5 yo Just won't do her school work.

(36 Posts)
BonzoDooDah Thu 31-Jan-13 22:45:17

DD (5 yo, Year 1) has been a right pain in the neck for the last few months about doing her homework. Just will not do it without tantrums, arguments and shouting (on both sides). She'll do her reading which she loves though. I've been getting more and more stressed with this.

Today I collected her from school and the teacher asked for a word and said she has not been doing her work - refuses. All the others on her table are sitting round getting on with it and she is fidgeting, staring at the sky, messing about ... anything BUT doing her work.
Her set (top I think) have a special project to make a story book. She should be on page 6 (others are) but is on page 2.

She's bright (everyone has told us this since nursery) and the teachers say she is. She's in one of the top sets and the teacher says she wants to move her up a level with her work (but not out of the group) but can't because she hasn't demonstrated that she can do it (by bloody writing it down). Teacher is certain she is capable ... She's happy to read and wants to do that but just won't do any of the other stuff.

She's been given consequences - kept in at lunchtime etc - no difference at all and this is the threat now that she'll lose "Golden Time" - which is when she turned on the tears tonight - that's tomorrow it will be put in action. Teacher said she'll have to do her work during Golden Time instead of playing.

So having had this discussion (her involved) we came home and she utterly completely refused to do her homework - 4 lines about her favourite toy (FFS). She spent 45 minutes NOT doing it and 5 minutes of real time writing it.
All the time she is not she is pulling faces, being really rude, throwing strops, getting up and down from her chair etc etc...

Yesterday (having seen a leaflet in the school) DH and I went on a Positive Parenting Course so we are working on NVC( non violent communication ) - improved communication from our side - but seriously - I wanted to lose it so much tonight. But I didn't and I didn't even shout - but she seemed to be pushing me TO actually shout at her.

She has enough sleep, eats well, has had her eyes tested, has lots of friends (knows about 90% of the school).

Help, help help ... anyone have ANY ideas what we can do???

mawbroon Thu 31-Jan-13 22:56:46

Can you identify the feelings and needs behind her reluctance to do it? This is what I find is the trickiest part of NVC! Does she feel overwhelmed by it? Writing 4 lines can seem like loads to a 5yo. If you hit on the right feelings and needs, it might just be that she needs some empathy for her feelings.

DS1 was the same with doing his homework at that age (he's 7 now) and he would faff about for ages avoiding it. Eventually, he finally got it that if he just did the bloody homework then it would be over quickly and he could go back to fun stuff. I don't think we really did anything though, he just sussed it out himself. I used to be cooking the tea and popping over to him every few minutes to see if he'd made a start to it rather than sitting over him putting pressure on him and making a big deal of it.

I feel your pain...

jjuice Fri 01-Feb-13 10:29:07

my friends DS was very very bright and used to constantly mess about all lesson then spend the last 5 minutes doing the work that had taken everyone else an hour. His work was as good as and more of ten than not better than everyone elses. The problem was that it was too easy for him. It bored him and he knew he could do it in 5 mins so just left it til the last 5 mins of class. It took a lot of hard work to convince him to do it in the first five mins then he could move onto something that really interested him.
His mum was distraught with him at home as he wouldn't do anything unless he could do it perfectly. He seemed to know exactly what he was capable of.

CecilyP Fri 01-Feb-13 11:02:16

Even if she is bright, she may be finding the work a bit hard. Writing 4 lines is nothing to us, but may be quite daunting for a 5 year old. Especially if it is homework after a day at school. Are you sure she is not feeling totally overwhelmed by it all; certainly the threats don't seem to be working.

It is all very well for the for the teacher to be certain she is capable, but what is it actually based on if she is presenting no real evidence of that capability? Might it not be a better idea if she was moved to the group below so she could make more gradual progress to that level of work.

