In the consulting done with parents regarding their children’s school issues, I often talk about the “ratio,” that is the percentage of parent involvement with homework and other school work.
Even though it goes counter to the approach often adopted by parents, I find myself governed by the basic principle, “Do not do for others what they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves.”
Using that as a guiding principle, the ratio I typically recommend is about 80 – 20.
In other words, a child should be able to manage about 80% of their school work on their own, with a relatively small percentage of parent involvement or support.
Of course, there will be exceptions and you will need to go task-by-task to determine whether what is being asked of the child is in their legitimate range of capability.
But, far too quickly without letting the child work through his/her own difficulty, the parent attempts to rescue the child from feeling a sense of challenge or discomfort with the work.
Let’s take young Maria, age 9, a fourth grader. Complaining to her mom on a near daily basis that she, “hates homework, because it’s so boring,” Maria does anything to avoid doing her work. Rolling around in the chair, flopping on the floor and sobbing hysterically, are common occurences.
While her mother is kicking out all kinds of energy to get the work done, Maria will pull out her phone (yes, she has a phone at age 9) playing games that she has installed there, as her mother has apoplectic fits.
After a great deal of arguing and tense back and forth, Maria’s work gets completed (largely by her mother) and Maria goes off to play games on her phone and iPad (the other device she got for the holidays).
Write down 80:20 and keep it visible in every room of the house as a reminder.
Remember, it’s called “homework.” It’s not called “homeplay.”
And, yes, it can be very, very boring.
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