Exasperated parents often ask me, “Why does my son (or daughter) do his homework and then not turn it in?” These understandably frustrated and confused parents are looking to me for answers, but I must admit that for years, I could not help them.
I just didn’t get it! Homework takes up precious time; if you’re doing homework, you’re not doing something else. Why forgo playing or talking on the phone or watching TV- for nothing? Why do homework and then not get the credit? How could a student bear the thought of completed homework sitting at home or- even worse- in his backpack?
My students couldn’t explain their thinking to me, and parents kept asking, so I decided to do some research.
WHY STUDENTS COMPLETE HOMEWORK BUT DON’T TURN IT IN
- They want to look cool. Or, rather, they don’t want to look “uncool” by seeming to care about studying and doing homework. I suppose a report card full of ‘Fs’ looks much better? This kind of thinking often becomes more prevalent in middle and high school.
- They can’t find it. There are many students that would turn in their homework- if they knew where it was. I teach my own children that their homework is not finished until it is put away in their homework folder, AND the homework folder is put away in their backpack, AND the backpack is put by the back door.
- They are distracted. Things are going on in class that are much more interesting than what the teacher is saying. There is also an entire universe inside each student’s head: thinking about their latest crush, lunch, recess, the prom, beating the score on a video games, problems at home… how could homework compete with all of that?
- They are rebelling. What do you do when you feel that your every move is controlled by others? You find something that you can control- like turning in homework. This passive-aggressive behavior usually goes away when students are allowed to be responsible for their own homework (hint, hint).
- They don’t think it’s a big deal. Students know whether or not their teacher looks at their homework or just slaps a check on it and tosses it in a pile. If homework isn’t important enough to warrant more than a glance (if that), who can blame students for not worrying about turning it in?
- They figure you’ll take care of it. Why, oh why, does your child think this? Do you call the teacher, make excuses, find their homework and turn it in for them? Well, it’s no wonder, then, that they believe you will rescue them.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO
There are a number of things parents can do to help students actually turn in homework:
- Show them how to organize their homework. One day, your child might graduate to color-coded folders, but in the beginning, simple is best. I recommend one folder for all completed homework. One place to put homework, one place to find it. What could be easier?
- Help them figure out a routine that they can use for each class. Each teacher has different class procedures; some want homework at the beginning of class, some at the end; some have a homework basket, others want homework passed to the front. While this might not seem like a big deal to you, it can be overwhelming for a 14 year-old. Find out if your child can turn in homework the same way for each class. For example, can he hand in homework at the beginning of the class- even if that isn’t the teacher’s regular procedure?
- Tell them to turn it in whenever they remember (or find it). Often, a student will realize that they forgot to turn in their homework a few minutes or hours after it was due, but they hold on to it. Explain that a little late is better than not at all.
- Find out from the teacher if homework is graded. Yes, we want our children to be responsible, but we also have to pick our battles. If the homework isn’t graded, doesn’t count, the teacher doesn’t look at it- why cause World War III if it’s not turned in?
- Let them suffer the consequences. This is the hardest one of all, isn’t it? We don’t want our babies to suffer- to miss recess! We don’t want to see an Incomplete or an D on a report card, do we? But, sometimes that’s what needs to happen for our children to realize that, “Oh, wow! Maybe I should turn in my homework!” If you keep saving them, they won’t ever do it for themselves.
Angela Norton Tyler is the author of the book Tutor Your Child to Reading Success. She is also an educator, business owner and speaker-trainer. This mother of two wears many hats, but the common thread running through them all: empowering parents.Why Does My Child Do His Homework and Then Not Turn it In?, 3.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings
Tags: exasperated parents, passive aggressive behavior, problems at home, video games
Parenting Forgetful Behavior
By Deborah Godfrey
“Dad, where’s my backpack?”
“Mom! I forgot my lunch! You have to bring it now!”
“Where’d you put my sweatshirt?”
Do any of these statements sound vaguely familiar? At Positive Parenting, we have a saying:
“A child who always forgets has a parent who always remembers!”
Many of the complaints I hear from parents have to do with children’s irresponsible and forgetful behavior. It usually begins early, around 4 or 5 years old, and peaks when a child hits junior high. What happened between us happily picking up our screaming toddler’s bottle that rolled under the couch and giving it to her and the preteen screaming at us that she can’t find her favorite jeans and us snapping at her that if she didn’t keep her room such a mess, then maybe she could find the clothes she wants?
First, parents often don’t realize how much young children can do. Many toddlers are very capable of understanding our words and body language, even when they cannot communicate that verbally. So in the example above, when a child is distressed, we often “rescue” the child. This is a natural, normal response! The “saving” of a small child from their distresses is the way in which bonding occurs between parents and children. When a child cries because he is hungry, we “save” him by feeding him. When a child cries because she is wet, we “save” her when we change her diaper. This mechanism occurs instinctively under normal circumstances, and bonding between parent and child is established. The problem occurs when we “save” a child from an activity that she is capable of completing herself. So when her bottle rolls under the couch, you do not need to “save” her from starving right now. Now is the time to help her problem solve. You could play a game, “Where do you think your bottle went?” And start looking under things and behind things and help her to find the bottle. This way, she begins to learn self-sufficiency with your loving guidance.
Think of something that you are doing for your child that she could be doing for herself. Give this to your child as a new responsibility. In this way, you build her self-esteem and are teaching self-reliance.
The next complication occurs around the time that children start school. They forget their lunch, homework, sweaters, backpacks, library books…and on and on! They forget, and we nag, yell, complain, threaten and punish. Nothing seems to work! Here are 3 rules to teach children responsibility:
- Stop remembering for them
- Don’t say “I told you so!”
- Don’t tell them what will happen, let the consequences do the talking for you
So the first thing parents need to do is stop reminding! When parents remind children, they rely on the reminders and become incapable of remembering for themselves. We parents cannot understand why they don’t remember since we tell them over and over! But it’s the telling them over and over that creates the irresponsibility! The second thing we need to do is STOP saying “I told you so!” or “See what happens when you forget?” In this case the child is focused on how mean we are or how stupid they are, and not on learning to be responsible. And finally, stop telling them how the world works, let the world and the natural consequences in it teach your child. When you tell them, then they will focus on you as the teacher and not learn from the way the world works. What I love most about this parental response is that I can make myself be the safe haven when that big bad world is teaching my children. For example, when Michael, my son, would forget his lunch, I would have a sandwich and food ready when he got home. “Wow, you must be starving! Here, have a sandwich!” If he tried to blame me, saying “Why didn’t you bring me my lunch!” I would just say, “You must have been really hungry from forgetting your lunch, you need another snack?” And he would see it was his responsibility and not mine, and I was actually soothing him.
Finally, over time you can help your children be more responsible by teaching them how to think. When you tell them what to do, they don’t learn. When you ask questions, in a loving way, they learn to use their brains.
When you find yourself telling your child to do something, phrase it in a question instead.
For example, instead of saying, “It’s time for school”, say “What time do you need to leave in order to be on time?”
Instead of saying, “Remember to turn in your library book” say “How are you going to remind yourself to turn your library book in on time?”
Instead of saying, “Do your homework” say “How much time to you need to do homework this evening?”
More than anything else, this style of communicating will create kids that learn to remember, be responsible and accountable for their actions. You have so much to do with how your children learn to think, how they react and how they communicate. By asking questions, you become a master teacher of the very communication you want your children to learn to be successful in school and their lives.
Thank you, Kathy, for sharing this great photo of Aly with me!
Deborah has been teaching parenting classes for over 20 years. Her kids are 28, 23 & 22 and wonderfully self-sufficient!