Start Homework “Opening Hours”
Homework wars seem to be the hallmark of weekday evenings with school-aged kids, and parents always fail. Since my daughter is going to kindergarten this year, I am afraid of this fight. Because there will be a fight … huh? There will be times when she doesn’t want to do her homework and we’ll have to figure out a way to get her to do her homework and things will get tough. I braced myself.
But the new book makes me think it might be possible to give up the battle before it starts. In Self-Driven Child: Science and Empowering Your Children with More Control over Their Lives , William Stixrud and Ned Johnson argue that not only is struggling with their kids over homework that is extremely stressful for families, it doesn’t really help them in the long run. run. When you, the parent, act like it’s your job to make sure your kids do their homework (or play the piano, or memorize their lines for a school play), you signal that someone is not them is responsible for their actions. They then lose the experience of making decisions, dealing with the consequences of those decisions, and checking themselves to assess their current path. Also, and just as important, you are preventing your home from being what it really should be: a “safe base.” Johnson tells Scientific American that it should be “a place where they can find a respite from it all, where they can feel safe and loved unconditionally, where they can completely relax to gather the strength to return.”
The authors propose making a big shift, which, in my opinion, is both startling and daunting. Here’s the thing: Instead of thinking of yourself as the leader of your child, make the parent a counselor. This means that when it comes to homework or piano practice, you might be asking yourself, “What would a counselor do?” You can motivate your child, give advice, answer questions and be there, but then you have to hold back and give your child a way to navigate their own life. Styxrud and Johnson argue that this is not a hands-off parenting style: you have to set limits, talk to your child about your concerns, and “offer a liferaft every step of the way.” But they write, “You are not driving the boat.”
I told my parents that if you decide you are no longer going to fight about it, you will instead say, “How can I help?” You think of yourself as a counselor and respectfully acknowledge that this is a child’s homework. You cannot force a child to do this. You can offer your help.
You can set what I call the consultation hour from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm and just say, “I am not going to quarrel with you. I just love you too much. I don’t want all this friction. This is your job, and I respect that you can figure it out, and I will help you. ” One family just told me that the temperature in their house dropped by 20 degrees.
In the book, Stixrud and Johnson write that you need to have clear consultation hours – whether your child can use them or not. If she comes to you at 9:30 pm and says she needs help, you can tell her, “Homework time is over. I will be available tomorrow from 6:30 am to 7:30 am. ” She will likely become more focused as she learns the schedule. You can always make exceptions as needed – for example, if she is working on a large project or the material is particularly difficult.
Real Conversation: The Tiger Parent within me hyperventilates from this advice, although I find it valuable. I want my child to take responsibility for her life, but I also want her to color all the planets when the teacher asks her to. What if she doesn’t? What if she would never do that? What if the teacher tries to get me to make her do it? My parents forced me to do certain things, and I am very glad that they did it. Styxrud and Johnson have answers to these questions and concerns in their book, but it basically comes down to coming to terms with the fact that we can’t get our kids to do what we want them to do or be who we are. want them to be. Parenting is, of course, tricky – you can’t just hand over to a child whose ass has been wiped off a new business card labeled “Counseling Mom”, but you can start with the premise that your child has a good brain and a capable creature.
I still spin it all in my head. Part of me is still skeptical. But once we can grasp reality, the authors say, we can get rid of the responsibility of micromanaging our children and just enjoy them. And our children will begin to develop the skills of choosing their own path.