Homework must be 100% the child’s responsibility beginning in first grade. Oppositional children, especially those with Reactive Attachment Disorder must care more about their education than anyone else, in order for them to learn. They must believe the truth, that an education is vital to their success in their adult life, and that their brain must have exercise to develop properly.
When parents push or interrupt around the issue homework and responsibility, the oppositional child will push back, and what they push away is the knowledge they have to have to succeed in life. As push comes against shove in the homework battle the parent/child relationship can be destroyed. I’ve had parents describe to me, sitting at the table, four to five hours nightly, as a child cries and argues and fusses, and whines over each page. I asked one incredibly dedicated father, after he asked me the solution to his nightly homework battle with his son, how his son’s grades were, he replied, “He’s failing!”. Parents push, the children fail. When a child is given responsibility for homework by the teacher and the parents decide to side-step “the middle man” and go directly to the teacher to get the assignments, the one who’s eliminated from the group is the one who should be carrying the ball. As a student learns that the natural consequences of not doing homework is an automatic 0/F and decides to move toward the positive by putting out effort, it builds true self-esteem. Children with high self-esteem have a lower school dropout rate, lower rate of drug abuse, less alcohol use and are more successful overall in life. Let’s look at the normal steps a child would use to complete a homework task:
- Choosing to write down the homework assignment or deciding to remember it
- Organizing their thoughts and planning their task enough to take their assignment and the materials needed to complete the assignment home
- Being able to shift to a completely different environment, by going home, and still remember the assignment
- Having the self-motivation and time-management skills to set aside time to complete the task
- Finishing the work and returning the assignment to the teacher demonstrates task completion
Putting out effort improves their abilities in all those areas for their entire life. When those opportunities to learn are taken away from the child by parents locating the homework assignment, instructing the child to sit down, directing the child during the task, etc… it robs the child. When a child leaves home for college that has been hounded over homework there’s no one in the dorm to drag them to their task, they have not fine-tuned and developed those skills over years of schoolwork and they fail. Children with RAD, and children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder seek battles. When we set up a battle over homework, they will fight it and they will lose. When the student loses we all lose, parents, teachers and society.
The most successful way I have found, is to provide a desk and the tools needed in the child’s room. When they come in from school, their book bag is immediately taken to their room, at seven or 7:30pm, depending on the child’s age, the child is expected to be in their room. There’s no TV or computer games available, only a few toys and a bookshelf of books. If they’re not ready to go to bed they will often relax with a book, which just might turn into a book report! A teacher’s job is to offer learning opportunities, similar to showing them the path up the mountain of knowledge they need to climb. Let’s stop expecting the parents to push their child up the mountain, which keeps them off balance. Let’s expect parents to cheer them as they climb to the heights of success!