My 13-year-old doesn't do his homework

Posted by David Beard, Globe Staff  December 31, 2008 06:41 AM

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The following question came Monday during a readers' Q&A with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz on Boston.com:

Question: We’re having homework problems with our 13-year-old son. He is very bright, and gets terrific grades on exams, but continually gets poor grades on his report card because he does not turn in homework.

Even assignments as simple as getting a test signed. During 6th and 7th grade we checked his teachers’ web sites for assignments and made sure that they were done. In 8th grade, the teachers expect that he should be writing down hw assignments in his agenda (they provide one every year), but unfortunately he refuses to do so.

Consequently we are unaware of what homework is due and it is frequently not done. For the most part, I agree with his teachers, he should be taking care of this himself, but the reality is that he is likely to fail unless I can personally ensure that it gets completed.

Neither positive nor negative consequences have any effect. Other than that, he is a wonderful boy. Are we enabling by checking homework? Should we allow him to fail?
SUSAN


Barbara Meltz
: Susan, In general, I believe homework is the job of the child, but I also believe it is the job of the parent to set standards. It sounds like somewhere along the line, you may have been overly involved and that turned him off. It also sounds like you already have allowed him to fail and he doesn't care.

Is it possible his not caring reflects on an overly-intrusive parent/child relationship? One way or the other, you need to figure out why he doesn't care. Have you asked him that question? What about these questions: Is the work too easy? Too hard? Is it possible there's a learning issue that you don't know about, or a problem with his ability to organize himself? Maybe executive function issues? (I don'[t mean to pathologize, but....)

What grades would he like to see on his report card? What comments would he like to get from teachers? What kind of help would he like from you? What kind of help doesn't he want from you? Ideally, you need to find a way to help him re-set his standards.

That may mean getting help from teachers, or from an educational consultant. Ultimately, parents need to be a homework coach, not a homwork cop, and thaht's especially true at this age. But it sounds like you've got some issues to sort out before you can get to that point.

Agree with Barbara here? Have some advice of your own? Let us know in our comments section -- and check out these previous Child Caring posts:

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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54 comments so far...
  1. Your son likely doesn't see the value in homework because his test grades are stil good. This will likely change in high school, but in the meantime does your son realize that he is likely shutting himself out of high school honors classes because of his lack of follow-through? What is he doing with his time in the evenings? If assignments aren't written down and you find out later that there were indeed assignments then I would cut off TV/computer access for substantial time periods. Another idea is that there is an hour and half of "academic time" each evening where he is expected to read or review past work regardless of whether there is homework that night or not.

    Posted by PatriciaD December 31, 08 08:45 AM
  1. I was like that too from about 4th through 8th grade. I was a good kid, never had any attitude problems, but I just never bothered with homework, even pathetically simple homework, and it really didn't matter how much trouble I got in with teachers or my parents. I still don't know exactly what caused it, but I do remember feeling frustrated by how boring and tedious most of the assignments seemed - so perhaps there is something to the theory that kids will slack off if they're not properly challenged. Anyway, it's very possible this will just pass on its own, as it did with me. At the same time, however, I do think you'll be helping your child immensely by setting aside a certain amount of time each day for homework and teaching him good studying skills. Poor studying and homework skills take time to develop, and you really don't want him to have to learn them from scratch once he gets to college and realizes he cannot simply coast by any longer as he could in middle and high school.

    Posted by Srae December 31, 08 09:14 AM
  1. I remember right around that age, I stopped doing my homework. I thought to myself...if I sit in the class and understand whats going on, then I don't need to do my homework. I think your son is smart enough to still follow along with class, you should let him know that his grades are his responsibility. If he wants to get good grades, then he will figure out how to get them. The more you push him, the more way he'll act out. I'd say you should have one serious heart to heart about what you want for him in his life. Ask him what he wants for his life. If he's serious about what he wants and it involves higher education, then he'll figure out that he needs to do whats expected of him.

    Posted by Sabrina December 31, 08 09:24 AM
  1. "He is very bright, and gets terrific grades on exams"
    What is the point of doing homework if you already know enough to get "terrific grades on exams?" Maybe he just doesn't like doing mindless busy work . The kind of work that servers no purpose than to prove that he's a good little hoop jumper.
    You need to acknowlege that it is indeed stupid and pointless, in his case, but it needs to get done. You need to make sure that the teachers send you his assignments and before he goes to bed you need to confirm that it is all done.

    Posted by jmo December 31, 08 09:57 AM
  1. I've known kids like this. They are too bright for their current school environment. They look upon the homework as a waste of time.

