The Homework Battle: The Same Thing Happens Every Night
Growing up in grade school, I remember having homework every night. In Junior and Senior High, I remember that same experience, only amplified by six to eight. I recall coming home and working until it was supper time or working after dinner until it was time to shower and go to bed. Mind you, most of the time it did not get done as it should have, but for the most part, it got done. I don’t remember anything ever being late, other than a final project or two. And while I was not an “A” student, I wasn’t flunking anything. I was a middle of the road student. Did what was required, nothing more, nothing less.
What it looks like
Each of our children handles or has handled homework differently. Our oldest had focus and concentration issues growing up, so we had to guide him through his assignments gently. Our next child had no issues whatsoever. His work was done, and we didn’t have to really hold his feet to the fire to get him to do his homework. Now our youngest boy, if you have read most of my blogs lately, you know him by now. He is stubborn like his dad. He is also a procrastinator like his dad. He gets the job done, but usually at the last minute with teachers and parents breathing down his neck. And our daughter, she is just getting into the phase where doing anything but her homework is preferable.
Speaking of homework, it seems to me that children today do not have the same level of homework I did growing up. It is concerning when they come home, and there is litte to no work to be done. Today, homework is anything that was not completed in class. Yes, there are small assignments that do come home, but it really depends on the teacher. One thing that has remained the same is that when a child does have homework, it becomes a chore to get them to do it.
This is where I think a child begins to lie to their parents. “Do you have homework?” The answer is usually, “No,” or “It’s already done.” Which, for most parents is sufficient. And that is the child’s plan. It’s when you ask to see it is when you get that deer in the headlights look. We just went through this with our daughter. This year she has begun to lie about having homework. We never had an issue with her before this year. I don’t know if turning 10 was the magic number, but the cycle has begun with her.
Again, our youngest son does the same thing in his own way. To his credit, he always gets his work done. It may be two weeks late, but he gets it done. However, when he does turn it in, it usually is at half the credit he would have gotten if he had turned it in on time, even if it is perfect. So, we have struggled to convince him to turn in assignments when they are due. This usually comes with me using my dad voice and him getting upset a little. But the job gets done.
How to deal with it
Problem: Through much trial and error, and with no surprise, getting upset does not help. Raising your voice will do one of two things. Exasperate the situation by making your child angry as well or upsetting your child out of embarrassment. What makes things worse is if your child has a bit of rebellion in them, then yelling will only cement their decision to not complete their work.
Solution: There is a difference between yelling and using a parental tone. Yelling is frequently done out of anger and is never constructive. A parental tone, however, is letting your child know that things have gotten serious but maintaining civility and keeping tempers on an even keel. It took some time to develop that parental tone without revealing that I was upset. I still battle the anger, especially when we have reiterated something for the umpteenth time.
Problem: Then there is the other side of the coin. Being passive and uninvolved. Not caring if your child completes their required assignments still does them harm, maybe even more so because in addition to not listening, the homework is not being turned in.
Solution: It is understandable that we get busy, and we come home tired, but our careers are not our only responsibility. Life is more than paying bills and putting food on the table. We have a little one, or little ones, who need love and guidance from you. This includes monitoring their academic process and occasionally helping with homework.
Problem: There is also a middle of the road attitude that is not very helpful. It is being upset and wanting to say something, but not doing anything about it. There are way too many parents treating the relationship with their child with kid gloves. They think, “I have to be careful or they won’t like me, or they won’t be my friend.”
Solution: It may come as a surprise to you, but you are not there to be liked as a parent or be a friend to your child. You are the parent. It’s time to act like one; do not be passive to the responsibilities your child has been given, or to yours for that matter. Don’t be afraid to say something. They will get over it, and when they walk the stage at graduation, they will remember the efforts you made to get them there.
Homework is inevitable. It should be included in the adage about the only two certainties in life. Know that there are going to be mess ups, there are going to be things you do not understand, and there are going to be late nights trying to help your child complete the 100-days of school project that is due in the morning.
The age and assignment skill level changes, however, the desires and attitude often do not. This is where excellent parenting skills come into play. Learn from your past children. Talk to other parents at the school, at work, or at church. And even though your next child most likely will not behave like your first, you may gain perspective through someone else’s experience.
First, be active in your child’s schooling. Ask questions. Stay on top of their assignments. It’s good to know what homework expectations each teacher has. This comes with reading the syllabus, frequently checking their grades, and maintaining contact with the teachers. Especially if there has been issues in the past.
Then, if things get behind, remain calm. Do not show anger to your child. Be firm but talk to your child. There may be more going on than not wanting to do homework. This can involve more complicated issues of the work being too complex, personal issues at school or home, or an issue with the teacher. So, communication is important to maintain. Getting upset will quickly slam that door shut and leave little opportunity of your child opening up.
Finally, let your child know your expectations. When you have an established and enforced line, then things fall into place more often than they will not. You still may struggle, but it will be easier for both you and your child to get back on track when one of you falls behind. Above all, trust your child. As the communication between you and your child grows it will be easier to give. And I have always said, Trust… but verify. Knowing you are going to check will give your child more reason to be truthful, and isn’t that what we wanted from the get-go?
I live in a small town in South Central Texas with my wife Carolyn and our four children. We attend the local First Baptist Church where we have been serving for 8 years. I drive a truck in the transportation industry and I pursue my writing career in my spare time. I have a passion for writing, and I plan to use my voice to glorify God.
In addition to my freelance work, I have a series of Children’s books that will begin to be released starting in June of 2018. I also have written a novel that is currently being edited. I look forward to sharing it sometime in 2019.