There are no tears about homework in our house, since my children know that it is part of their 'job.' Homework is done automatically after school. They are not permitted to watch television until it's finished, although I do allow my ninth grader to check his email first. Since my children are involved in very little extracurricular activity -- my daughter is in Brownies, which meets every other week, and my son is in a Scottish pipe band that practices once a week -- they have plenty of time to do their homework.
My son has difficulty focusing on homework when he has playtime first. So here's how we handle his homework time: When he comes home, we have a snack and talk about his day. After the snack is done, we review his assignments and papers in his backpack, and gather all the materials needed for the jobs. Then we determine what he wants to do first. No phone calls or playtime until the homework is done. After each assignment is done, I correct it. After all assignments are completed, his assignment book is signed and we organize things for the next day. We've also talked about his study hall and free time in class, and how he can utilize them to reduce his homework load. He is given a choice of either doing it in school and not socializing with his friends in school during free time or doing his homework when he gets home. That way he has some control and choices about how and when it gets done.
When my 12-year-old son was in fourth grade, he had the most wonderful teacher the Lord ever put on the earth. This guy was so cool that the kids actually wanted to get their homework done for him! That was the year my son's homework habits turned around. Before that, it was a tear-filled battle. The rule in our house is that my son has to do his homework as soon as he walks in the door. If it takes him four hours to do it, he doesn't play. If he gets it done quickly, he can go outside. If I think he's trying to scam me so he can go out, I'll randomly check his assignments to be sure they are done. His school provides planners for the kids to write all of their assignments in each night as well. These calendars really help the kids to organize their work.
When our nine-year-old daughter comes home from school, homework is top priority. She must complete any assignments before she is allowed to play outside, call friends on the phone or watch TV. This way, she is still in 'school mode,' and what was studied that day is still fresh in her mind. And knowing that she won't have privileges until homework is completed helps cut down on procrastinating and arguing.
My daughter is only in first grade, so her homework consists of having me listen to her read from her book -- usually 10 or 15 pages. She loves to read, and it's never a problem to get her to do it. We do it as soon as she gets home from school and has a snack. Her little sister is taking a nap, and I have time to sit with her and give her undivided attention. She knows that if she doesn't get it done while her sister is sleeping, chances are we won't get it done at all.