    I think the educator's should know by now that one way of learning does not fit all types, especially the talented. We seem to spend a lot of money on people with disabilities, but tend not to spend any on those with great abilities.

    Hate to say this, but with the economic climate we have now, we should be putting our money where we will get the greatest return. How abou diverting some of the "special needs" money to those who can really use it for the greater good.

    Posted by Al December 31, 08 09:58 AM
  1. A kid who is bright and gets great grades on the tests, but doesn't do homework, sounds to me like a kid who is bored because the classes are too easy. If he can learn without doing the homework (as he apparently is), he may be making a rational decision that there are better things to do with his time. Unfortunately he may not be factoring in the long-term implication -- that people are more likely to believe you can handle tough work and give you the opportunity to do it ifyour grades and work habits are good. (And, indeed, that you will not develop good habits this way, and someday that will come back to haunt you.)

    If that's what's going on, I'm sympathetic to both sides. I did my homework at that age because I cared tremendously about my future opportunities, but I can't say it was ever very worthwhile otherwise.

    Posted by Andromeda December 31, 08 10:02 AM
  1. (re: 13 yo doesn't do homework) It sounds to me like the child is bored. Since he is smart and gets good grades on tests, he is obviously able to learn the material without doing the homework. The fault might be the school's for not challenging the child appropriately.

    Posted by Chuck Connell December 31, 08 10:57 AM
  1. The teacher should be giving the child detention if he is not doing homework & perhaps he will learn that way. The parent should also punish him for not doing his homework. NO TV, GAMES, COMPUTER. It sounds like he is just lazy. Especially since he gets good grades otherwise

    Posted by me December 31, 08 11:27 AM
  1. I had the same issues with my son. It became a real problem in 6th grade. It was recommended by the teachers to have him tested. He has add and now takes a low dose of meds. They help him in school somewhat but he refuses to take them. He thinks he doesn't need any help. He also still refuses to do homework. My son doesn't care either and is a freshman and starting to slip where he is having trouble catching up. In grade and middle school a student can get by but in high school you need to do the homework and even if you miss 1 or 2 assignments it can really bring the grade down. He is in a special class for students with organizational and students who have trouble with school work.

    See if f

    Posted by Chris December 31, 08 11:40 AM
  1. My 12 year old daughter gets more homework than I ever had in High school. The schools really have ramped up the amount of homework required by kids today. My parent's never even cared about my homework and my wife and I have to constantly check to make sure the homework is done. I got a call from a math teacher complaining about a missed assignment. I told her that she was barking up the wrong tree by calling me. She should talk to my wife. My wife is the scholar in the family and I have never liked homework. In my 44 years I have still not learned to like homework so don't think calling me on my cell phone to complain about my daughter missing an assignment expecting to have a sympathetic ear on the other end. If you have to give her a detention then give it to her. Just don't call me complaining about it. I also told her that the amount of work they give out is way way too much and how do they expect these kids to have a life beyond school with 2 or more hours of homework a day. With that much homework the kids are bound to miss an assignment or two.

    Posted by Paul Bahre December 31, 08 11:54 AM
  1. Why on earth does this child need to do homework if he is bright, happy, engaged, learning the material, and doing well on tests?!

    I'm betting (in response to #7) that this is the kind of kid that spends his free time drawing, writing, building robots, programming computers, or doing other things to stimulate his mind, not sitting on the couch and watching TV.

    You need to speak with his teacher and demand that he be assigned work that actually challenges him. Either that, or allow him to submit evidence of other kinds of creative/intellectual work in lieu of the assigned busywork. Otherwise the "lesson" being taught is that the grown-ups in his life don't care enough about him to allow him to use his time productively.

    Posted by Eric December 31, 08 12:27 PM
  1. I was very surprised by the response from Barbara Meltz, which suggested that somehow the parents made mistakes in trying to get their kid to do his work. I can't believe she is not familiar with children who just don't feel that they need to conform to the school's agenda. The fact that the parents had success in getting their kid to do his homework in earlier grades is a good thing, and it means that at least their child responds to some sort of pressure. Some kids don't.
    If staying on top of a child's homework requirements works, why not do it. I have read stories of many successful people who credited their success to their parent's persistance or insistance.Not everybody left to their own devices as a child becomes successful. And there are people who are very successful because they were pushed to work hard.

