Getting Unstuck: Homework Hassles

You know those moments in life when things get so frustrating – almost to absurdity – that you just have to make a change? You try to ignore it. To work around it. To gracefully weasel out of it. But no such luck! It’s like the stinky crud that sometimes colonizes our pantries. Not sure where it came from, but can’t move on with life until it’s dealt with!

I’m in the middle of one of these moments right now with my oldest daughter. For the past 3 years, homework has been our stinky pantry crud. Her learning disabilities, ADHD, bipolar, left-handedness, star sign, and the presence of small shiny objects anywhere in view make it impossible to just sit down and do work without a debacle.

The new and improved version this school year included more homework… and a LOT more attitude! So I finally decided to clean out our stinky pantry.

I gave my daughter FULL responsibility for her homework. The idea came from John Rosemond’s Ending the Homework Hassle (Andrews and McMeel, 1990). Here are the basics, for all parents out there struggling with this issue:

A = “All by myself.” The child is completely responsible for their homework once they are at an age they can handle it (i.e. older than K-2nd grade). We provide the necessary materials, desk and lighting. Other than that, they need to do work on their own, away from the main traffic of the family.

B= “Back off.” Parents are available for the child to help understand directions or give strategies when they’re stuck on a problem. But other than that, we keep out of it. We don’t sit and do every problem with our kids. And at the end, we can recommend going back over problems done incorrectly, but not do the work for with them.

C= “Call it quits at a reasonable hour.” This one is extra applicable to us, since my kiddo has ADHD and often loses her own train of thought in the middle of a sentence. This means a 20 minute assignment can take hours. IEP’s and shortened homework accommodations aside, we have to set the timer for a reasonable amount of time and stick with that boundary.

You know what? After 3 days, she’s coming home, getting her bag, going upstairs, doing every problem on her homework assignments and putting it in her bag without me reminding her at all.

And it’s not covered in scribbles. Or crumpled in a ball. Or incomplete. Or making me want to run for the hills.

Do you see this picture? It looks wonderful! Too bad EVERY problem is incorrect.

So for a child with delays, adoption attachment issues, a mood disorder and attentional issues, is it better for her to struggle with me over homework every day for hours? Or to let her fail, but relate peacefully with her after school?

I guess that’s my next stinky issue…

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