Wednesday, 29 February 2012
We’ve been fighting an intense battle at our house for umpteen years. The weapons we brandish may be nothing more than the average textbook, a ring binder or dull pencil, but I still consider this mighty never-ending conflict with our teenager a form of combat.
Our son, Noah, is smart. He hates homework. He can’t “stay on task.” His backpack is a haven for squashed papers, crumpled candy wrappers, errant apple cores, and missing assignments. He’s 14. He’s in middle school. Am striking a chord with anyone, yet?
Up until around fifth grade, Noah breezed through school, scoring high on standardized tests and landing a permanent spot on the honor roll. Learning was fun and there was no such thing as homework. Yup. Life was totally awesome.
But now that he’s older, doing homework and getting decent grades isn’t what the “cool” kids do. Apparently, the nerd risk is drastically reduced for the class clown or a student that boasts an occasional “F” on a test. When I questioned Noah’s advisor about this mentality he said, “Unfortunately at this age, kids don’t want to look too smart.“
According to some of Noah’s teachers, this type of behavior is very typical for many middle school kids, especially boys. In addition to wanting to look “cool” to their peers, the teen hormone factory is working overtime, as is their brain development. Although their brains are obviously functioning, they’re still growing and their wiring mechanisms and connectors aren’t completely hooked up, yet. The result? Teenagers don’t understand that there can be detrimental consequences to things they do (or in Noah’s case, the things they don’t do).
We’d been combating the homework woes for years when things finally erupted last fall. Thanks to a seasoned teacher with a keen ability to halt Noah’s ghastly habits, we were alerted that our son had accumulated an unfinished homework collection “somewhere.”
In my quest to find the missing homework, I took a couple of (extremely) brave dives into Noah’s backpack and surfaced with a lofty stack of math papers dating back nearly a month – all untouched with the exception of a few scribbles or pencil holes that had been poked along the margin.
Since hyperventilating and my bloodcurdling scream didn’t seem to help matters, I turned to Noah’s teacher, Mr. Nagel, for assistance. One short meeting with Noah later, we had a strict homework schedule in place. Within a few days of slaving over a calculator, some scratch paper, and a textbook our son was finally caught up on his work. And he ended up with a solid “B” at the end of the quarter. Now that’s cool!
That experience was colossal in teaching us all lesson. I mean, don’t get me wrong…we still have homework battles, but things have gotten much better. And implementing a few rules like we did may help your child go a long way toward achieving academic success.
Here are a few things that may help you get (and keep) your child on track when it comes to homework:
- Schedule homework for he same time every afternoon or evening.
- Homework should be done in a quiet area where your child can be supervised and check on him occasionally to make sure he’s actually doing work, not dissecting a ballpoint pen or surfing the net.
- Be ready to work with the teacher – that means allowing your child to go to school early or stay after class if they need to make up work or require additional help. Ask for regular updates about their progress.
- Provide daily incentives for your child so she will want to get her work done. Allow her to see friends, use her phone, or play video games after the work has been finished. And this means taking these things away from her for a day when they don’t get done, too.
- Check work to make sure it has been completed.
- For particularly long assignments, provide a snack. Chocolate, cheese puffs, double-fudge ice cream, and neon-colored drinks that can be smeared on the homework are recipes for disaster. Things like string cheese, sliced fruit, granola bars, or a simple peanut butter sandwich are generally pretty safe.
- Reward them verbally! Constant reminders of their failure to complete work will only serve to frustrate your kid. A pat on the back with a simple, “Great job!” can go a long way toward making your child feel successful.
It’s part of a parent’s job to help their kids put their best foot forward and to pinpoint what does/doesn’t work for them. Through trial and error, you can often figure out the right formula to ensure your child’s success at a level equal to his or her personal abilities.
Life with kids, especially teens, certainly has its challenges and parents need to stay vigilant when it comes to school and homework. And until the switch to Noah’s brain is completely flipped on, we’ll just forge ahead in the homework battle knowing that eventually, he will come out the ultimate winner.
How do you handle the homework battle in your home?