Most parents have extreme feelings about their child’s homework. They either take ownership of the homework and feel responsible for making certain that the child executes the homework thoroughly and well or they see it as a responsibility that belongs entirely to the child and don’t inquire about it, don’t participate in any way and, simply, leave it all to he child’s devices.

Both of these parental choices are highly non-productive. In the first choice, the parent has to expend a lot of time and energy, often feels frustrated and angry and reacts negatively and punitively when the child does not obey. When the child does not “own” the homework, he gets the sense that he’s not trusted to be competent and responsible that he doesn’t “control” his own life and that he is a “servant; doing the wishes of the grown-ups. In the second scenario where a child is left totally to his own devices, he feels unloved, uncared about and anxious about his ability to handle life on his own. He may feel overwhelmed and give up or he may do well, all the time feeling that he’s in the world, alone and abandoned.

There is a third, more productive option where the child and parent handle homework co-operatively. The parent explains homework to the child, what it is, why it’s necessary and important, how it is the child’s “work” as the parents have their own “work”. The parent is attentive and available to the child’s questions and comments. Together, they decide when and where the homework should be done – structure is important and what conditions the child needs to be able to best concentrate. Does he need his own space away from the family? Does he need quiet or background noise? Does he need special lighting or specific tools? Then, the parent offers their availability and help. “If you have questions or are confused or need help, I’ll be in the kitchen, call me.” When the child calls for help, that particular help is given warmly and patiently. Nothing else is addressed. The homework is not checked. That’s between the child and the teacher. With this approach, a child learns that the parent cares and is there to support and help but that he has responsibility for his life and that he has to struggle with the issues of who he is, who he wants to be, what he wants to achieve and the issue of doing the hard work in life.

When a child is not doing well in school or is not doing his homework, that is not a cue for a parent to do it for him or to be stricter or yell more. It’s a signal that there is a problem that needs to be addressed lovingly and patiently. All children want to do well. If they don’t, it’s because they can’t.

The problem might be organic – bad eyesight, a learning disability, difficulty hearing, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia or it may be psychological – school phobia, low self-esteem, performance anxiety, self-destructiveness — whatever the problem, it is not volitional to the child. It is not his “fault”, Good parents will explain to the child that he’s not “bad”. He’s just normal because all children have problems of one kind or another and that problems are solvable and that, together, they will solve this one. Then, with the aid of teachers and good helping professionals, the problem will be identified and addressed.