Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Homework, vegetables and child abuse

Several years ago, I learned, while having lunch with a co-worker, that he never ate vegetables. He went on to explain that, as a child, he could not leave the table until he finished his meal. He sat there defiantly for hours on end refusing to eat until his parents relented and let him go. I understand this is a childhood memory and one that might not accurate in each and every detail. Was this a nightly event? Was he really at the table for hours, or did it just feel like hours to him? Did he ever eat his vegetables? Was he scolded, harangued, or possibly beaten as well? I don’t know, and the context of our conversation did not call for a full exposition of his vegetable-battling years.

But there are some points that are worth making. The memory was painful. The vegetable did not get eaten. His parents may have been inflexible. The life lesson was not learned.

Was this abuse? Was it only abuse if the beating I hypothesized was added to the mix? Was it poor parenting? Was it the type of parental misjudgment that called for an outside intervention? For all I know, you may be reading this and thinking: they should have beaten him – then he would have eaten his vegetables. Or maybe you’re thinking, good for them, they did not back down.

Whatever personal take you have on this incident, I’m asking you to take that response and expand it to the notion of “eating your homework,” – well, not exactly eating it, but doing it, or sitting at the table until you do it, or spending hours every night, forced to stay at the table even if nothing gets done because someone (actually the teacher) has determined that this work must be done. And if it’s not, the consequence will be very low grades.

I think this happens frequently to homework trapped children. It goes beyond the more publicized question of whether homework is effective and whether children, today, are given more than they should. Kids should eat their vegetables – some do and some don’t. Perhaps, kids should do their homework, but in the end, some will and some won’t. Sitting for hours over a plate of undone homework will do no more to foster education than it caused my coworker to become a vegetable-loving grown man.

For more information on Dr. Goldberg's model, read other postings on this blog, visit his website, The Homework Trap, or read his book, The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers. 


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