The Dancing Parent: Navigating Homework Hell, Part 3

Mathematics homework

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One thing we can likely all agree on is that it was, and is, a socially sensitive time for many, if not something of a potential minefield. At least that’s how it can feel. And that is why, as you may also recall, many students are more focused on their social experiences, positive or challenging, than on their schoolwork.

That is the lens through which many students view their homework, as well as their lives in general. Just like their moms and dads, they too can be deeply affected by often unspoken or unrecognized mental and/or emotional issues or circumstances having more to do with how they feel about themselves and their various relationships than with their work. What’s more, their choices about how they do their work may also be based on how they see their world.

For example, in some circumstances, being identified or labeled as a “smart kid” may lead to social alienation, and therefore, from your child’s point of view, is to be carefully avoided. In such cases, his or her strategy regarding grades and homework may be to aim for an inexact middle ground, hoping their marks will be high enough to placate their parents and teachers, but not so high as to distinguish them from their peers.

For others, finding that middle ground may be a way of not setting themselves up for future failure. Better to curb the adult world’s expectations of them by doing average or just passing work, than to to do their best, get good grades, and then be expected to maintain them in the future, when the material might be harder, or they may feel differently.

Others still avoid putting forth their best effort, fearing that if they try their best and fail, they might be revealed to be either incompetent or incapable. For them, nothing ventured means nothing lost. And that is why adults have to be careful when throwing around words like “lazy” or “irresponsible,” because from your kid’s point of view, he or she may be working very diligently indeed, but with a far different agenda, calculated to navigate the world — their world — as they see it.

Similarly, but in a separate vein, some kids do poorly as a way to individuate, to define themselves by defying their parents’ interest in their academic achievement. Who said growing up was pretty?

Still, for others, there may be ongoing family circumstances, issues and challenges that occupy so much of a child’s mental and emotional world that schoolwork may seem like background noise. The loss of a parent, sibling or friend through a divorce, a family move or a death, may be all-consuming to them. Like human beings at any age, keeping up with their work and assignments may be a near-impossibility without the attendant help of a parent or mentor.

Last, but not least, a child’s struggle to do his or her work may have to do with a host of learning issues, including attention deficit symptoms. If they are left unrecognized, and thus left to fester, a student’s experience of school can be extremely frustrating and deeply disheartening.

So given all of this, what can parents do if their child’s homework is simply not getting done?

We’ve struggled with this homework issue almost all through the school years, we are now in junior year and I do despair. Can anyone say car jockey? I have to trust that he is making these (bad, in my opinion) choices because he has no aspirations, an attitude for which I can’t seem to find a solution. If he has no aspirations then failing does not matter so there is no reason for his parents to worry.  He is old enough and smart enough (and has been told often enough) to understand that choices he makes today almost wholly determine his future, either he can’t overcome his self-defeating attitude and behavior or he just does not care. I could pick half of these potential causes as the one but I have tried addressing all of them as a cause. I am not up to the job, alas. The heartening thing to note is that it really isn’t ever too late. Maybe when he’s 25 and tired of being a car jockey and wants to get married or already has a child, he will decide to get serious and work full-time and do school full time and parent the rest of the time. Okay, I’m just depressing myself. This is part three in a series, anyone interested should look it up. It makes perfect sense to me. There is much more at the original article.


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