My ninth-grader puts off and puts off doing her homework. I push her to get started all night long. However, she never starts it until almost bedtime and then I have to let her stay up late to finish it. -- Homework Battle


Homework battles are counterproductive. They damage family relationships and misplace the responsibility for getting homework done. By the time children are in high school, homework is their responsibility. It does not belong to the parent. Homework is important at this level, as doing it is now closely tied to how successful students will be in school.

It is possible in your case that homework is only part of the issue. Your child may see putting it off as a way to stay up later. Teens tend to want to stay up late. It is built into their biology. They have a slower buildup of pressure to go to sleep than younger children. Teens also have a tendency to sleep later in the morning and are often very difficult to wake up for school. While most teens need close to nine hours of sleep a night, they usually get by on less than eight. Unfortunately, learning is more challenging for the sleep-deprived. You can promote sleepiness by lowering bright lights and turning off the TV. Talk to your daughter now about the right bedtime for her while explaining the disadvantages of being sleep-deprived. Work together to set a reasonable bedtime.

Stop nagging about homework. Tell your child that getting homework done is her responsibility now -- not yours -- and stick to it. Point out, however, that she will need to go to bed at the time you two have agreed on whether or not her homework is done. She can always get up in the morning to finish it, as disagreeable as this may be to her. Sometimes, just agreeing is not enough. Many parents and children have used our homework contract to avoid homework battles. You'll find it on our Dear Teacher website (www.dearteacher.com) under Skill Builders; click on "Study Skills." You can adjust it to meet the needs of your family.