Whose Work Is Homework?
If it was meant to be fun, it wouldn’t be called homework, right? But does getting assignments and essays done have to be such a battle? In fact, that’s the last thing it should be. If you’re caught up in a tug-of-war with your child over homework, take a deep breath and keep reading.
Our kids can receive unhelpful messages when we get too involved in their homework. These messages can imply that we don’t trust them to do what they need to do, that they aren’t competent enough to do it on their own. Kids may miss opportunities to learn important lessons about study skills and personal responsibility. We all want our children to succeed, but sometimes we need to step back and look at the big picture. Part of the role of homework is independent learning, which isn’t happening if we’re managing the process for our kids.
You may be thinking, but if I don’t get involved, he just won’t do it! That may very well be true. But if you get involved and steer the homework ship now, how will he learn the skills that he’ll need later on? While staying up until the wee hours helping your sixth grader with a forgotten project may seem like the lesser of two evils, what’s the lesson? We’d like to think that it’s to be better prepared next time. Unfortunately, though, that’s not usually the case. The message they pick up is that Mom or Dad will always be there in a pinch so there’s no need to worry or plan ahead.
So what is our role as a parent? Start by working with your child, as soon as homework comes home in first grade, to set up a routine that works. Explain why homework is important and allow your child to experiment with a time and manner of doing it that works best for him or her. Once the ball is rolling, back out of the process unless you’re invited to help. Even if you are invited, remember not to rescue or do the work for your kids; this is all part of the independence process. Provide the necessary tools, such as a desk in a quiet spot, writing utensils, and a computer if necessary,. Then let your child work without interruptions or distractions. Offer encouragement, support, and consistency.
If the unfortunate does happen and your child is arrives at school empty-handed one day, forget “I told you so!” and instead offer encouragement and support. Communicate to your child that you believe in her and reassure her that she’s capable of handling the situation. Let her know that you’re available to discuss her plan for getting back on track, but that you won’t be calling the teacher or getting involved in any other way.
Here are some questions you might try asking to help your child focus his or her energies on the task at hand:
- What mark are you hoping to achieve in this class?
- What is your plan for getting that mark?
- What’s working with your current homework routine? What’s not?
- What do you need from me?
If you have a child with a learning difference or other challenge, you may need to be more hands-on, and for longer, to help these good habits really take root. That’s ok. The point is not to leave kids twisting in the wind if they are really struggling, but to instil a sense of inner direction and focus when it comes to their own personal responsibilities. Offer your support but be prepared to bite your tongue if a low mark comes home. Remind yourself that it will be a much more costly lesson to learn later. It’s never too early – or too late – to give the responsibility of homework back to your child.
More thoughts on homework and the role parents play here.
Fighting over homework can be a sign of a mistaken goal for kids – could be attention, power, revenge, or assumed inadequacy.
Homework chipping away at your patience? I get it. Click the link for ideas on how to be more patient.