    Posted by Debbie R. December 31, 08 12:35 PM
  1. This doesn't happen with all children, but the exceptionally bright ones have this problem. I have three boys: and only the last one has this "homework" issue. If he knows the work, and he gets excellent grades on the tests - why make him do the busy work? I asked to have him held back - the teachers refused. I have rewarded him - no result.

    I am at a complete loss, too. If he homework is redundant can't we get an advanced class or some other activity that will keep his interest?

    Posted by Alice Werner December 31, 08 12:41 PM
  1. Teachers these days are passing off way too much of their responsibility to the working parents outside of school hours. I hated home work, & If it did not get done in spare time at school, then it didn't get done. I was also someone who excelled in tests & exams so I did not fail. I had better things to do after school, whether it be pickup games with friends, hanging out, or working. Kids that don't do well enough on Tests & exams, need to spend more time studying or getting extra instruction, whether it be in homework or staying after, emphasis on staying after. most of the teachers in my community do not want to stay after regular school hours to help the children in need because they are whining about their paltry salaries, (40k -95k based on tenure from 2007 fiscal year annual review). I wish good Teachers could make the 6 figure pay they so desperately seek for their 9 month jobs but only a handful of Massachusetts communities can afford to pay those kind of salaries, & I haven't heard of any of them ponying up, so don't be trying to bust community finances when many of the tenured teachers have no business teaching our children & fall back on the MTA for undeserved security. I have always been pro union, however the MTA has done a great disservice to the children & communities of this state. They need to consider some serious relinquishing of power & accept proper oversight in order to weed out many of these teachers that have no business heading up a classroom full of young minds. They have been as disgraceful as has the execs for Wall St & the Big 3, & it's time to take a big step back. This would go a long way toward spending money & resources properly to provide quality & advanced education for the many brilliant students that are left behind due to boredom..I would love to see our community stand up & force the teacher's union of our community to strike when the next strike contract expires. Thousands of working parents in our community have lost their jobs , hundreds have lost their houses, the values of our houses have fallen by 20-30% over the past 2 years, & yet our property taxes are skyrocketing in order to cover education costs. Enough is enough, & I know for a fact that this same scenario is going on in 99% of the communities in this state. If I hadn't lost the equity in my home I would sell out & get the hell out of this state as thousands are doing already. It's despicable what is going on in this state financially considering the 100s of billions that are poured into the coffers every year.

    Posted by Dave Z December 31, 08 01:03 PM
  1. Frankly, as a society, we put WAY too much value in what and how a thirteen-year-old thinks and feels. Who cares if he's too bored or under-challenged to be interested in doing his homework? It's a requirement and needs to be done. It's a life-lesson. Sure, we'd all love to have a job that is constantly challenging, but, reality is not like that. Boring, meaningless tasks are a part of life and often contribute to a larger, greater collective good. Even if we don't like what we're doing, we still need to do it. Homework is like that. Do it or fail. Any kid who aces tests without trying but doesn't do his homework is arrogant and won't truly understand where his talents and hard work will get him in life until a teacher has
    the courage to fail him. The REAL problem is that too many parents don't understand this idea and believe their child deserves an "A" simply because they tried. Our country's education system is so messed up because so many people believe they are entitled to "the best," which means a high grade. The truth is that nobody deserves squat --money, a good job, a good grade-- without working for it, despite whether they like the work or not.

    Posted by Mr. B December 31, 08 01:41 PM
  1. Why do we evaluate these issues too much. Not doing his homework is not an instantaneous thing. It has progression to it. You have to recognize the signs. Stay involved.
    Hes not the boss, you are.
    Soved!

    Posted by typical_white_person December 31, 08 01:51 PM
  1. Jmo: Why should the teacher send the parents the assignment? The child at age 13 certainly is capable of being responsible for their own actions. As far as the student being "bored" or not challenged, I really doubt that offering more difficult material will increase homework completion. This lack of work ethic is becoming commonplace in our children and is difficult to overcome. Obviously, some homework can seem tedious or unneccesary, but most (if not all) is assigned for a reason... By age 13, a teacher only sees the student for 45-60 minutes per class in most cases... Follow up work can help with mastery.

    Posted by HubbDave1 December 31, 08 02:05 PM
  1. Yup, count me on the list of those who aced the exams, but couldn't do homework. There is definitely no single, right answer for this issue. There can be a wide array of contributing factors. For me, it was purely the boredom factor. From a young age, I basically refused to carry my work home with me! (Seems a little advanced now, looking back at it...) But apparently I subconsciously needed to set boundaries for the school. Anything necessary was already covered in class -- why the extra busy work?? Some kids may need the repetition, some kids don't. This is a possible mindframe worth exploring, especially if your child is on the "bright" side...

