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.