I read a blog post not long ago by the mother of a 2nd grader who needed some guidance on how to help her child with homework. Without rehashing the entire blog post, here’s the gist of it. Her daughter had an assignment to do, and twiddled her thumbs for hours until mom started breathing down her neck; mom is now afraid that the child will flunk out of college and never learn a thing unless she continues to be the homework police, and, well, forget about dinner!
At the end of her article, this mom still didn’t have a strategy for how to deal with the homework issue. What she did have was a gut feeling that if she didn’t come up with a strategy for both her and her daughter, it could be a long 10 years.
First off, if this mom is anything like the parents who show up at a class I teach, she just might have a belief that children who dawdle while doing their homework will fail in school, won’t get into college, won’t get a good job and will lead a less than successful life. I know, it’s a little over the top, but these “beliefs” that we have can wreak havoc on us and on our kids’ lives.
If you are one of these parents who have strong beliefs about homework, take a step back and remember that this child (or yours) is in second grade and working on the first big homework assignment of her life. Of course she is dawdling—she doesn’t really know what is expected of her yet!
Second, if mom wants to become the homework police—and stay the homework police for the remainder of this child’s academic career—then she did the right thing by breathing down her neck. And she better get good at it because she has at least another eleven years of poking and prodding to do.
Ah, you hadn’t considered this, had you? That’s one of the pickles parents get themselves into. They create a habit, or a short-term solution to a long-term challenge, and find themselves doing things for years that started out as a “one time only” proposition.
What could she (or you) do if she doesn’t want to be the homework police and has better things to do than micromanage her daughter’s life? She could do—are you ready?—nothing. Yup, that’s right—nothing. At least for a while. At least until she begins to understand more about how her daughter views homework.
This little second grader is never going to learn how to manage her time or how she best gets things done without figuring that out herself. Our kids don’t learn time management because we tell them which assignment to do, when to do it and how it should be done. They learn by not turning in an assignment, dealing with the aftermath and then coming up with a plan so that it never happens again. (Okay, if it never happens again at 45, you can consider yourself a success.)
My recommendation to this mom? Relax! Your daughter is only in second grade and has a long time to figure out how to manage her time to get everything done. Let her dawdle and doodle, and let her get a C or an F on the assignment. You can be sure that learning is taking place and, after all, isn’t that what school is for? Instead of standing over her shoulder, you will be free to… do what you like, including having the resources to be happy, friendly and available for your children if they happen to experience disappointment as they learn.