Recently, we talked about the notion that a child should be doing his or her homework in a more public area of the house, rather than the child’s bedroom. Let’s discuss the tone of the homework activity and how you might manage it as a parent.
It would be interesting if we could take a psychological temperature reading across the country while homework is being conducted, typically from four to eight o’clock at night. My sense is that in many households the temperature would be rising steadily with every hour of mounting homework frustration.
If we could peek into these households, we would probably see increased tension with a great deal of irritability and yelling.
Kids avoid and procrastinate what they don’t enjoy doing (most people do). Their avoidance and procrastination, results in tremendous family frustration. Emotional reactivity (yelling) becomes the norm.
When was the last time that you felt your yelling reached its desired goal? When did the child say, “Well, mom thanks for yelling, I really appreciate it and I will start to do my homework.”
I think I know the answer. Yelling rarely reaches its desired goal.
I know that it begs the question, what then?
This is a challenging and complex topic that does not lend itself to simple answers.
Remember, you set the tone. Assume that by leading in a calm, but firm way, the child will follow your lead. This may not happen immediately, but over time by setting the tone and setting the parameters your children will understand what is expected and follow your direction much more so.
Here’s an example of a clear directive (said calmly, but clearly) a parent recently said to her 10 year old child who had a history of dawdling, crying and doing anything to avoid getting started and completing his homework:
“This is how homework is going to work tonight. I am setting this countdown clock for an hour and a half. When it goes off, I assume your homework will be done. If it is finished, everyone will be happy and you will have earned TV, computer/ video play time. If not, then I will write a note to the teacher explaining you chose not to do your homework. If it is not finished then you haven’t earned the TV or computer time. You’ll let me know if you need my help.”
This mom did not get overly invested in the result. She did not make homework her concern, but made it her child’s concern. To some of you, this statement may sound cold, a bit too cut and dry. By stating expectations clearly, though, in fairly objective, black and white tones, the mom gave the child a choice one way or another.
The key is not to get upset if things don’t go the way you hoped. Ultimately, homework is the child’s problem even if you are available for support to help when needed.
Turn down the heat, but be clear in your goal and stated expectations.
Let’s try and have the temperature in America fall in the normal zone during homework.
Key words: Struggling children, Homework problems, Learning Disabilities.
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