    Posted by DJMcG December 31, 08 02:42 PM
  1. This is a great conversation as I am struggling with a 13 year old son who does not do his homework despite interventions from us (his parents) as well as the school. He has also "borrowed" friends work to turn in as assignments. He does suffer from ADD and he has agreed to start taking a light dosage of medicine after school to help which his school work. I like the idea of mandatory study time every night. Thanks for the great advice. We are going to try this when he returns to school next week. He also does well with test grades. However, missing assignments are brining down his grades

    Posted by redcardinal December 31, 08 02:52 PM
  1. I'm sure it's boring to him, but he still needs to do it. While a child may know the material, there is still a work ethic that needs to be preached, and that work ethic is simply not there. I think it's that he's lazy more than he's bored. If it's so easy for him to do, then it should be a breeze.

    Repetition often strengthens your skills, so there is some value in doing homework that may seem easy. If he doesn't want to do it and he wants to fail, well that's his choice, I suppose.

    If he was truly smart, he would realize that the ramifications of getting poor grades are.

    Posted by Mikey "Insane" Monkeypants December 31, 08 03:09 PM
  1. I completely agree with Paul B., the amount of homework given out is crazy. I too never did homework at the elementary/high school level and avoided most in college. I am not sure what is behind the drive to give lots of school homework. Two to four hours a day of extra work seems like a lot and I have kids all ages and that’s what they get after 6th grade. So they miss out on playing in the woods or non-organized after school activities. I am not sure all this extra work enriches children’s lives so much as allows adults to keep kids busy.

    As for the issue we are commenting about above, try a daily log with all assignments and teachers initialing each day and the parent doing the same. If the child won’t get the log signed and do the work, take away things until something motivates him to comply. Obviously a bright kid, the parents and teachers involved just need to be smarter than he is and make it clear that this is important to them and why it should be to him (if there really is a good reason, which I doubt). I am not a teachers best friend as a parent but I don’t obstruct either and it would seem a guidance counselor could step in and assist all parties.

    Posted by bhp December 31, 08 04:16 PM
  1. Regarding Al's comment that funds could be diverted from special needs to a greater good: you couldn't be more wrong and obviously don't understand the depth of the issue or what you are talking about. Kids struggling in school due to various learning disabilities used to be considered stupid back when I was a kid. These kids were allowed to fall off the radar screen while the schools focused on the stars. Do you know what happened to those kids? Their self-esteem plummeted and they became trouble makers and law breakers. The cost to our society of not helping every child reach his or her potential is staggering. You may not see it in school-related costs, but you will see it in other areas of our society; the criminal justice system, the mental health system, etc. We need to teach these kidshow to bring out the best in themselves and not ignore them. You have no idea he struggles they face each day. Please blog about a topic you actually know about.

    Posted by Sandy December 31, 08 04:30 PM
  1. I agree that there is too much homework. It is assigned for the sake of giving out an assignment. Every single school has a written homework policy that requires a certain amount of time - i.e 1 1/2 hours of homework - be spent on homework. Teachers are required to assign it whether there is any point at all. Parents must go along with it or be accused of neglect. The schools are invading the homelife of these kids who should be persuing other interests, like getting some exercise and fresh air.

    Posted by Anne December 31, 08 05:39 PM
  1. To Sandy: yes, there are some very bright and well-meaning students who have legitimate learning disabilities. But there is also such a thing as stupid kids and nasty, bratty kids, too! Not everyone is born with the same level of intelligence. Similarly, not every instance of misbehavior and laziness is some kind of "syndrome" or disability. It's a sad reflection on society that we increasingly eschew demanding excellence so as to not "hurt" someone's "self-esteem." But you're not doing anyone any favors by enabling bad conduct by trying to stick the label of "disability" on it. you worry about schools catering to the "stars" but don't you realize how pathetically low learning standards are in today's schools?


    Posted by tb December 31, 08 05:58 PM
  1. This story sounds similar to how I was as a child/ teenager. I consistently earned excellent grades but could care less about the homework. I had a very stimulating upbringing. We never went on cruises or to beach vacations, instead we went to museums, historical sites, Wash DC, London, Paris and others. In school I would often read ahead, learn math when the teacher would still be teaching the basics to other students and even skip what I thought were worthless classes (they were). Be proud, it sounds like your son is years ahead of his peers, but be cautious too. He could soon have that careless attitude at the beginning of semesters and begin to fall behind. Watch out, make sure he is keeping up with the topics but if he is bored, don't make him do useless homework. I recommend speaking with his teachers. For me, his never went away, however I was still able to earn a doctorate degree in only 6-years and are now very well employed and a work-a-holic. I would also recommend having him tested for having a photographic memory as that could very well be the case.

