So school has started and you’ve just about got a handle on the new routine when another hurdle hits: homework.
Even if the kids get home in a good mood, uttering “homework” can be enough to bring on sour looks and screeching whines. “I don’t want to…”
And so the battles begin.
“Before dinner,” you say. “After dinner,” they say.
“Let’s get started,” you say. “Not now,” they say.
“We’ll bust right through it,” you say. “It’ll take all night,” they grumble. And sometimes it will.There may be frustration.There may be anger. There may be tears.
Why is Homework Such a Hurdle?
If you look between the lines, homework refusals are more than a sum of stubbornness and willful behavior. When your kids say “no,” it isn’t just to jangle your nerves. They are being tested too. The big reason they won’t do their homework? It might be fear.
Homework piles on pressure – a child is expected to show what he knows, work independently, master his own time, ultimately, excel. And, as the next three situations show, when a child doubts himself facing those icky feelings is tougher than avoiding them.
That’s where a parent with a kind ear comes in.
How you approach this kind of ‘failure fear’ is often the difference in getting homework done, or leaving the page blank. Here’s how you can clear homework hurdles calmly and with confidence.
When He Always Says “No.”
“It was time for my six-year-old son to do his homework. Every time I suggested it, I was met with avoidance, tears and whining. I moved in close and set a gentle limit. “You know it’s time to do your homework now,” I said putting my arm around his waist. “No!” he said, and ran off.”
When he refuses any suggestion to hit the books, try setting limits gently. Often, tears will come and anger stirs. “You are making me do this,” “I can’t do it,” and “I feel stupid,” may be some of the harsh words you hear. But let the tantrum run its course as you stay close by, sometimes offering a few quiet words of understanding and the occasional pat on the back, and when the anger subsides and the tears dry, he’ll feel like a weight has been lifted and will head to the homework table more readily.
What’s Going On: When a child resists he is showing you that your support is needed. Setting a limit gives him a solid reason to push against you and allows his big emotions to surface. When you stay close without interrupting, a parenting tool Hand in Hand calls Staylistening, your child works through those emotions. As the bad feelings spill out in his tears and through his words, he heals, and his self-doubt fades. He’s ready to get stuck into the homework challenge afresh.
When She’s Just Not in The Mood:
Sometimes it’s easy to see that the last thing your child is thinking about is homework. When she bugs her brother, acts destructive or otherwise calls for your attention, she’s actually saying,”I don’t feel good, help.” That’s no place to begin a battle over studies. You can help set the stage instead by suggesting strength games, like a pillow fight, or rough play, that offers her your close connection and helps her offload the upset that is bothering her. Once you’ve played and laughed then introduce the idea of homework. You’ll have greater success if she’s feeling better about herself and her abilities.
What’s Going On: When you issue a play invite, laughter and happiness follow. Giggles let her relieve light tension, while rough play helps her feel seen and encouraged. Put up a decent fight but let her win a challenge to butt you off the sofa or cover you in pillows. This boosts her self-confidence – and that helps when she tackles schoolwork later.
When a Big Project is Scary:
Whether it’s multiplication, spellings or world capitals, big projects are daunting for kids. The task as a whole appears huge, and working in bitesize chunks can be confusing. When children feel overcome by the task, fears and frustration sets in.
“My daughter Jamila was given a month to learn the fifty US states and their capitals. I knew she would need some help with this. I offered to help her learn groups of about six states and capitals at a time, so that she could spread the memorization out and not get too overwhelmed. After she memorized the first six, she felt she couldn’t possibly learn all the capitals.” She became upset, and had a huge cry. I stayed with her and listened to everything. I told her I thought she could do it, but mostly, I listened,” recalls one mom.
“A few days later, she memorized the second set of six states and capitals, but again at the end of it, she felt that all fifty would be too much for her. She was saying, ‘I’ll never learn this. I just can’t do it!’ over and over. She also got mad at me for trying to help, and cried hard about my “interference.” ”
It can be hard to keep positive when you get blamed, but if you expect tears, and can welcome them, you’ll soon see change. Make a request for her to practice when you have time to listen to her cry, and then gently remind her that you think she’ll be able to accomplish the task in the end. Crying helps children release their fears about accomplishment (and other inadequacies) like a bulldozer clears debris, load by load. Obstacles like fear will often dissolve:
“After a third cry, everything changed! She learned the next sets of capitals quickly and easily. One day, she took on a set of eighteen states and capitals, and did them all at once. Three days before the test, she asked me to quiz her on them, and she knew them all. She was ecstatic, and I think amazed that she had done something she was sure she could never do.”
What’s Going On: When you stay close by and offer gentle positive words, you let your child work through her fear rather than run from it. But remember to keep your own cup full too. Parents can find themselves drained and just as eager as their kids to back off from homework. Find a listening partner, or someone who will listen patiently while you offload about it, so you can keep up your persistence and positivity.
Excerpts from this post are taken from Listen: Five Simple Tools To Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore.
From the Hand in Hand Toolbox:
- Having trouble even getting to school? Read this: Five Ways to Banish Back to School Blues
- Find more play ideas for all your parenting struggles in 5 Ways To Play Away Parenting Struggles
- If you need help tidying up, get the kids involved through play: 25 Tips For Having Fun Tidying Up
- To set limits they will listen to download our free guide