SuzysZoo Fri 01-Feb-13 12:04:31

My daughter used to be like this so I sympathise. School will have to do what they do at school. At home could you try the offering choices. Where do you want to do your homework - kitchen or living room? Which pen do you want to use? Blue pencil/Black pencil. I used to HATE HATE homework with DD but now my DD is 8 she is old enough to decide whether or not she wants to do it IMO. I help her if she wants and remind her to do it, but she decides when to do it and how well. Homework is pretty useless for children under 11 IMO. I never had any homework until I was 11 and got a degree from Oxbridge. Homework depresses the joy of learning I think, so try to keep that alive (hard I know)

Andro Fri 01-Feb-13 13:23:17

<has vivid flash backs of doing similar at that age>
<remembers telling teacher "if you don't know it, why should I tell you?>
<sneaks out of thread...cringing>

BonzoDooDah Fri 01-Feb-13 23:57:27

Thanks for all the comments!

mawbroon and jjuice that's what I'm hoping my DD will realise sometime soon - just DO the bloody thing then have nice things!

SuzysZoo I completely agree about homework. DD had it in reception (FFS) and I think it's a lot to ask - she's 5 - working all day at school, reading in the evening and going to bed at 7 ... who wants to spend any of the rest of the time doing MORE of what you've done all day? Seems very odd. Especially when some countries don't even send their children to school til 7 and my DD was doing homework at 4 years and 3 months!

Andro I did a bit the same but in senior school.. Can you think of anything that would have helped you act differently? <<pleads>>

paranoid2android Sat 02-Feb-13 00:16:48

It's great that you are thinking of new ways to help figure out how to help your daughter with her homework, and good in you for being strong about your positive patenting and not shouting at your daughter! It sounds like a very frustrating situation , knowing your daughter I'd bright but not seeing any results for it!
It sounds like she has some strong feelings about the homework and its pretty confusing trying to figure out why .
What has helped me is understanding that tears and tantrums, are the way children and adults release stress and tension. Tears actually contain the stress hormone cortisol.
When children can release all their feeling through crying they can change their mood and be a lot more clear headed. I think we have a common tendency to try and talk our children out of crying by rationalizing to them so they stop crying as quickly as possible , but if we can simply offer them some warmth attention and affection- if they'll let us, then your daughter can get to the end of her crying, release her stress and be in a better mood for homework.
Just setting some limits gently and warmly like 'you need to do your homework' and then being there for any emotional upsets that arise.
If she can work through her feelings with lots of warmth and love then she will be able to perform to the best of her abilities.

It might also be a good idea to think about your own feelings about your need that she must do her homework. Could you let go of this feeling for a bit ? She is still quite young and it sounds like she will do great in her own time

80sMum Sat 02-Feb-13 00:19:45

Homework? At 5 years old?! It shouldn't be allowed imo. Not fair on the child or the parents.

CecilyP Sat 02-Feb-13 11:17:44

Yes, it seems strange to unecessarily inflict this on a child in order for them to be upset, so that we can then offer warmth, attention and affection to help them realease their stress and get over it. Of course, there will be things in childhood that will inevitably be upsetting; there doesn't seem any need to deliberately inflict more than is necessary.

seeker Sat 02-Feb-13 11:20:17

Remind me how old this child is? Did you say 5?

Move schools.

HalfSpamHalfBrisket Sat 02-Feb-13 11:21:54

Don't do the homework.
It's a long day and there's far better things to do with freetime after school.
<militantly anti-homework reception teacher>

TheMightyLois Sat 02-Feb-13 11:44:33

Yikes, is homework at 5yo standard? DS is in reception so not there yet.

blueberryupsidedown Sat 02-Feb-13 17:09:57

Don't do the homework. DH is a primary school teacher and he'd say the same thing.

Or try to do it every day at the same time and put a timer on. Ten minutes a day. For some reasons when my DCs know that it's for a short time, they think it's some kind of competition and they think it's more fun. The quality isn't great though! But hey, they are very little. At least doing a little bit every day at the same time (we do this in the morning) I am hoping that they will get into the habit and it will be easier as they get older.

Andro Sat 02-Feb-13 21:57:04


I don't knot about the homework, other than reading we didn't have any in reception but with school work there were 2 issues:

1. I was bored out of my mind. I didn't like writing, I hated art and I loved maths but after attending a private prep school I could already do addition and subtraction, plus my father had taught me basic multiplication and basic division...I was streets ahead so 'learning' how count or add 2+5 was insulting. I needed the challenge before I started to really engage. My reading and comprehension were also miles ahead of my age so again, I needed very different books.

