Homework Battles: What is the problem?

working on homework

Success, conquering the evenings “homework battle.”

Beaming with pride, my 3rd grader enters the room saying, “Mommy! I just read my book four times!”  “Oh!” I replied.  I was curious… Why did she read the book four times? Why was she spending so much time reading this one book when she had more work to do? Soon when it was time to complete the writing part of the assignment sobbing, screaming, and ranting began. The night was going downhill fast. “Let me help you,” I say. “No,” is her reply.  After working on her homework for 30 additional minutes homework is still not done. We are officially an hour and a half into the “homework battle,” our twice weekly ritual. This is when a 30-45 minute assignment spreads out over the evening resulting in crying, sobbing, and bad feelings for everyone.

So often, homework battles are not the result of one problem. In my daughter’s case, weaknesses in time management, prioritizing, organizing, planning, as well as reading comprehension and word memory problems all contributed to the evening’s distress. I was lucky because I, at least knew the origins of the problem. I knew how to intervene, but my strong-willed, intelligent, independent daughter would have nothing to do with work or games I created to target her executive function skills, vocabulary, writing, or reading comprehension. She so often said to me, “This is good enough. The teacher won’t look at it. It will be fine!” I knew that her difficulty completing the assignments was not going to disappear.  It was painful watching her agonize over each assignment only writing the expected minimum and not using any strategies 

The process

The process to uncover her weaknesses was multi-tiered and included assessing her skills, evaluating my goals and motivation, talking to teachers and specialist, and reading and researching different treatment approaches.  It was important early on to separate my needs from her needs. Did I need her to be super student? Was I the type A driven parent forcing my child to the top? (Where ever that is?) Was I living out my missed opportunities? What was the real problem? Finally, I asked myself how did my expectations and behavior contribute to the problems. Could I alone solve her problems? This was the beginning of my journey.

Homework battles for some children may be the direct result of unidentified learning disorders.  Children may qualify for additional services through their local public school’s, special education department. Here is a resource on 10 Basic Steps to Special Education. Everyone dealing with homework battles should read this resource. Even if you don’t think your child qualifies for services or is in a private school your local public school is the place to start the assessment process.

Share your homework battles. Whether you have the answers or are just starting to realize that the struggle is going to be a regular occurrence feel free to share your joy and frustration.

I will write about every 4-6 weeks. In my next blog I will talk more about my process managing my child’s homework. I wish I could say it was simple, but it isn’t; however it is worthwhile.

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