One common question I’m often asked is how to “make” children do their homework. However, we often think of homework as an entity in and of itself. It may be more helpful to think of it as an extension of a relationship. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Below are some thoughts to help ease the stress of getting homework done from a relational perspective. In the next Counselor’s Corner, I’ll offer some practical solutions.
- Try less control: Parents often feel it’s their jobto get their kids to do well in school. Homework often becomes the focus of concerns and fears about being a good parent and, kids succeeding in life. According to Empowering Parents author Debbie Pincus, “When parents feel it’s their responsibility to get their kids to achieve, they now need something from their children—they need them to do their homework and be a success. I believe this need puts you in a powerless position as a parent because your child doesn’t have to give you what you want. The battle about homework actually becomes a battle over control. Your child starts fighting to have more control over the choices in his life, while you feel that your job as a parent is to be in control of things. So you both fight harder, and it turns into a war in your home.”
- Don’t work harder than your child: Ultimately you can’t want it more for them than they want it for themselves. Caring and motivation often come from ownership. You can help your child be motivated by allowing them to own it. That is, let them own their disappointment over grades. Don’t feel it more than they do. Let them choose what they will or will not do about their homework and allow them to face the consequences. Now they will begin to feel ownership, which may lead to caring. Let them figure out what motivates them…it shouldn’t be fear of you. Help guide but don’t prevent them from feeling real life consequences. Think of it this way: It’s better for your child to learn from the consequences of failing at the age of ten versus learning at 25 by losing his job.
- Take the emotion out of the equation: One way to stop fighting with your kids is to simply stop. Disengage from the dance. If you feel yourself getting reactive or frustrated, take a break. Take five or ten minutes to calm down, and let your child do the same. When emotions kick in, it’s a no-win situation.
- Help, but don’t take ownership. Your child needs guidance from you, but understand that guidance does not mean doing homework for them. When you take on your child’s work, you put their responsibilities on your shoulders. Guide them through editing a book report, help review before a test, or use James Lehman’s “Hurdle Help” to start them on homework. If your child asks for help, coach them. Suggest talking to a teacher on how to be a good student and teach good communication skills. In other words, show them how to help themselves.
- Don’t focus on the battle and lose the war.Keep homework in perspective. Don’t sacrifice the relationship just to get homework done. Frankly, it’s not worth it Ask yourself, what will matter most in 5 years?