2. I genuinely didn't understand why I should put what I knew down on paper. My thought process was in 2 parts; if 'Miss' didn't know it, why should I tell her? followed by, if 'Miss' does know it, what good is me writing down going to do? The whole exercise seemed pointless.

What changed was the intervention of a very experienced reception teacher who sat down with me and explained that she thought I needed more 'big girl' work to do, but she needed to see how much I knew first so she could give me the right work. She also explained that sometimes school work was like following the rules at home...you might not like it but you still have to do it. It took time, patience and a fair bit of one to one attention. First working orally to gauge my level and then mixing oral and written within the same exercise. Eventually it paid off, but I was 14 before I really started to enjoy writing for it's own sake.

Getting cross (parents or teacher) didn't work. I was stubborn to the point of pig headed, I needed a reason to do school work - 'because I said so' has never worked with me (either parental or teacher instructions).

Andro Sat 02-Feb-13 21:57:23


sittinginthesun Sat 02-Feb-13 22:06:10

OP, it sounds like far too much pressure to me.

How much homework is she getting? DS2 has just turned 6 and is in Year 1 - he gets homework once a week (plus spellings and reading), and that's fine, bit I wouldn't be happy with any more.

And keeping her in at lunchtimes is just too extreme IMO. At this age she should be encouraged to engage in her work, not turn it into a trial and chore.

With the writing thing, my friend's daughter is extremely bright, but has confidence issues with writing. She doesn't want to make a mistake when she commits to paper.

In your position, I would ease right off, and spend time playing, building Lego etc. Take the pressure right off.

loler Sat 02-Feb-13 22:06:34

Agree with the other comments - she's 5. Its 4 lines of writing - it doesn't matter!

My dd had similar sulks with homework (it's optional in our school) - I've never made her do it. Now in year 5 she choses to do it herself with no help, no pushing and in about 5 minutes!

At 5 it's not a big thing - so don't make a big thing about it.

IrnBruTheNoo Sun 03-Feb-13 08:41:26

DS1 is 5yo and he's had homework since his second week starting primary school. He enjoys it. From the start, I've explained that homework must be done as soon as he's home from school and then he can have all the rest of the afternoon to play, do as he pleases. He's happy with this set up and we've not had any problems (so far!).

I think if you set down what your expectations are for your DD, perhaps when it's all explained that it's important to do a little homework each day to help her learn and if she does, she'll get all her free time afterwards to play, possibly get a lovely treat after tea??

IrnBruTheNoo Sun 03-Feb-13 08:42:54

DS1 (5) has been getting homework Mon-Thurs (each day 15 mins approx., mix of reading and writing).

Badvoc Sun 03-Feb-13 08:45:08

Homework for a 5 year old is ridiculous.
Not surprised she doesn't want to do it.

CecilyP Sun 03-Feb-13 10:56:00

I think if you set down what your expectations are for your DD, perhaps when it's all explained that it's important to do a little homework each day to help her learn and if she does, she'll get all her free time afterwards to play, possibly get a lovely treat after tea??

This is just replacing the stick with the carrot. While I can see that this might work for a few sums or a worksheet, would it work for an open ended task like independent writing?

seeker Sun 03-Feb-13 11:01:39

Don't do it. A school day is quite long enough for a 5 year old- if she's having trouble getting things done in school, how is prolonging the agony out of school going to help?

teacherlikesapples Sun 03-Feb-13 11:16:56

I am also concerned about the scenario that is being set up here. With the combination of the work at school & homework- writing is becoming a punishment. Right at the stage that we want her to be practising & doing more of it.

I would ask the teacher if the school has access to any resource like handwriting without tears. I would want to know if there are any dexterity or physical issues with the writing. What is her fine motor skill like generally?- Can she do buttons, threading? What about mark-making when there is no target or end goal in mind?
Just having fun with creating marks without worrying about 'making something'.

Perhaps set up some fun mark making activities (without pressure) so you can observe her level of control. Present it as a fun game together. Tell you want to spend some special time, just doing something fun together.

One of those magna doodle boards, or perhaps drawing a picture, writing a shopping list for that toy store you want to visit, writing a birthday wish list (i.e something that excites, distracts) or a drawing game http://artchoo.com/drawing-games-for-kids

Just so you can check things like- how does she hold the pencil? Is it the correct pincer grip? Perhaps her hand is getting fatigued?

