as playdough, construction, art materials).

Enjoyable shared play like this is a great way to get to know your daughter, to stimulate their imagination and thinking and to bond and build a warm relationship with them – it can also be a great stress reliever both for child and parent.

Continue book-time with your daughter

Parent book-time with children is strongly associated with literacy and learning. However, it is important that this is child centred and follows your daughter’s interests. Be careful about “over teaching” during reading and don’t make a big deal of mistakes nor insist she read all the words etc. Let your daughter choose the book and use the text and pictures to stimulate her story telling, communication and learning.

Most parents find it useful to integrate book-time into relaxed bedtime routine when it provides a chance to snuggle up close and to connect with their child.

Make homework work for your daughter

If you do opt for formal homework, try to make it fun and interesting for your daughter. Remember the ideal is that she is able to do it herself with only a little support from you. Keep it to a short defined period (eg 15 mins) and don’t extend the time to get it finished. Be prepared to drop the homework if she finds it stressful and communicate with the teacher about this – the teacher might be able to address the issues in class or change/reduce the homework so it works better for your daughter

Collaborate with the teacher

Collaborating with the teacher and school will really help your daughter. It is a good sign that she is progressing in her reading during the one-to-one time with her teacher and this is something to be further encouraged. Explain to the teacher the challenges with homework and discuss what further things might help.

You could decide to drop homework altogether for a period or alter it to make it easier and more enjoyable for your daughter – the most important thing is to help your daughter have a good experience doing it.

You could also explore with the teacher whether your daughter might have specific learning needs that might need to be further assessed either now or in the future.

Jen Hogan: Like their children, parents learn new things every single dayOpens in new window ]

  • John Sharry is clinical director of the Parents Plus Charity and an adjunct professor at the UCD School of Psychology. He is author of several parenting books, including Positive Parenting and Parenting Teenagers. See