A new school year has started. 6 words that strike a sense of panic in the hearts of the most hardened warriors (also known as parents). The carefree days of summer are gone, replaced by early morning skirmishes (why are children so opposed to waking up?), breakfast mission impossible (why must the last drop of milk spill all over the school bag like a water damn bursting) and the dreaded post school-day final battle: homework. To think that just a few weeks ago, we were happily eating ice-cream while watching our favorite movie in a very Kodak-like happy family snapshot that you find adorning generic picture frames.
The homework battle transforms that idyllic Kodak “happy family” picture into one that strongly resembles the book cover of war and peace. The first bullets are fired when the child innocently informs you that an essential component was forgotten (every single book that needed to be consulted for example). The first hand grenade is launched when the child decided to read at the pace of 3 words per minute and you are wondering whether you actually turned the oven or not and if it is too late to order pizza for dinner. The rocket launcher makes an appearance when the child declares that their neck/eye/teeth/skin hurts and they could not possibly keep on studying having actually spent less than 12 minutes at their desk/flor/dangling from the ceiling. An all-out war is usually the result of the child needing to drink water, go the bathroom, pet the imaginary pet one more time before finishing the last sentence in the first paragraph of the 15 page book they must read for the following day.
School started two weeks ago – the battlefield has been drawn and the war is raging on.
How do we stop this cycle? How do we sign a peace treaty with our children and end the war?
Here is my peace-plan:
- Establish a routine
- Commit to the routine
- Practice patience
- Draw strength from the Bible
- Take frequent breaks
- Give multiple hugs; offer words of praise and encouragement
Establish a routine:
Children thrive on routine. It provides a sense of security and continuity. It provides a “beginning” and an “end” and sets clear expectations of what will follow. After school, the child will benefit from a break before delving again into studying. Every child is different but setting a defined start time to homework works to eliminate the constant negotiations.
Commit to the routine:
There will be days when the routine is thwarted (a work meeting that extended past its duration, unexpected traffic or any kind of emergency). Barring such events and any natural disaster, commit to the homework schedule and try to eliminate any unnecessary activities during the school week.
Practice the virtue of Patience:
My sister (a phenomenal high- school teacher) taught me this trick: pretend you are doing homework with someone else’s child. Would you snap as easily if you were studying with your neighbor’s kids? No? Then pretend, for the duration of the homework session, that this child is not your own and practice deep breathing.
Draw strength from the Bible:
This following verse is my personal mantra:
“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:21
Take frequent breaks:
Take intervals between studying sessions. After 20 minutes or so, ask the child to stretch their legs, jump up and down, play a short game or talk about what happened during the school day. This will help ease any tensions and will give everyone a breather.
Give multiple hugs; offer words of praise and encouragement:
This is the secret “weapon” in the homework battle. Encourage your child throughout the study session, make this time an occasion to bond and draw closer, praise the child for the correct answer, for their efforts, for any small improvement you notice and give as many hugs as you can.
Have a blessed school year!