No, my child doesn’t need to do homework to make me happy.
No, my child doesn’t need to do homework to make me happy.
Yes, I have a child that doesn’t like to do homework. I remember the first homework he was assigned 4 years ago back in first grade. He cried, he refused, he got distracted and he fought with everything he got to not do it. With time, this attitude has had its ups and downs, but today we’re like that first homework day. Online school which we’ve been working with for the last eight months has not helped much. The topic of homework has lots of matter for discussion, especially in the areas of education and psychology. Whatsoever, I’ll not be focusing in that area in order to not lose the focus on the point I want to make.
Not long ago, I found out that a person very near to us had a serious conversation with my son. This person told him (paraphrasing): “You need to do homework so mom and dad can be happy with you”. While I understand that the comment was well intentioned, with all the respect and love this person deserves, I answer back: No, mi child doesn’t need to do anything to make me happy and my child doesn’t need to do anything in order for me to accept him and love him just the way he is.
Culturally, there has been this ideology that children need to make their parents happy. However, as parents is important that we change this way of thinking. Children should not carry that huge burden of their parent’s happiness. Children need to have the liberty to be able to seek for happiness without burdens. Us, as adults, we need to understand that is to take responsibility of our own happiness and be mature enough to understand that happiness can’t depend of others, in the contrary, it can only depend on each individual.
Emotional blackmail is probably the most common tool used in these situations where the parents are happy with the expected behavior of the child. In my article, “What is Conscious Parenting?” I explain how we can create consciousness of the effect that our parenting brings to our children, and that is a process that takes time and is not easy. Parents might have learned emotional blackmailing from their own parents, and is the way they know how to influence others. Or they use it in a way to avoid yelling or hitting. Telling the child that if he does the homework I’ll be happy, is an example of emotional blackmailing. Emotional blackmailing is easy, nonviolent and works better in the short term. However, it does bring emotional effects in the long run.
Using emotional blackmailing as a strategy in parenting, children miss out the opportunity to have a better understanding of themselves and be authentic. They mold their attitudes and suppress their way of thinking and being in order to gain their parent’s acceptance. This is just a simple act of survival: children know instinctively that they need love and acceptance from their parents or caregivers in order to survive. With time, this identity tied to the parents ends up in becoming the child’s own and false identity. Not only that, in this way children learn to see their own feelings and thoughts are bad and inadequate, they get lost in their own identity and this can cause self-esteem and social problems.
What am I doing instead? I’ll share with you some healthier strategies I’ve been using to help my child to his homework.
- Accept your child’s feelings and thoughts. Acknowledge him, listen to him and understand his point of view. Remember that your voice will turn in their internal voice.
- Connect with him. Can you remember some time in your childhood when you didn’t want to do homework? Did you like to do homework? Is there something you disliked about homework? Connect with him and share with your child your own experiences so he can tell you do understand her and that she’s not alone.
- Don’t let your ego come into play. It is common that as parents we turn these kinds of challenges into personal situations. What will the teacher think of me as a mother? What are other mothers going to say about me and my child? How can it be that I child of mine struggles with homework when I’ve always been an excellent student? Is always healthy to detach from our own insecurities and fears in order to give the child space to learn and explore his feelings on his own. Ask yourself: Am I acting through ego or through my true self? This will open space to really connect to your child.
- Give him tools. Depending of their age and maturity level, your child might need help. You can start by giving him a nice place free of distractions where he can work. Setting up boundaries and negotiating the use of screens is useful. From there, you can start watching how much she’s going to need supervision and tutoring. Charts, agendas, calendars, organizers, boards, etc. are always of great help too.
- Help him look for his intrinsic motivators. What motivates you? Is something we should all ask ourselves. Imagine what will happen if you are able to make these questions on a young age. We could go into adulthood with a better understanding of our own selves.
- Explain him about responsibilities. Probably homework is one of the biggest responsibilities for most kids. Homework might be children’s most common responsibility. Adult life is full of responsibilities. Though in my personal opinion, I don’t think that homework actually helps with academical learning, we can use it to teach other life lessons.
Personally, we’re still struggling and, in a process, to accept homework. Maybe these strategies are not going to make my son come from school wanting to do homework. Maybe that will never happen. Also, I don’t discard the possibility to look for other educational options that will generate less anxiety. As of today, in our reality, school is having homework and with the discussed strategies I want my child to understand a few things:
- There will always be consequences for your actions. Today the teacher talked with him about homework, tomorrow it can be his boss. There are also positive consequences like the peace of mind that gives you finishing your shores and being able to enjoy your time how you better like it.
- Is not bad if you don’t like what others tell you to do. What each person feels or thinks towards a specific subject is not bad. If there is something that you don’t like you always have the option to be active with the authorities, look for new and different ways and present valid arguments.
- There are responsibilities that will not always of our like. In life there will always be thing that we would not love to do. We need to accept situations as they are and once accepting, we can be more proactive towards finding a solution or better ways to do things.
- There are positive ways to express our dislike. Tantrums, yelling or being violent are ways of expression that will never actually fix up situations. There are positive ways to express our disgusts. This situation is giving us the opportunity to teach that we need to find peace and calm, even in the most frustrating moments, in order to reach our goals.
- Learn how to play the game. The game of life is full of pleasant and not so pleasant situations, one doesn’t exist with the other. We need to learn to enjoy the pleasant and learn to “dance” with the not so pleasant. See it as a game, something that like everything is relative and will pass.
In short, we can use healthier psychological strategies than emotional blackmailing. Maybe they won’t be as effective, maybe they won’t work that fast, but they will for sure bring more life knowledge and less emotional conflicts in the long run.
Mom of 3 – Conscious Parenting Coach – Psychologist.