Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Child’s academic responsibi­lities are his alone

- Write to family psychologi­st John Rosemond at The Leadership Parenting Institute, 420 Craven St., New Bern, N.C. 28560 or email Due to the volume of mail, not every question will be answered. JOHN ROSEMOND

Many times have I warned parents of the pitfalls of micromanag­ing their children’s academic responsibi­lities, lest said children deduce that the responsibi­lities in question are not theirs at all and begin acting increasing­ly irresponsi­ble. Hello? Is there anybody out there?

“I know you say parents shouldn’t micromanag­e their kids, John,” a parent tells me, “but if I don’t check behind him, he doesn’t do his homework.”

Some parents will do anything it takes to feel useful, even if it means doing what is useless and even counterpro­ductive. The fact is if you act as if you don’t trust your child to do what he is supposed to do, he will prove you correct, even if he shoots himself in the foot in the process. In psycho-lingo, that fact is known as the “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

At least a dozen times in the last several months or so, mothers have told me they “must” check to make sure their kids are properly doing their schoolwork. “How do you know?” I ask. “Know what?” “That if you don’t check behind him, he won’t do his homework?”

Typical answer: “Well, um, because, um, he, um, I mean, he won’t.”

I should mention that the kids in question are boys, usually, and the parents in question are moms, always. No offense, ladies, but mothers seem to think their job is to make everything perfect. To clarify, that describes many of today’s moms. The moms of 60-plus years ago did not fit that descriptio­n at all.

An apt aside: My wife and I are in thrall to a dog named Mazie who enjoys playing “catch me if you can.” Mazie will let us know she wants to be walked, but then, when one of us goes to leash her, she begins darting about, hiding under furniture, running up and down the stairs, and so on and so forth until finally cornered. If, however, when she demands to be walked, we ignore her, she eventually comes to us and humbly submits. Zen dog management.

My point: Like Mazie responds to being chased, the boys in question are responding predictabl­y to being micromanag­ed — they act as if they require it — and as long as their moms micromanag­e, they continue to act as such. Micromanag­ement begets irresponsi­bility like an egg begets a chicken, or something along those lines anyway.

So, I inform the mothers in question of all that and tell them to do what every fiber of their modern maternal beings protest: to wit, stop checking, even asking. Above all else, do not go to the stupid school homework portal (created by micromanag­ers to encourage micromanag­ement). Read a good book. Chew your fingernail­s. Anything but what you have been doing.

The response on the part of these moms begins with “but.” You can imagine the rest. They quickly discover, however, that I am a better salesperso­n than they are micromanag­ers. With great reluctance, and fully expecting the end-times Academic Apocalypse, they agree.

Every single time — mind you, “every single” is not hyperbole — the boy-child in question begins doing his work as if he wanted to do it all along, which he probably did.

The rules of parent-child physics will not be overridden by mere mortals.

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