I have a little secret about homework: Kids don’t like to do it.
Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly a secret, but this seems to be: You can’t make them do it, either.
And, an even bigger epiphany you may have never heard of: It’s really their problem, not yours.
Maybe this is revolutionary to you. While you might like to think that you have complete control, you can’t really make anyone do anything they don’t want to do. And while that may be discouraging to hear when it comes to your kids, it’s also freeing because it puts the responsibility back on them.
If homework time is wreaking havoc in your home, there’s a better way. The vast majority of homework problems can be brought down to two simple concepts. Are there antidotes for these problems? Well yes, yes there are.
The antidote to unorganization is, of course, organization. A tremendous amount of time and frustration can be wasted on this one problem alone. An unorganized work area, lack of supplies, or arguments about where homework should be done can cause unnecessary aggravation for your child. Here’s how to handle it:
- Be prepared—always have plenty of supplies ready (pencils, paper, erasers, sharpener, and pens)
- Be predictable—if at all possible, homework should be done at the same time each day. Your child will be less likely to complain if he begins to understand that he will always do his homework after dinner.
- Be open-minded—some kids need a quiet space to do homework, others (like me) can’t handle the isolation of that and need to be around others where there is background noise. Each child will thrive in a different environment. Let them have a say in where they do their homework, and then give them that space each time.
Responsibility for homework should lie squarely on your child. Say it with me: it’s not my responsibility; it’s not my responsibility; it’s not my responsibility. Really. It’s not.
- When we constantly step in to help as soon as our children have the slightest struggle, they learn two things: 1. They don’t really need to learn, someone else will know. 2. You don’t think they are capable of learning.
- Your child’s success is not up to you. Let me say that again, your child’s success is not up to you. If it were, you would be joining him at interviews for jobs and standing there when he talked to irate clients. Eventually, he will have to go it alone. Forcing him to do that as an adult is unfair and setting him up for failure and embarrassment.
- Encouraging your child to struggle through finding their own answers is a good thing. They need to see a bump in the road, and figure out a way around it. That not only builds character, but confidence.
What Role You Can Play to Help
- Show Grace—during different phases of a child’s schooling, certain things will matter, while others will not. Knowing what is necessary to be concerned about will help alleviate a lot of frustration for your child. For example, is perfect handwriting really necessary in Kindergarten? Does your eighth grader really need to know every vocabulary word in the SAT manual? Remember that learning is a process and you can only focus on so much at once for most kids.
- Let Them Complain—we all have things we don’t like to do (cleaning toilets, anyone?). Sometimes we—and our kids—just need to vent our frustration and feel understood so we can move on.
- Let Them Ask for Help—stop hovering. Wait, let me give you time to land your helicopter. Ok, stop hovering. Seriously. If they need your help, they should ask for it. This is how real life works. They will likely never have a boss who hovers to make sure they have everything they need at all times. Give them the chance to try it out on their own and then ask for what they need.
- Let Them Fail—their success in school should be up to them, not you. If you are too involved in the process, is your child really learning anything beyond the fact that you will always make sure they succeed? When we fail in real life, there are real consequences. If I were to fail my driving test, I wouldn’t get a license. Your children should learn this concept in the safety of their own home. If they don’t do their homework, or study for a test, nothing will teach them more than letting them feel the real consequences for that. They will live to see another day, and be more careful next time.
- Success begets Success—when your child begins to understand that the learning process is up to him, he will look outside of school and discover that there are other things that he is interested in as well. A child who enjoys Science, might begin to read books about planets in his free time, and in turn, learn more about it than anyone else in his class. Knowing they succeed in one thing encourages them to take risks with other things.
Learning is life-long, and kids should be encouraged to find a style of learning that works for them. While you can come beside them and encourage them through the process, do them a favor by letting them take the responsibility.
What methods do you find work best for your kids?