How to transfer responsibility for school to your child
The temporary transition of schools to distance learning is a good reason to transfer the responsibility for school to your child, if you have long wanted to do this, but could not decide. How to stop controlling your child and his homework including go math grade 4 and what questions do parents usually have along the way?
I hate doing homework
Bill once worked with a boy named Jonah: he was fifteen years old, and he hated doing homework. But even more than that, Jonah hated his parents’ constant scolding and control. When Bill asked Jonah to describe a typical family night, the boy replied, “We usually have dinner from six to half past seven. Then I’m allowed to watch TV from half past seven to seven. Then from seven to eight-thirty I pretend to do my homework.”
An hour and a half of pretending to do homework including go math grade 5? Why not just do them? Partly because Jonah is tired of hearing generic phrases from his parents:
“You only get one shot at getting into a good college, and you’re missing your chance.”
“You’re going to have to learn to do things you don’t want to do.”
“If you don’t learn to do well in school, how are you going to get anywhere in life?”
Jonah’s parents had good intentions, but all he perceived was that we know what’s right for you and you don’t.
Imagine you’re having a conversation with your husband or wife, and he or she says something like this:
“How are you doing at work? Did you like your 6th grade go math? You know how important it is that you take your work seriously, right? I mean, I understand that it’s not always easy and easy, but it’s time for you to try to get a promotion so you have more opportunities in the future. Maybe you could work a little harder.”
The point is clear: it would piss you off. And it pissed John off. The only way he could assert himself was by not doing his homework.
Why it doesn’t make sense to fight about your homework.
“I look forward with dread to the time between lunch and bedtime because all we do is fight,” one parent told us.
“It sounds like a war zone,” said another.
But fighting over lessons makes no sense, and there are at least two reasons for that.
First, children become weaker, not stronger, when, in solving their problems, parents put in more effort than they do. If you spend 95 units of energy trying to help a child succeed, he will spend 5. This counterproductive dynamic will not change until the degree of energy investment is changed. This often happens when a parent in utter exhaustion says, “I can’t do it anymore. Do whatever you want.”
Secondly, you can not force the child to do something that he absolutely does not want to do. Suppose he doesn’t want to eat what he is offered, and you are going to force him. How? Do you open his mouth, put food in his mouth and start moving his jaws up and down? And if so, who’s really eating?
And what will you do with the lessons if the child resists trying to make him work? Will you pull his eyelids apart, open a book in front of his nose? Even if that were possible and really worked, would it be helpful to him? Would he actually learn?
You will be relieved when you realize that the child cannot be forced. The tension will go away. The next time you stop and remind yourself, “There is something wrong here. I’m acting like I can force it, when in fact I can’t.”
This is exactly what Bill told Jonah’s parents. He explained: the parents’ attempts to increase control over their son resulted in Jonah seeking to regain his own control over the situation, even if that meant doing the opposite of what was in his own best interest
How to pass responsibility to your child: 7 parenting questions
“For a whole week I let him do his own homework, but he didn’t do anything. It definitely didn’t work.”
On the contrary, it worked great. Your son didn’t do his homework without your supervision, and now he has to figure out how to get out of it. It is a mistake to think that once you shift responsibility to your child, he will readily pick it up.
When the usual course of things changes, both the child and you need time to readjust and develop the skills necessary to act differently. You have to have patience.
“It seems to me that you are suggesting a ‘non-interference’ policy. As if I should let my child do whatever he or she wants.”
Of course not. You have to set boundaries and get involved in solving problems. Children feel safer and more motivated when they know that adults will take care of things that children themselves are not yet ready to take care of.
By no means do we think you should shrug your shoulders and say, “Either swim or sink, buddy. At every step of the way, offer a life raft in the form of advice. Talk about what’s troubling you, discuss these points. This way you are involved and supportive, but you are not in the driver’s seat.
So many parents have gone too far in the opposite direction, and now everything but total control seems irresponsible to them.
