Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Homework: What to do and what not to do

Mollie writes:

It drove John and me crazy that one of our children just wouldn't do his homework, and when he did, it was iffy whether or not he would hand it in.  Being the ultimate in nerds, John and I did nothing but homework the first 30 years of our lives.  And we had one boy who LIVED for homework, no kidding!  So when the other rebelled, we were shocked.  As it turns out, most boys in that age group (10-14) eschew homework.  As it happened, it was the child with the work ethic who was outside the norm.

I am not a spanking mom.  That doesn't mean that I didn't swat little bottoms that ran into traffic or put pennies into electrical outlets, it just meant that I didn't use physical force to drive home a point.  As a result, my little ones were relatively unscathed until middle school, when one child decided that homework was for everyone else.

My husband and I strategized how to work this out.  We'd supervise his homework in the evenings, disallowing television until homework was done, and when we received the dreaded "progress reports" in the mail, we would ground the little guy until his grades were up again.  But we spent 2 1/2 years fighting a battle that was winner-less.  Nobody wins when you force a child to do something, and nobody wins when you give up.  We were often at our wit's end, trying to figure out how to modify this child's attitudes.

At one point, when John was traveling with work, I was also working outside the home.  We had a mailbox that locked, and after work one day, there was a progress report in it, waiting for my attention.   I read the report in the kitchen and stomped upstairs to his bedroom.

It didn't help that he was playing video games.  It didn't help that he pretended that he didn't know what I was talking about.  It didn't help that I was tired after a frustrating day at work and a nasty rush hour drive home.  I'd hit my limit.

I spanked that little rear end.  After I was finished, I burst into tears, as did both the boys.  The dogs were yipping and the birds were fluttering in their cages.  It was the apocalypse and I was one of the devils.  I don't think I ever hated myself more than I did at that moment.

I apologized to both boys, the dogs and the birds, but I didn't feel any better.  When my husband returned from his trip out of state, I told him what I'd done, and I don't know who frustrated him more, his wife or his son.  But I finally had my awakening.

Spanking isn't a solution for teaching a child about personal responsibility.  Making the child aware of the consequences of personal failures only happens when the child has to live with his failure.  It took an ego bruising (me) and a bottom bruising (the child) to make this point to both of us.

What I ended up doing was cutting my work hours so that I had Wednesdays and Fridays off.  Wednesdays I'd catch up on household duties and Fridays were for the boys.  Both were in middle school, so when I started appearing in the principal's office lobby every Friday afternoon, it was truly a statement.  While one boy was dashing into the library to get some reference material, the other boy would be sauntering down the hall with his buds.  The first time he saw me there, he had a look of utter disbelief on his face.

We ended up making Fridays school visit day.  I'd meet with our little rebel's instructors to catch up on how he was doing with his homework, and the little rebel had to deal with the fact that Mom wasn't going to just let him go down without a fight.  I'm sure it embarrassed him to see his Mom there every Friday for the remainder of the school year, but by the time he hit high school, my little dilettante was a changed man.  Homework was done promptly and almost always handed in on time.  The few times he'd forget, I'd let it pass.

I wouldn't want to relive this period for love nor money.  But I want to let folks know that kids will rebel in middle school (especially boys) and their grades will suffer as a result.  It just wasn't necessary to have all the collateral damage that accompanies a parent's over-reaction for what, as it turns out, is normal behavior.

Hang in there.

1 comment:

  1. "Nobody wins when you force a child to do something, and nobody wins when you give up." This is a very profound statement. It should be printed up and handed out in the delivery room.


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