How to make your children do their homework

The Chief Inspector of Schools says parents should make sure their children do their homework. But how to do it without making them hate you? Rosie Millard explains

Boys (and girls) creeping to school with satchels full of homework. Shakespeare knew about it, and boy, do our children know about it. And now, here's that Sir Michael Wilshaw bending his cane and telling parents that we should be fined if we don't ensure our offspring get it done. Every night.

Sir Michael, the Chief Inspector of Schools, is on the warpath about "bad parents" – especially, he says, white, working-class ones – who can't be bothered to read with their children or turn up for their parents' evenings, and allow them to skip their homework.

Well, Sir Michael, I do have a bit of a love/hate thing with homework going on. I hate it when my children don't do it, and I love doing it for them. Indeed, my son once achieved the highest-ever grade for a Year 7 project when he handed in what I have to say was a superb piece of work on Andy Warhol. A folder devoted to the artist, complete with timeline, famous sayings, poems, drawings, postcards, even a reference to David Bowie's seminal song on the artist from his album Hunky Dory. What a joy it was to see that A++ mark on the bottom, in red ink. But then, as arts correspondent for the BBC at the time, I deserved nothing less.

But, Sir Michael, I have seen the error of my ways. I no longer do my children's homework for them. Do I insist they do it, however? You bet I do. Nag, nag, nag. That's me. I will never get the Wilshaw penalty. "Have you done your homework yet? No, you can't watch The Simpsons/How I Met Your Mother, not until you have done your homework." My latest ruse is bribery with Panini Brazil World Cup stickers. Two if you eat your supper, four if you do your homework. Needs must, Sir Michael. Actually, I am very grateful for the Brazil time zone at the moment, because the late kick-off times give the perfect hiatus for, yes, our old friend… homework.

I think it is my duty to be a right pain in the backside about homework to my lot, two of whom are at secondary school and thus have backpacks full of the stuff, and two who are at primary school (and thus have hardly any, bar the odd spelling test, but you wait). It's not just because they will get detentions if homework is not completed. Getting your children to do homework is part of the parenting deal. Got to be. It's quite easy to be bright and switched on in class, where promptings from the teacher or peers can help a child along. It's a bit tougher, however, to carry on the subject at home alone. But that's the only way you are going to learn. Hours and hours of doing and redoing work at your desk, or the kitchen table, or the sitting-room floor (I don't really care where it takes place, as long as the television is off). There is a lot to learn, but learn it they must, otherwise your sprog is never going to soar over the plentiful hurdles that the modern-day British child is obliged to face during his or her 13-year school stint. And then there's university, and the rest. The discipline of sitting down and doing homework is a valuable lesson, since it never really goes away. It is an unfashionable truth, but if you do your homework the night before, the day job goes a lot easier.

Knowing this, and knowing that the default position of the average British child is one that usually suffers a strong gravitational pull towards Facebook or the iPod, parents or carers simply need to put up with the homework parrot on their shoulder squawking, "Have you done it yet?" every weekday night of the year. Otherwise, we will have Sir Michael on our backs, squawking in turn at us and hitting us where it hurts, namely our pockets. And we don't want that, class of Mum and Dad, do we?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Guru Careers: Product Training Specialist / Software Trainer

£25 - 32,500K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Produ...

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence