Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares tips to help kids who may struggle with school succeed.
I have a child who suffers from anxiety and dealing with the pressure of homework every night and this has been super hard all year. I wish I had thought to ask you sooner, but do you have any advice for helping him get homework done without the meltdowns and battles, and it being a negative experience for both of us?
The most important thing I can tell you to do is to not get upset when your child has a meltdown. This may be hard to do but it helps if you imagine your child as the teacher in your life classroom and his or her bad behavior and frustration is the perfect lesson or learning opportunity to help you grow. What can you learn from this experience? How can it make you better? Seeing the meltdowns this way could change the way you handle the situation.
The reason parents lose it, at times, is because our children may trigger our two deepest fears: fear of failure, (failing as a parent), and fear of loss, (losing the future we want for our child). These fears may make you feel unsafe in the world and when you feel unsafe, you may react with behavior that is all about you and what you need instead of responding in a way that would best serve your child.
Learn to trust that your value is not affected by this situation. Trust that your child's challenges are not a reflection of your intrinsic worth. Remind yourself that today is just another chance to practice patience and strength and have faith that everything will work out.
Here are some common homework meltdown situations and some advice for dealing with each one:
If your child is struggling with homework, find out if they have a learning disability or a learning style difference
If you suspect your child may have a learning disability, have them tested. Try teaching him or her using different methods, (visual, auditory and experiential), and see which one he or she responds to best. If your child has a unique learning style or a learning disorder, ask the school to help you set up an education plan to help him or her succeed.
Does your child have fear of failure issues?
This may happen when a child is afraid he or she isn’t smart enough and thinks it’s safer to avoid doing homework completely than to try and fail. Some kids may not hand work in because it feels safer to be labeled "irresponsible" over "dumb." If your child behaves like this, he or she might be functioning under the idea that his or her value is tied to their performance. I suggest you have regular conversations with them about how mistakes are not a big deal. Explain that no score affects their value as a person. Our value is based on the fact that we are one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable, human beings. Our value is infinite and absolute so it never changes, no matter what we do.
Does your child have perfectionist issues?
This might happen because, again, a child may think his or her value is tied to his or her performance, but instead of avoiding the work, the child stresses and worries themself sick about doing it perfectly. These kids also need to learn that their value isn’t tied to their performance. They should learn how to be motivated by the excitement of learning and growing without any fear of failure. They should know there's no such thing as perfection, and even if they make a mistake or fail a test, it doesn't change their value. If your child is the type to put too much pressure on themself, your job becomes teaching them to have more fun and worry less about "perfect."
When the homework is too difficult
Challenging homework assignments are a great learning opportunity to talk with kids about obstacles in life and how they can handle difficult things. What are our options when things are difficult? We can cry, mope, stress out or run away, but what other options do we have? What resources are available to help us? You can ask the questions and let your child come up with the options and answers. Teaching them how to solve problems and deal with challenges may be more important than the homework.
When the homework is too easy
Some children hate homework because they find it boring. If your child resists doing homework but can get it done quickly when they finally do it, you may want to talk to the teacher about more challenging work. Some teachers may not have the time or resources to give bright children separate work, but you could offer to help with that. Gifted children often have different learning styles too and this can create additional frustrations for them. Help them find subjects that interest them or ways to apply what they learn to things they like.
When you think your child is just lazy
Most kids are not lazy. They may just be more interested in other activities, especially if homework is too difficult, too easy or just doesn’t interest them. You may need to have some long conversations, (where you do more listening than talking), with your child to find out how they feel about school, learning and what activities interest them. What gets them excited? What about homework bothers them? What are they interested in and how can they earn more time doing that if they get their homework done first?
Does your child lack of organization, memorization or study skills?
I recommend an article I wrote a few years ago that has suggestions for helping kids memorize facts and learn math. There's also book out there called "Why Bad Grades Happen to Good Kids" by Linda Bress Silbert that might help you if you have a child who is disorganized. Some of us have natural tendencies toward being organized while others are more free-thinking. While one is not better than the other we have to find systems that work for each child. Some children need more freedom while others need more structure. Some do better in the morning than at night. Be flexible so you create a homework system that works for each child's strengths and needs.
Get outside help
Think outside the box on this one because outside help could be anyone other than you. For example, get older children to help the younger ones or trade with neighbors — homework help in exchange for a home-cooked dinner. If you have the means, use tutoring services like Sylvan or Kumon, or even college students who need extra money. Your children might often work better for someone who isn’t you.
Go easy on yourself and your child. You are both works in progress and are doing the best you can with what you know at the time. The more positive you are about learning and homework time, the more your kids may adopt your attitude.
You can do this.
Last week's LIFEadvice:
Editor’s Note: Anything in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended, nor should it be interpreted, to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition; Any opinions, statements, services, offers, or other information or content expressed or made available are those of the respective author(s) or distributor(s) and not of KSL. KSL does not endorse nor is it responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any opinion, information, or statement made in this article. KSL expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on the content of this article.