Friday, October 19, 2012

Homework Relief: The Anti-Drug

A child who is homework-trapped may be at greater risk of drug problems than one who is not. Here’s why.

In my mind, relationships are the most important “anti-drug.” Children thrive through the relationships they have: with their parents, with their teachers, and with their friends. It would be naïve to assume that teens will totally refrain from alcohol and drugs. But, for most, there is a line that most will not cross.

Children who are homework trapped have problems with their assignments at an early age. They are misperceived as unwilling and unmotivated when, in fact, they cannot do the work. They can do the work in school and they can do some of the work at home. But they cannot do it all in a reasonable amount of time.

Typically, their parents and their teachers meet to get them on track. These efforts don’t work because they don’t take into account the underlying, under-the-radar learning problems. The parent is thrown off center trying to make the child do what that child cannot do. Home life suffers and the child is misperceived as having behavioral problems. Before long, he learns to hate school and starts to act out.

By middle school, the child is overwhelmed having to manage assignments from four or five teachers. The school responds with detentions and suspensions through its disciplinary policy.

By high school, the student may get moved to an alternative class or school, where magically and paradoxically, he finally gets homework relief. Even if the student stays in the regular classes, his grades will go down and he may get excluded from school activities and social life.

So what does the child do? He looks for friends, and the ones he finds are typically those who are in the same boat. This is when your child starts to cross that imaginary line.

Your child will mature and, by his early or mid-20s, he really wants to make something of his life. But his education has suffered. He is ill-prepared for college level work. He’s been separated from his friends. And he may be hooked on drugs.

Think about it. Under the banner of homework compliance, the child has lost major sources of support. His parents have become agents of the school, pressuring him nightly rather than giving him the respite he needs when he comes home. His teachers have withdrawn their faith and support thinking, “He could have done so well, if he had only tried.” The peers he had when he was growing up are moving on and away from him. All sources of support that young people  need to manage the emotions that adolescence brings have been withdrawn for no good reason at all.

These kids would succeed if their school work was restricted to school hours alone. They would succeed if they had time limits on the work they did at home. They would succeed if their parents were in charge and could use their judgment in deciding what to do. And they would learn. They would appreciate their teachers. They would value school. And they would grow up with the knowledge and the skills that they need. And they might not have gotten themselves involved with drugs.

I’ve often said that homework pressures for homework trapped children do more harm than good. I hope you understand how serious this can be.

If your child is still in elementary or middle school, and homework conflicts are dominating your home, I advise you strongly to take action and help your child (and yourself) out of the homework trap.


Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.

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