Posted by: coachingparents | October 25, 2008

Homework, Tweens and Boundaries


By Tara Paterson

What I have noticed the most as a parent of a new middle schooler is the increase in responsibility children this age are faced with.  It’s certainly not unrealistic to expect 11 and 12 year olds to manage their responsibilities, but what happens when there is a breakdown in communication and what kinds of boundaries should be put in place to ensure children are developing the skills they need to become independent learners?

Each day the first thing I ask my son as he walks through the door (aside from “how was your day?”) is whether he has homework.  Often he will say “yes, but it’s really easy.”  He has always been a child who handles his responsibilities so I have never had to come down on him about his school work; until now.  This day I received a phone call from his math teacher.  She assured me he is doing well with his quizzes and tests, but has missed turning in the last two homework assignments. Hmmm, I thought to myself.  So here I have made sure to ask him about his homework each day and he has confidently assured me he is doing it only to find out the contrary.  His teacher educated me to the fact that they will have math homework everyday and that he should not be doing it in resource (our version of a study hall).  His teacher also enlightened me to how he verbally calculated what his grade would be having received a few 100’s on some tests and quizzes combined with 0’s on some homework assignments.  I laughed as I thought about our conversation when he got home and how poised he is at negotiating his position.  I hung up the phone and immediately went through the boundaries that are about to be put into place with my husband.  We’ve made it clear to our son that should his grades fall behind because he is rushing through the work or being distracted by his new found freedom, firmer boundaries would be enforced.

I was on the phone when he first arrived home from school and to my surprise, when I came down the stairs for our “talk,” he was diligently doing his homework.  Before I could even spit out the words “guess who I talked to today.” he responded with “I know, I know.”  I just stopped in my tracks, because on his own, he knew he had to take responsibility for his actions.  I offered him two options for how this would play out.  He would either have to come in directly after school and work on his homework not to leave the house until we had gone over it together or he would not be allowed to go outside to play after dinner nor would there be any cell phone use until his homework was completed and checked by a parent each evening.  Pleasantly, there was no argument and his homework was done completely and correctly.  I also made sure to mention homework would not be done in resource either; that received an exasperated sigh. busted! We’ll see how the rest of this marking period goes to see whether more changes need to be made.

As a parent, the most important thing we can do is-

  • Communicate so we know what’s going on with our kids in school
  • Set firm boundaries, but be willing to be flexible if they demonstrate self-control and responsibility for their actions
  • Check back in to make sure things are going along as you agreed upon.  Don’t assume one conversation will ensure your child is adhering to the boundaries; let them know you are paying attention.  Kids need to know their parents care and are willing to commit to the standards they put in place.

These are lifelong skills that will prepare kids for their journey to high school and later college too.

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