It's the beginning of fall, and as surely as leaves will drop, so will the homework. Pages and pages of it. Sometimes whole binders worth. Homework can be the source of many arguments in the home and I wanted to take a look at why, and what we can do about it.
In order to really understand what's going on, it helps to look at what's happening for both the parents and the kids, because homework is challenging for both of us in ways that are diametrically opposed, and this is how we so often wind up in conflict.
As you can see, there may be many different reasons we parents can get stressed about homework.
Whatever our reasoning, our answer is often the same: Get that homework done! As soon as possible so we don't have to worry, fight, beg, or barter.
They have had a whole day away from us, and who knows what challenges they had during the day?
Whatever their day, what they really need when they see us is a safe landing. A place to let it all go so they can regroup, and reconnect with who they are when they are safe, at home, in their family.
Homework does not accomplish that.
Am I suggesting that homework is therefore unimportant?
Not at all. Unless it isn't to you. :) Let me explain... I always think each parent must parent according to their own values, and the values of the school they are part of. Some parents and schools place a huge emphasis on homework, others don't at all. So one thing to wonder about is are you at the right school for your family's values? And then if homework is important to you, then by all means you can help support your child to complete it, but that is not the same thing as just forcefully telling them to do it.
Assuming you feel homework is important, then...
First and foremost, FILL THEIR CUP - literally and figuratively. One way to do this is to offer special time or any form of child-led reconnection before even attempting homework. Some way of letting them see you are not just another thing in their life needing something from them. You care about who THEY are, and you want to give them a chance to be in charge and show you whatever would give them joy, while you join in with them. Also food! Their brains need filling at this point too. Many will have foregone good nutrition throughout the day and they need protein and some good healthy fats to get their brains functioning again. For some kids, a snack and this special time together will be enough. That alone will get them feeling abundant and clear thinking again, and literally at that point they will want to do (or at least be open to doing) their homework.
But what about the kids who don't? Well, here are some tips for the ones who require quite a bit more...
Why? Well, it all comes down to the extraordinary power of growth mindset and the power of "yet." It turns out that teaching children that every mistake they make is actually a super helpful learning curve that just made them smarter is a very powerful way to instill hope. And hope breeds perseverance. And perseverance breeds success. They may not have gotten it fully YET, but they are on their way. Their success is inevitable. Think of Thomas Edison's wonderful quote: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
On some level, if you are offering all this contact and support and your child still won't do it, this means they can't yet.
Not that they don't have the mental or academic ability, but that something substantial is blocking them from their own power and belief in themselves. Just the other day, my 8 year old was trying to go over some summer math sheets, and got so discouraged by a multiplication problem that he literally spent one hour upset. I tried to help in all the ways I mention here, but his brain just wouldn't have it. Even as we tried to connect, and then kept returning to the problem, breaking it down into ever simpler components, he got to a place where he sat there in tears saying I don't know what 1 plus 1 is. I DON'T KNOW!!! And you know what? I believe him. In that moment, he did not have access to his prefrontal cortex. His brain had decided he was unsafe and so at that moment he was in full fight or flight survival mode. Think of it like this, if you just had a car accident, and were standing shaking by the side of the road and I asked for your phone number - a number you clearly know - it literally might be impossible for you to remember it at that moment. So I fully gave up on the homework. Instead I just sat with him, and did my best to cuddle with him although he wanted none of it. I gave him some time to blow off some steam and then we went and played. About two hours later he suddenly came up to me, completed homework in hand and a huge grin on his face.
In general, whenever we have to hold a limit for our children - and homework is certainly one such limit - it works best to really honor their struggle as we hold the limit and to let them wail and cry, knowing those tears get out the gunk that stands in the way, and you are likely to have a smarter stronger kid on the other end. Those tears may look like refusal or failure but they are often the paved road to success if you and your child both know how to walk that road.
I hope this thinking on homework has been helpful for you, and for more info on this or anything else that may be on your mind, feel free to reach out to me directly anytime.
Sign up and I will let you know when new articles are available.