Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 15 May |
Saint of the Day: St. Isidore the Farmer
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Why I stopped making my kids do their homework

Shutterstock

Calah Alexander - published on 02/28/18

It's not actually helping them learn anything -- and might be hurting them.

Confession time: I hate helping my kids with their homework. Hate it.

It’s not because I don’t like my kids. It’s not even because I don’t like homework (though I don’t, unless I’m the one doing it because I’m a weirdo). It’s because when I say brightly, “Okay kids, time for homework!” they do this:

I’m not even kidding, that is actual footage of my children at 4:15 p.m. on weekdays (except I would never tie a string around their necks, obviously). Immediately after the flopping and screaming subsides, everyone suddenly has to use the bathroom for a half-hour. Then, when we’re finally ready to start homework, someone invariably discovers they’ve left something essential at school — something like their homework folder, textbook, or self-control.

Some afternoons we work on homework straight through dinner and into bedtime. Some nights bedtime is delayed because homework must be done. Some nights everyone gets to bed on time with their homework neatly tucked into their folders, but those nights are so rare they’re like a solar eclipse — you can’t look straight at it or your head will explode.


Bedtime for Child

Read more:
The most important thing you can give your kids … besides love

No matter what, though, I’m exhausted at the end of homework and so are they. Yet I feel compelled to push them through it every night, because their teachers are so concerned when they don’t turn it in. I’m supposed to do homework with my kids to help them learn to complete assignments, which I think is meant to teach them independence. But I feel like all my help is teaching them the opposite — total, paralyzing dependence.

Bill Stixrud, a neuropsychologist who co-authored the book The Self-Driven Childhappens to agree with me. He believes that many young adults are stricken by a lack of agency, which he defines as “feeling in control of your own destiny.” Agency isn’t something kids are born with; it has to be built, and as he explained to NPR, when parents micromanage they actually strip away their child’s agency instead of building it up. 

Also, we need to make peace with reality. And the reality is, you can’t make a kid do his work. And that means it can’t be the parent’s responsibility to ensure that the kid always does his homework and does it well. In some ways, it’s also disrespectful to the kid. You know, I start with the assumption that kids have a brain in their head and they want their lives to work. They want to do well. That’s why we want to change the energy, so the energy is coming from the kid seeking help from us rather than us trying to boss the kid, sending the message, “You can’t do this on your own.”

He practiced what he preaches, too. He once offered his daughter $100 to get a C on a test to prove to her that grades don’t matter as much as everyone believes they do.

I wouldn’t go that far, but I do want my kids to be self-driven instead of mom-driven. And as much as I hate daily emails about missing homework, micromanaging their work for them isn’t really helpful in the long or the short term. They’re not learning to complete assignments, they’re learning that they don’t have to do it on their own because I’ll sit them down and make them do it.

That doesn’t communicate to my kids that I have much confidence in their ability to do their own homework, nor does it help them develop that confidence in themselves. And as much as I don’t want them to fail, even at homework, if I don’t let them fail they’ll never know how to succeed.

So even if it means emails and detentions, I’m going to release my kids from homework purgatory. But not because I hate homework purgatory (though I do). Because I’m helping them build agency.


CHILD WANTING MORE

Read more:
The #1 problem facing kids today–and how to fix it

Tags:
EducationParenting
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
2
ascension AND ASSUMPTION
Philip Kosloski
Ascension vs. assumption: What is the difference?
3
ZMARTWYCHWSTANIE
Philip Kosloski
What happened between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus?
4
I.Media for Aleteia
These 30 shrines will lead the Rosary Relay for end of the pandem...
5
PHILIPPINES CHURCH
J-P Mauro
We need better church music, say Catholics in the Philippines
6
Philip Kosloski
What was the message of Our Lady of Fatima?
7
BENOIT JOSEPH LABRE
Larry Peterson
Benedict XVI called him “one of the most unusual saintsR...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.