“I used to try to pass the responsibility of lessons on to my daughter and just offer to help if needed. But my daughter refused, and now her teacher is demanding that I increase my control.”
Start by thinking about why the teacher approached you in the first place. In today’s world, teachers are more responsible than children. They often listen to parents’ rebukes for bad grades or fear that they might lose their jobs if students do poorly on tests.
So we suggest you start by explaining the following things: first, you do not want to make your child weaker by taking responsibility for his studies; second, you feel that it would be unreasonable to control his lessons against his will or to force him to do them.
Ned once found himself in a similar situation: he and his wife decided to give their son more responsibility for his homework, but the boy failed, and the teacher wrote to the parents with this letter:
I’ve noticed that for the past few months Matthew has been trying to finish his homework during counseling time, before school starts, and he seems to be very anxious about it. Have you ever noticed him leaving for school in the morning with unfinished lessons or forgetting to do his assignments and rushing to finish them before school starts?
I just thought: maybe he needs to be taught how to do his homework. Also, I know Matthew has a lot of activities after school, and I’m not sure he has enough time in the evening or on the weekend to finish his homework, given his busy schedule.
Please let me know what I can do to help him have more time. I would like to make his last month of middle school as easy as possible.
And this is what Ned replied:
Thank you so much for your letter. Matthew is doing last minute homework because he doesn’t have time to do all of his assignments. We’ve been working hard this year to stop asking him, “Did you do it? Are you done yet?” Instead, we’re asking, “Do you need help with your lessons? Do you have a plan? Do you have it all figured out?”
I am convinced that he, like many boys, only labors if he is forced to. That is, he idles in the evenings and rushes in the mornings, partly because it’s the last term.
If you find that reasonable, would you ask, “Matthew, I think you’re nervous about doing your homework at the last minute. Let’s talk about how to remedy the situation, shall we?”
It’s nice that you want to make it easier for our son to study and make it less stressful. We want that, too. If you have specific advice for us, we are willing to learn, too.
“I used to let my kids do their own homework, but when they moved on to high school, the stakes became too high.”
You’re absolutely right. The stakes are high, especially in senior year. But it’s not just because of college admissions. The main challenge for you is to raise someone who can act on their own, based on their own interests.
Think about the message you send to your teenager when you take the reins: “We used to trust you, but now it’s about very important things, and we can’t let you control the situation. As a result, being in college without parental supervision and having to allocate their own time, these kids are very likely to slip in their studies.
“I’ve set counseling times – seven to eight o’clock at night – but my daughter loses a lot of time because she can’t concentrate, and then gets frustrated when it’s 8 p.m. and I have other things to do. Should I stay longer to help her?”
You can stay longer, but only as a reward for proper effort. If your daughter has been working hard all along, but the material is too difficult, by all means try to help her until she gets it right.
But if she doesn’t, we suggest saying that you would be happy to help her the next day from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. and hope that she will be able to concentrate better.
Likewise, if your child misses your offer to help with lessons at the appointed hour and then comes to you for help at 9 or 10 p.m., tell her, “Time for lessons is over. It’s time for bed. You need rest so your head will work well tomorrow, and so will I.”
If your child wants to get up early to finish his homework, that’s okay, but then you shouldn’t help him. The time for counseling is known, and he either uses it or not. However, if he misses deadlines only occasionally, feel free to make exceptions and help.
“If our son fails, we worry that he will get very upset and may become depressed.
In this case, you feel like you have to protect your son from himself. In fact, your son is more likely to get depressed because of his poor sense of control than because of the failure, especially if you support him after the failure and help him see it as an opportunity to learn a lesson rather than the end of the world.
“I’m afraid that if I don’t constantly push my son, he won’t reach his potential.”
Children will not reach their potential if they are constantly being pushed. Even the opposite: they will do their best to get you behind them, but no more than that. People make extra effort only when it is important to them, but not to you.