January 25, 2013

When Kids Just Won't Do Their Homework

There is a big homework epidemic in the school system and it seems to have invaded my home. We got an announcement from the principal about late homework assignments. It seems that the majority of students are not turning in their work. It's gotten so bad that they had to issue a school-wide policy. Teachers are no longer allowed to accept assignments more than 3 days old.

I'm completely for the policy, but I'm amazed by the necessity. Sure, we had our share of slackers, but they weren't the norm. Even the slackers would rush through a homework assignment just before class began so they could turn it in.

One of my boys in particular, seems to be most affected by the pandemic. He's been given a good "kick in the rear" and nothing seems to get through to him. He is very good at looking productive. He's had all extra privileges taken away (no after-school activities, video games, or tv time) until he brings his grades up. Here we are in the 3rd quarter and he still hasn't taken ownership of his education. I don't think he ever will if he is left on his own.

I think the reality is that these kids have so many more pulls on their attention than we ever did. And they lack the skill to prioritize and multi task. Yet, we expect them to do just that. The hard truth is: it boils down to parenting. You can tell your kid to clean his room all day long, but if you don't followup with him you will find at the end of the day that he only "sorta" cleaned his room.

The same applies to homework. If you leave him to it by himself he's only going to "sorta" do his work. You have to have a system and follow through on it as a parent.

My son has great teachers. They have worked with him and given him more opportunities than he deserves. At the end of the day he needs discipline, and more than punishment and consequences. We've already taken away everything he has and holds dear. He needs his parents to check behind him, to apply a standard of accountability.

His science teacher had a great plan. He has a school agenda we bought at the beginning of the year. For each class block he needs to write in his homework assignments and get his teacher's signature. When he comes home I check his agenda for signatures and make sure he completes the assignments. Then his teachers will be looking for my signature the next day. If he fails to get a signature, he looses school privileges.

I know there are some kids who thrive on the challenge of academia. I'm talking about your happy-to-be-average underachievers. The ones who are the most puzzling because the work comes easy, when they actually do it.

I found the same principle applies to managing employees. I am constantly checking up behind my less motivated employees. I would like to break the cycle with my children before they become lifelong character flaws.

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