The home­work wars

Par­ents vs. kids: is it bet­ter to be a dic­ta­tor or a com­rade?

The Kids Post - - Learning -

Try an experiment. Ask your kids how much con­trol they feel they have over their lives. You may be sur­prised. Be­cause our kids tend to be so priv­i­leged, we er­ro­neously as­sume they feel in con­trol of their lives. We mis­tak­enly equate priv­i­lege with con­trol. But the two are pro­foundly dif­fer­ent.

Priv­i­lege means hav­ing lots of stuff.

Con­trol means mak­ing your own choices.

As par­ents, we — our gen­er­a­tion — seem al­ler­gic to ced­ing con­trol over any­thing that mat­ters in our kids’ lives. Is it be­cause we par­ent anx­iously in an anx­ious world? Is it be­cause the stakes seem too high? As in, if they mess up in school or else­where, their fu­ture will go down the tubes? So we con­trol their lives in or­der to make them bet­ter, to build a strong foun­da­tion, get them the skills and qual­i­fi­ca­tions they’ll need in or­der to suc­ceed in the world.

So we con­trol what they eat, what ex­tracur­ric­u­lars they do. We mi­cro-man­age their home­work … and we try (of­ten­times un­suc­cess­fully) to con­trol their so­cial lives too. Be­cause we know what’s good for them. But it isn’t. Be­cause un­til kids start mak­ing their own choices, they can’t grow up to be in­de­pen­dent and re­source­ful. Ev­ery time I make a speech to par­ents, they ask me how to raise in­de­pen­dent, re­source­ful chil­dren. And the an­swer is al­ways the same: Kids have to learn to be in­de­pen­dent and re­source­ful. It takes lots of prac­tice. Some­times they learn more from fail­ure than from suc­cess.

The irony is that the more we con­trol their lives and pre­vent them from mak­ing their own choices, the less op­por­tu­nity they have for that learn­ing. Nat­u­ral con­se­quences are their best teach­ers.

At this time of year, the home­work wars are a great place to be­gin.

We all hate the home­work wars, and be­sides, do we re­ally need to do Grade 4 math another three times? So take your­self off the home­work as­sign­ments. Se­ri­ously: Give up home­work. This is the most pow­er­ful tool for grow­ing that in­de­pen­dent re­source­ful child. Tell them (they’ll be in shock) what you’re do­ing and why: “It’s your life and your home­work. You’re in charge of it.”

If/when they mess up, be­lieve me, the con­se­quences are not go­ing to de­ter­mine whether they get into univer­sity. And they’ll learn more from mess­ing up than from you do­ing their home­work. The ex­cep­tion to this rule is kids with learn­ing is­sues who gen­uinely need as­sis­tance. As for the oth­ers, help them if they ask for your help. Tell them that too.

The child who owns re­spon­si­bil­ity for home­work will be­come the young adult who copes with first year univer­sity bet­ter. The child who’s given the space and au­ton­omy to make a lot of other choices will be the ado­les­cent who makes safer choices about the minefield of drugs, al­co­hol and sex.

Au­ton­omy makes chil­dren feel heard and re­spected. And deeply loved — be­cause love feels more un­con­di­tional when we re­spect their choices.

Let your kids take charge when it comes to get­ting their home­work done

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