If there is a physical reason then an OT referral would be helpful.

IrnBruTheNoo Sun 03-Feb-13 12:18:21

DS only gets one written task (sums or spelling sheet - lucky if it takes him any more than five mins to complete, tbh) and 6 pages to read from his book each day for homework (we're talking one sentence here per page, not huge paragraphs per page).

It has been stated by the school though, that if parents are concerned about the level of homework, then it will be reviewed. So far, nearly 5 months into the academic year, he's been managing fine with it all, as have many of his peers. If however, he got a huge amount to do one day a week, he probably would be put off homework for good. I am very impressed by DS's school and how they've approached homework for 5 year olds.

shebird Sun 03-Feb-13 19:38:40

DD (5) year 1 has reading and spellings very week. This is more than enough after a long day at school. Sometimes we have tantrums which is mostly down to tiredness. I just back off maybe have a go in the morning or practice spellings while walking to school. Perhaps back off for a while so she feels under less pressure. She sounds a bit stubborn just like my DDsmile

BonzoDooDah Sun 03-Feb-13 20:29:16

I've been away for the weekend and no PC access - so thanks for all the replies!

To answer a few things - she's not doing her homework OR her work in school - which is worrying me more than just not doing the stupid homework.

The homework comes once a week (except reading) and is a spelling book with 5 words, then a homework book with one page of homework. For example:
Write 4 of your spellings in sentences.
(Or this week write four pieces of information about your favourite toy).
6 or 8 arithmetic type problems.
A concept exercise e.g. Find some things in your house and say whether they are larger or smaller than eachother (draw them or write).

So it's not a lot - should take no more than 15 minutes in total. And she can do it - I see she can when she finally does.

I am more worried, like I say, about her sitting staring into space instead of doing her work in school too.

negrilbaby Sun 03-Feb-13 22:23:15

The vast majority of schools worldwide start children at 6 or 7 years old data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.PRM.AGES. Very few begin at 5 years. You say your daughter is bright - she may well be but may just not be ready for formal school work. I agree with some other posters that it will do more harm than good forcing the issue with her (in school or out of school). She needs to enjoy what she is doing if she is going to achieve her best throughout her school life (she'll be at it for at least another 13 years!). There is an interesting article here which looks at this issue www.telegraph.co.uk/education/expateducation/8395176/When-is-the-best-age-to-send-your-child-to-school.html

hellymelly Sun 03-Feb-13 22:32:02

My dd (also 5, year one, bright) was like this last year and has slightly improved about it this term, but still is reluctant to do homework. (she does crack on with class work though). We think that with her, it is a perfectionist issue, she gets very stressed about her work not being completely perfect and has ridiculously high expectations, so she gets in a flap and won't do it. Talking has helped a bit, we actually let her NOT do it for a chunk of last term (Reception shouldn't have homework anyway, imo) which took the pressure off. Would your dd tell her teacher why she doesn't want to do it? Could you ask for her to have a break from homework for a while to break the cycle?

batmanstinks Sun 03-Feb-13 22:35:09

I have similar issues with DS in year 2.

I became sick of the standoffs and he was miserable so I've completely changed tack for now.

Weigh up why you want her to do her homework. What is it for?

a) to practice writing
b) to learn work ethic / obedience
c) something else

Then think whether it really matters and how else you can achieve it.

I have been in to see my son's teacher as he was increasingly being kept in at playtime to complete work.

I've told them I do not want this (not that they'll listen). Children need to play. They need to let off steam, they learn through play.

Most education people agree that infant homework is redundant and only there due to parental pressure.

You do not want her to become disengaged with school.

My strategy lately (which is working really well)
- we have a points chart for completing tasks. He gets 5 points if he gets work done in class which his teacher signs. 25 points = magazine
- I have backed off homework. He chooses his own stuff and I encourage schooly things. For example, I have loaded maths games onto my phone, he can use my computer to type stories/ play games. I get him to write shopping lists, invitations to playmates, plans for weekend etc.
- we play lots of board games etc which are good for maths and concentration / seeing things through to the end.

She is a very little girl and it's all supposed to be fun at this age.

I hope things get better for you.

batmanstinks Sun 03-Feb-13 22:44:41

Also, if you have an iPhone, check out Squeebles spelling. You can enter in your own spelling tests (I.e. DD's weekly test) and she can learn them that way, rather than sitting down and writing them out.

