The Trouble With Homework

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Homework.  Yours, your kids, it doesn’t matter.  It’s never what one would consider a happy time.  I’ve been trying to recall a particular project or assignment that I thought “Wow!  I can’t wait to get busy on that one!”  or “The kids and I are going to have so much fun with this!”   As adult students we tend to approach school and assignments with more enthusiasm and a heightened sense of responsibility but, in our youth, homework is the bane of our existence.  Kids whine, they procrastinate, they rush through and do the least amount of work required or turn in sub standard work and, they just flat-out lie  about doing it, not doing it or even if they have it at all.  Lying is my personal favorite because I always consider it a challenge to catch them in the lie.  It’s kind of a sport for me.  All of this makes homework the bane of their parents existence, too.  I know because I’ve been there.  In fact, I’m still there.

Thing 1 is super smart and extremely focused when she wants to be. Unfortunately, she’s also extremely impatient which is probably very normal for a first grader but,  it often leads her to turn in work that is messy and illegible.  Trust me, there have been many, many, many conversations with my darling (from her teacher and from us) about her need to be more conscientious, but to no avail… well,  that is until now.  What brought about the change? After a particularly ugly evening of homework battles,  her father and I informed her that she would not be attending her dance class the next evening and that we would continue keeping out of her  “fun classes” until she cooperated.  It worked!  Well, at least for a while.  Then this evening, she completed an assignment that again was messy and sub standard.  I made corrections, gave it back and told her to start over.  She brought it back, still messy. I corrected it and told her to start over.  Again she brought it back and…you guessed it, I corrected it and told her to start over but, this time I reminded her that she had a tumbling class to get to and she would soon be unable to go.  She brought it back to me and this time, it was beautiful! Brought a tear to my eye  but, I’m sure that had something to do with fatigue.  I know this is not over but, the message that we are trying to get across to her, among other things, is that her school work is more important than any of the extra curricular things that she does and that we are in charge.  We  are united in our expectations and some things are not open for negotiation. After all, our home is not a democracy, it is a benevolent monarchy.

So, imagine my shock when it came to my attention that there are parents out there who are paying their children to complete their homework.  Not for the resulting grades or their report card grades (or maybe in addition to) but, just for completing their weekly homework assignments.  Okay, some of you are shocked, too, but, others of you are thinking, “Huh! Why didn’t I think of that?!”  My son, Mr. C is an after school camp counselor and was assisting some kids with their math homework.  While they were talking about the assignment, one of the kids said to him “Well, I only get $1 for completing my math homework.”  Confused, Mr. C asked him what he meant and the young man explained that he gets paid to complete his homework.  Just then, a young girl chimed in and said that she gets $6 per week for completing her homework as part of her chores.  Well, I don’t have to tell you that Mr. C felt a bit slighted since he had never been paid a cent for any assignment, math or otherwise.  But, he also said to me that he wondered how these kids would ever learn about responsibility and appropriateness.  I must stop here and say that right at that point, I wondered when did this mature man show up at my house?   Mr. C had his share of missed assignments way back when but, he did eventually learn a lesson or two.

Is homework to be considered part of a child’s chores and, therefore, should they receive compensation for its completion? I posted a similar question on both my personal Facebook page and the Facebook page for this blog and an overwhelming majority of the responses said “NO!”  However, I think that I should tell you that NPR posted the results of a study on the topic, that states otherwise (you can read the details here http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/02/23/133632394/should-we-pay-kids-to-study).  According to the study, the practice of paying for homework, reading books or attending class tended to produce long-term results in boosting reading comprehension, among other things.  In another article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Dr. Ruth Peters, a clinical psychologist from Clearwater, Florida and a study skills consultant to Sylvan Learning Centers, says that in some instances, bribery can work (you can read the details here  http://enquirer.com/editions/2000/02/04/loc_should_you_bribe.html).  Both of these articles focus on making life as easy as possible for the parents and child and getting the desired academic results, which all sounds great but, there are some very important life lessons that get ignored; such as being conscientious, responsible and the ability to suffer the consequences of  their bad decisions. That’s right, parents, we are so busy protecting our children from themselves that we are inhibiting them from learning perhaps one of the most important life skills, which is how to recover from failure.  We have gotten to the place where our children receive praise and rewards for absolutely everything or should I say, absolutely nothing.  As parents, we should have basic expectations for our children – no rewards or praise necessary.  Admittedly, some accomplishments are noteworthy or outstanding  and of course we should be there cheering them on – their biggest fans.  Unfortunately some lessons are hard to teach and even harder to learn but, I think that we will all be better in the long run.

Look, I know y’all are tired.  You go to work all day only to come home to tackle the homework issues.  I get it! But, this is about more than the short-term. This is about more than just grades.  This is about parents taking a firm stand with their children, setting some expectations and being consistent.  Ultimately, it’s about earning their respect  and helping them to grow into well-rounded, strong adults.  So, stand strong parents!  Show them who runs the show!  Say “I run this show!”  Get up out of your seat and say it with your chest, “I RUN THIS SHOW!”  Very good!  Now go get some sleep because you’re going to need your rest.

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