A number of years ago, I was complaining to my dad about something to do with work. Never one to mince words, my dad said something that always stayed with me – “That’s why they call it ‘work,’ Richard. They don’t call it ‘play.’”
Modern children (typically boys between the ages of 6 – 14) need a variation on this lesson.
Reports from the parent front are quite frequent about their boys having full-blown meltdowns over homework on a nightly, or at least a regular basis. Becoming the norm with this age group are full-blown screaming fits at parents, with statements like “I hate you…I wish you were dead,” while the child rolls around on the floor or storms around the house.
Why? Because their parents are asking them to do their homework, effectively cutting in to their screen time on YouTube and their video games?
These meltdowns are followed by a remarkable period of calm, where maybe 10 minutes after the meltdown no one could tell the child had just had a meltdown while the child “cools down” back on a screen.
I know. I know. Many of you will quickly fall to neurological explanations of the meltdowns, such as sensory integration disorders or other explanations (see my last week’s blog: https://shutdownlearner.com/our-neurological-explanations-of-everything).
However, my sense of the modern boy is they are….
I’m not suggesting that the delusion represents a serious psychological pathology, but that their delusion is like my complaining to my dad – “It’s not called play, Richard” – in that they are deluded in their thinking that homework and school are supposed to be easy and fun.
Seriously, when was homework or school ever fun?
We (collectively) are to blame – parents and educators alike. Somehow we have supported this notion that there is to be no discomfort or pain while doing work.
Sure, in an ideal world school and homework should be these enlightening and invigorating learning experiences that are also “fun,” but in truth the average homework assignment is a stultifying worksheet that is at best, one degree north of being a total drag.
But, here’s the thing, that’s why it’s called homework. It’s a tool that theoretically reinforces a learned skill, but in truth is a way that kids indirectly learn to meet deadlines, tolerate frustration, and put their stuff away in folders to hand in the next day.
If that is not something that you buy into for your child, as some of you do not, then it means you need to find a very alternative school experience or create the “Matthew School” or the “Liam School. (or whatever the child’s name is).”
What I am saying as my dad said to me years ago, was there are certain realities that we need to face, starting around the age of six.
Modern kids are wired for pleasure. Even if you think you are limiting the child’s screen predilections, trust me they are beating you and having about 95% pleasure to 5% pain each day. That’s a lopsided ratio and it is not allowing your child to develop a thicker skin to work through their frustration.
When asked to face some pain, such as homework or schoolwork they are delusional.
“That’s why they call it “work,” Richard.