My DD2 also 5 and in yr 1. With regard to the homework issue (the lesser issue I know), I would kind of let that slide for a bit, as others have said maybe just not do it for the rest of this term to take pressure off. She does her reading and at this age that's the main thing (my DD always takes her reading book up to bed with her and reads it before lights out which works well for us). We actually do a lot of spellings in the car on the way to school or over supper - if there are only 5 or so words you can easily remember them and ask them verbally at a time that works rather than a formal sit down, learn and test situation. Not a bad lesson not to do the spellings at all and to let her get them all wrong for a couple of weeks. My DD really didn't like that and became a bit more inclined to make the effort to learn them. Sometimes with the more written style homework it can be a good idea to do it in the morning before school rather than in the evening - have you tried that?

Re the bigger problem of her refusal in school, I'm not sure what to say. It might help to change her set and put her with different children. My DD has often been rather a naughty chatterbox who doesn't concentrate in class and liable not to do what she is told. She had to be kept separate from her friends, which definitely helped her concentration. She was also highly motivated by the school's sticker reward system. For ages she had no stickers on her chart and seemed to be getting naughtier and less compliant, but once she actually got praised for one or two things and a couple of stickers it really set her off and she became v motivated to win praise and behave, it's like when she was being told off she got worse, but once she was being motivated and praised she blossomed and improved.

My children all like a good battle of wills, so telling them they MUST do their homework is like a red rag to a bull. It's a tricky balance of them sometimes having to choose to want to do things and that can mean a bit of brinkmanship on your part in not making them do something and waiting it out until they choose to conform (which I am sure she will eventually given that she is bright and already loves reading), whilst of course being terrified that actually they will never make that choice......

BonzoDooDah Wed 06-Feb-13 17:45:48

Thank you thank you everyone for taking your time to reply to me.
I've been reading and digesting everything you said.

As I said higher up it is MOSTLY about not doing her work in school that has bothered me. If it was ONLY homework I'd be inclined to just let her not do it as I agree with most of you that homework at 5 is ridiculous. But as it is impacting on her learning in school I've had to take action.

I've thought about the whys of the homework and I'm really not that bothered about her doing it. I always hated homework and resented it - but that doesn't really get you anywhere as an attitude as you generally get into trouble at school if you don't do it.
I'm more bothered about me showing solidarity with the school and that she is to show respect to her teachers (where due obviously) and that what they say in school is school law. (However much you disagree).

Nelly we're the same about the battle of wills and it is SO easy to escalate up to the complete standoff point <<sobs>>

Someone suggested I set her a time challenge to do the homework - so we did that on Monday as soon as she came in. I said we were going to do the words homework <protest> and we were going to do it NOW to get it done <more protest> I set the cooker timer for 5 minutes and encouraged her to do it. She faffed about a bit but eventually started it - but ran out of time.
So we had another chat and I reset the timer and this time she set to it and did the work (with me sneakily adding a minute as she was trying so hard) in the 5 minutes window and was writing the last words just as the timer started dinging.

So we had another talk about how good it felt to have done it and she could now play with all her free time. I laid it on thick about this.

Then we've had the chat about doing the same at school. So far this week so good. She says she has done her work first and stared out of the window second (teacher moderately agreed). We will keep on at it though. I am getting back out the sticker charts and we'll make sure to keep the momentum.

cleoowen Wed 06-Feb-13 19:22:19

I am a teacher and if a child was doing this in my class I would wonder if she was bored. I would try and engage her more, do things,I know she is interested in. maybe it is worth telling,her she might be moved up and hype up what the next group up are doing so she wants,to be put up.

Does she respond well to rewards, most children do better than sanctions. Start some kind of reward chart or treat if,she does her homework

loler Thu 07-Feb-13 20:06:57

Buy 'Divas and Dictators' by Charlie Taylor - The best book in the world, ever!

BonzoDooDah Mon 18-Feb-13 22:59:48

Just a quick update - DD was "Class Star" today for doing ALL of her work first in her group. A good start to the first day of term.

Maybe the teacher is trying the psychology, maybe she is really trying. Fingers corossed either way.

Thanks for all of your suggestions.

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