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School and the Dreaded Homework


by Michael E. Kirk, PhD
Dr. Kirk is a local clinical psychologist, father and grandfather, who specializes in working with families, adolescents, and children.

DrKirk
Alicia is puttering around the kitchen when mother reminds her that she must get started on her homework. Alicia looks at her and asks to watch some Netflix first: “I am just so tired; besides, I can do that stuff later.” Mother scolds her: “You have to get started on your homework right away. We go through this everyday with you. Why does it have to be such a fight?” By now, Alicia is crying and sitting on the floor with her head in her hands. Mother is standing over her with a frown, balled fists, and a sure-sign of desperation on her face. What is this all about?

Alicia can do the work that is required, but it seems that she always requires her parents to push, demand, direct, and encourage her to complete her homework. And, even that can be an evening of pleading, begging, and making deals with the parents even doing some of the work for her just to get it all finished. This very thing happens in many homes every night.

How can you assess whether your child is actually capable of performing homework tasks on her own or really requires some assistance?  Does your child require direction in eating or locating the television, computer, or bathroom? Is your child capable of working an iPad, walking through Target without getting lost, or playing with a friend or sibling? If your child can do all these activities in a self-directed manner, then you should ask her schoolteacher to inform you of any possible learning problems he thinks she may have. After that, all things being equal, your child is likely quite capable of completing homework ON HER OWN. So, the next step is yours.

Do you continue to be the reminder person – the encourager, the organizer – or do you allow your child to learn and develop skills she will need for academic success when you are not around? It may be difficult – it could be extremely traumatizing for you – but you should allow your child to struggle at learning to do homework on her own. After all, she seems to do everything else capably. Perhaps, the best way to help would be to not help her at all.

What you can do is encourage your child to recognize that by completing her work in a timely fashion, she is eligible to participate in privileges available around the home: snacks, television, computer, iPad, or going shopping. Be prepared to be unhappy about the process in the beginning. Your child will continue to expect you to jump in and assist her when she acts helpless and desperate. Since you have been helping her for a long time, it will take a while for her to realize that you are finished being her homework assistant. Resist the urge to help her out “one more time.” Refuse to allow the guilty feeling to try to fix things as you watch her sulk and whine. Someone once said, “Patience is a virtue.” In this case, it will be your best friend.  Continue to state out loud so you’re your child can hear: “People can use the iPad when homework is complete.” or “People can go to Costco with me when homework is finished.”

Be firm and your child will eventually believe your actions and will sit down and complete her homework in a fraction of the time it took before. She will want and crave your interaction, your attention, or your rewards. First, make sure she earns them by doing her homework on her own. The dreaded homework will no longer be, and your child will have become a successful, independent, and self-fulfilled student.

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Tags: Education, Featured Story


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