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Help: My Son Isn’t Doing His Homework! 
 
by Sam L. Rothman July 06, 2005

Believe it or not, children don’t blow off their homework just to anger parents. If homework is missing you need to learn why before you can take appropriate action. Six common causes of missing assignments include: emotional upset at home, social issues at school, peer pressure, teacher personality conflicts, inappropriate placement, and undiagnosed learning disabilities.

It might be a note from your second grader’s teacher or a phone call from the middle school math instructor. It might be your first hint of trouble, or a pattern repeated annually. How you react to the news that your child isn’t doing his schoolwork can go a long way in solving the problem.

Children don't forget assignments just to anger parents. Missing work can appear at any grade level, with any teacher, and in any subject. Whether temporary or chronic, by identifying the cause you can take appropriate action to help your child succeed. Most homework issues fall into one of six categories.

Emotional Upset at Home

Minor Upsets: As adults we compartmentalize our lives. We check our troubles at the door when we punch in at work. That’s how it is with adults... not so for kids.

Children, especially younger children, have difficulty putting their feelings on hold. A secretly broken glass, a forgotten chore, a lost toy, almost any event causing guilt, can lead to upset... and missing work.

Young ones are also hypersensitive to changes in their daily routines, especially deviations they might interpret as rejection. “Daddy forgot to say goodbye,” or “Mommy didn’t kiss me goodnight;” the resulting upset is often reflected in missing work.

To prevent or solve problems due to temporary emotional upset in students under age ten:

  • Establish and keep to daily routines.
  • Have a set time to talk to your child every night.
  • Build confidence through praise whenever it is earned.
  • Reward honesty. It is more important that your son learn he can tell you if something is wrong, than to be punished for every minor infraction.

Family Upheavals: Unfortunately not all emotional upsets are so easily solved, particularly for older students. Your high schooler may wear a mask of indifference, but remember it is just that, a mask. Longterm difficulties within a family almost inevitably manifest themselves in missing assignments.

Grandpa has cancer; Dad might get laid off; Sis is marrying a jerk; the list of potential stressors is endless, and any one of them can trigger an avoidance response. If homework is missing over an extended period of time, particularly from a student with previously good work habits, look for an emotional upset as the culprit. To prevent or address such instances:

  • Talk to your child. Acknowledge the problem; don’t minimize. Validate that it is normal to be upset, but that life goes on. Be supportive, not punitive.
  • Discuss family situations openly and honestly with your children. In an age appropriate manner, explain the facts. Don’t let imaginations run wild.
  • Families in crisis can benefit from counseling. If your family is in the midst of a major upheaval, get assistance for your child (either through school, private referral, or a faith based agency).

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