Today, My Kids’ Homework Becomes Their Problem

How involved should parents be in their children’s school work? Less involved than I am, clearly.

I’ve got two teens and a tween and at some point (maybe now?) their homework has to become their problem, not mine. Right? RIGHT?

This happens every year at parent-teacher interview time. First, I get all prepared. I log onto the computer and spend about half an hour selecting meetings by class location in order to minimize the sweat that results from running from one end of the school to the other. I arrive early, armed with my list printout, my watch, and the pen I’ll need to write down marks, notes and other important info I will want to pass on to the husband and kids.

In other words, anal, type-A student that I was (and still am – you don’t shake these things), I do what I have always done: I plan ahead.

So when it comes to homework, shouldn’t I expect the same of my kids?

I know, I know. My kids are not me. We have different personality types and different skills. They have their own study habits. And I get that reminding, cajoling, nagging, punishing and otherwise forcing homework into their consciousness stops working at a certain age (let’s say 13). But while my brain knows these important truths, the rest of me – pulse, heart, lungs – is not a believer.

I hear a teacher tell me that a kid did not excel, and I see three letters forming in a bubble over my head: WHY?

Why, why, why, why, why?

Why would a smart, capable kid forget there’s a quiz, or rush through an essay or be perfectly OK with a perfectly OK mark? Why was he playing hockey or on Facebook all weekend? Why wasn’t he studying? (Now pay attention here; watch this next move.) Why wasn’t I watching? Why didn’t I make him study? Why, why, why, why, why?

OK, freeze. Did you see how I did that? Reread the paragraph above.

After tossing and twisting for too many nights trying to figure out WHAT I AM DOING WRONG, it has finally occurred to me that I have a role in all this drama, and it’s not the mentor role I thought it was. My role has been to constantly make my kids’ homework problems mine, thereby creating anxiety in me. I have allowed myself to become more invested in my kids’ schooling than they are.

This anxiety is exhausting me, turning me into an angry bitch, and doing nothing to help my kids succeed. If anything, it creates either anxiety or avoidance in them and either way, it’s counterproductive and unhealthy.

What do I really want? It’s not top marks in every class, and it’s not for the kids to work hard to please me. I want them to learn from their mistakes, feel motivated by their achievements and plan their own destinies. And they can only do that if I’m not doing it for them.

I can tell you that my parents were never over my shoulder nagging and threatening and worrying. They were too busy making money and living their own lives. If I was going to rise or fall, it was all on me.

So instead of obsessing over the word Why, I’ve got a new homework tactic. It’s going to be hard, but I’m butting out. Call me if you need me, kids. I’m here, watching on the sidelines, happy to help with your essay if you ask, but until then, you’ve got a brain, you’ve got teachers, you’re on your own.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.



About randi

Randi Chapnik Myers & Mara Shapiro don't get fazed by their teens. At least they try not to.


  1. I love it when you listen to me!! Go RANDI!!!! Also, don’t bother taking so many notes. Trust me, the kids know what you’re reporting. They were just pretending it wasn’t happening.

  2. Sitting on the sidelines will be tough, but it has to be done, you are so right, ‘the anxiety is exhausting’. When my 3 were in elementary school (ends in grade 6 here in QC) I had them all around the kitchen table every day after school with snacks and school supplies and easy listening music playing in the background. I nagged, and quizzed them on their vocabulary words, their timestables, until we were all blue in the face. The only ‘fun’ part for them was the snacks.
    I tried that when they all started highschool, but it didn’t work out as I planned. They took snacks to their rooms, sat at their desks, and listened to their (not-so-easy-listening) music. When I peeked into their rooms, often they’d be on their psp’s, laptop, or just lazing in bed..drove me nuts! And their marks often reflected that too, but you know what? After being the homework cheerleader for the 3 of them during elementary school, I was burnt out. I was turning into the angry bitch too. Now I butt out. One of them is still learning from his mistakes, but he knows fully well what he should be doing. The oldest is in college and she knows what to do. When I ask her if she has any homework, she responds by saying ‘Mom, if I did, I’d be doing it. Don’t worry, I’m 19, I know what to do.’ The middle one (16) is doing his homework regularly now, no nagging from me (and back at the kitchen table!) and says, “I’m doing it, because I know now it counts for marks” The youngest, at 15 still needs the occasional nag, but he’s getting there. I tell you, it’s so liberating. And no, my parents never ever nagged about my homework..I wasn’t the best student in highschool, but I did all my work.
    I did however, go armed with pen and paper to the p/t interviews, but as Mara said above, the kids already knew what I’d be reporting 😉

    • OK well it’s parents like you that will keep me on my path – because you’ve been there, and I can follow your lead. Thanks so much for sharing. I am more committed than ever!

  3. So hard. So, so hard. But made easier when your kid actually says (ok yells!): THIS IS MY ESSAY, NOT YOURS! Ok then….”but will you at least show it to me when it’s done??”

  4. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! Where are you? Under the bed??

  5. Sooner or later they have to learn that homework is their responsibility not yours. My son started his first year of university, do I wake him up for classes – no, do I remind him to do his homework – no. Now my girlfriend’s son started his first year of university also this year, they wake him every morning, they have him sit at the table every night and do his homework. We asked them to go south with us on vacation while the kids are in school, but they are afraid their son won’t go to class. My son is 18, theirs 19, mine has never missed a class, or assignment, nor has theirs but which one is really learning to become an adult and take responsibility?

  6. Man – I could have written this one myself. Thank you Randi.

  7. I’m using Chrome, and all is fine Jessica.

  8. I know this is an old post, but I just ran across it and felt a weight lifted off my shoulders! My daughter is “super” smart and has always gotten good grades! When she started high school in the fall, we gave her space…telling her that she had set the bar and we trusted that she could handle things. We wouldn’t tell her when or how to study.
    Easier to talk the talk than walk the walk!
    Party because of these damn websites that let you see when your child moved or breathed in class…and their up to the minute grades, I have become obsessed with how well she is or isn’t doing! For my OWN sanity, I need to let go! But is its hard…like giving up crack or something! Every time I look at the website I say, “I’ll try harder tomorrow!” haha! Not to mention that as I get worked up, I feel the need to share my frustration with her which does NO GOOD!
    My true intent is that she is doing her best, but I have to let go…it’s her life to live…not mine! Her grades are far and away better than mine were…and somehow I still managed to go to college, get a degree and have a good life.
    I just need some reassurance that I am making the right choice. The 4am wake up and panic business will be the death of me if I don’t let go!


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