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“Do you have any homework?”

By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller

Who do you think mentions homework first in families, the child or the parent? If you said the parent, you’re right. Parents bring up the subject of homework much more often than children do. And parents often ask, “Do you have any homework?,” within the first five minutes of greeting their child.

Mentioning homework first tells the child, “How much homework you have is more important to me than you are.” Having not seen your child all day, it might be helpful to ask a more welcoming question or use Parent Talk that is more supportive and connecting. Perhaps your initial comment could be one that focuses on welcoming and maintaining relationship.

1. “I hope you created a great day today.”

2. “Hey, I’m glad you’re here. There’s a snack on the table. Feel free to help yourself.”

3. “Welcome home. Hope things went well for you today.”

4. “I’m glad you were here when I got home. I’m always glad to see you.”

Bringing up homework before your child does is a signal that you care more about the homework than he or she does. It is one sign that you might be overfunctioning. When you care more than your child does, there is no room for them to care. Someone else is already assuming that role. And that person is you. If you are responsible for mentioning homework, the child doesn’t have to. It’s not his job. It is yours.

To make homework your child’s responsibility, consider the following.

1. Create a new family ritual. Have a family feed-your-brain time where everyone does something that feeds their brain. You already have a feed-your-body time. It’s called dinner. Perhaps the feed-your-brain time could follow the feed-your-body time. We eat together and then we feed our brains together.

2. As everyone gathers for feed-your-brain time, each person can go in turn and tell what he or she is going to do with their time. Most children who have homework will choose to do it at his time. Yes, it is important that each adult does something to feed their brains during this period, too. Do you really expect your children to do healthy things that you don’t model?

3. If you have to monitor your child’s homework completion, do it with their teachers. Check with them each Friday. If the information you hear calls for a meeting with your child, do it on Saturday. Tell them what you know and ask them to tell you when they intend to make up missing assignments. Negotiate how that will happen.

4. Hold your children accountable for their plan. If they don’t follow through, give them the Positive Discipline Equation: Opportunity equals responsibility. They have the opportunity to spend Saturdays in the way they choose as long as they take care of the responsibility of doing school work at school and at home during the week if they have homework. If the responsibility slips, they are choosing to have less opportunity for a free Saturday. Hold them accountable for their choices without scolding, making them wrong, or creating severe, unrelated consequences.

5. Repeat the process if necessary. Observe feed-your-brain time with your children during the week. Do not mention homework. Check with their teachers on Friday. Give your children the appropriate information. Hold them accountable if needed in a loving, caring way.

6. Celebrate success. Praise positive results with descriptive praise. Describe what you heard from teachers or noticed at home without making evaluating comments. Simply describe, and let your child draw the conclusion.

Your children will not step up and assume responsibility for homework unless the person who is currently handling that responsibility steps down. Step down and give your child room to step up.

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of Parent Talk Essentials: How to Talk to Kids about Divorce, Sex, Money, School, and Being Responsible in Today’s World. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for parents. To sign up for it or to obtain more information on how to bring their expertise to your family or group, visit their website today:

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