When two players on the same team both “go for the ball,” one of them is often “out of position.” When a parent says, “We had a little trouble with our homework last night,” someone is out of position. Whose homework is it? We want our children to take responsibility for their own homework, right? It’s the student’s homework, and the student is accountable to the teacher for it. If a parent is called in to help, it should be clear that he or she is playing a supporting role.
So, yes, for a parent to take responsibility to make sure homework is done well is short-sighted, but sometimes simply playing position is hard. Sometimes homework is a battlefield or seems to interfere with the kind of relationships we want to have with our kids. How is it for you?
Bill tells this story:
My son has been very needy of me in doing his homework. Although there was a component of just wanting the attention, he clearly had some paralysis akin to writer’s block. So while thinking to myself “he really needs to learn to do this himself” I didn’t want to just let him flounder, and would dutifully help him. My suggestions included: list, organize, prioritize, elaborate, exemplify, add imagery, opine, conclude, etc. These sessions would produce reasonably good work, but not without pushing, resistance and the associated high drama.
At some point very recently, there was a shift that I can’t exactly explain. We were working on an assignment and Josh said, “Daddy, I’m not going to do that. You make it too hard, go away, I’ll do this myself! With a feigned little expression of rejection, I went away really feeling elated that the mission was accomplished; that he had taken ownership rather than learn how his father would do the homework.
I had been worrying that I was enabling his neediness too long. In retrospect, I know I did something right, though I’m not exactly sure of the mechanism that played out. I guess it was my mindset that he would eventually do it himself that influenced my actions and facilitating the desired result.
Is homework a struggle in your house? If not, what’s your secret?