    Posted by J-W December 31, 08 06:33 PM
  1. Not doing homework - sounds so familiar! That executive function piece can make such a difference. Wish we had figured that out years ago. Our very bright high testing son struggled in High School. Even a so called "excellent" school system wasn't helpful. He wasn't a problem child, everyone liked him, why was he having trouble? He hated the social scene, the busy work and the teachers that just went through the motions. It just didn't come as easy as it seemed to for his peers and that was totally demoralizing. Professionals outside of the school system said it would all be better when he was out, and that seems to be the case. Listen to what he is saying and seek counsel outside the school system.

    Posted by caf December 31, 08 06:50 PM
  1. Susan. You should make it quite simple. You ask him if there is any kind of reason he has to tell you why he keeps refusing to do homework. I'm betting he just doesn't want to. That's when you tell him he is punished (in some way, whatever will get his attention) until the next report card comes back showing that he is doing his job. There unfortunately may not be any kind of puzzle to solve here. Just the need to be a parent and do the dirty work of parenting.....putting up with a miserable kid so that in the long run he learns responsibility.

    Posted by Mother of ten December 31, 08 07:30 PM
  1. "Neither positive nor negative consequences have any effect"

    Sounds to me like a spineless parent who cannot be consistent and then claims that consequences do not work. No, they do not work if you cannot stay on course, and based on the submission you cannot.

    People (including 13-year old ones) behave rationally, and you are obviously providing incorrect incentives or failing to provide the right disincentives that would shape the kid's behaviour - stand up and take responsibility instead of whining to the world.

    Also, your child will do well on exams up to the point where just intelligence will not carry him, and then will start failing due to his lack of study habits / discipline. When it happens, do not forget to post another update to this board...

    Posted by HBX December 31, 08 10:09 PM
  1. Your child doesn't get an option of not doing homework. That is disrespectful of his true needs. How's this. Sit down with him for an hour every day at the same table and that's his time to do his homework. Read a book or do other work while he does his homework, and do not intrude. The goal here is just to support him and provide structure for learning how to keep a work schedule.

    Don't help him with it, dont' ask about it, and don't intrude, during this time. just say that there is going to be a new regime and the time between x and y is for you to do your homework. I will sit at this table with you and you will do it.

    When the time is up, I will get up and if you are done you can get up. If there is more, you wll take a 5 minute break (get a snack, walk around--no more than 5 minutes) and start another session. In the second period, I will not sit at the same table.


    WAfter a month After a month of success of you working on your homeworrk regularly, I may decide to not sit at the table with you but you will stick to the same schedule.


    Very likely, the kid is so smart he has seen no need for disciplined work up to now and very soon he will fall into a pit as the harder work of high school hits him He is under-prepared by not having developed discipline.. And as a parent you have not provided the structure for it. this sounds like me when I was 13. I would have loved to have parentalsupport for this when I was a kid. My guess is once he gets a taste for what it is like to be on top of things and has success in sticking to a shchedule, it will be addictive because he will find power he didn't know he had.

    Posted by steve December 31, 08 10:23 PM
  1. Wow Susan, I could have written your question word for word! I was so stressed I was getting hives AND when my son did his homework he often lost it at school. We went to a therapist (a doctorate of Ed who was a former guidance counselor). He told me to back off and let him fail, that it was his responsibility and he needed to learn the consequences. That advice helped a lot, my hives are gone. He was also diagnosed with ADD (no hyperactivity) so I VERY reluctantly put him on Concerta-I must say it made a big difference, He's bright enough to assess himself and he's happy with the change. He is maturing emotionally and developing his own coping strategies as well. You're involved and caring, that's what counts.

    Posted by mcase December 31, 08 10:41 PM
  1. I guess I'm happy to see it's not just 'us'. I have 2 different scenario's. I've got one bright bulb who thinks homework is a waste of his time. Then I've got one diagnosed ADD Inattentive with Executive Function issues who was an excellent student until about 6th grade. He's the one I'm most worried about. Got him back on track and he was fine until last term of 7th grade. Then he decided he wasn't going to participate at all in 8th grade, but through ALOT of persistence on my part and ALOT of communication with the school on my part, on a daily basis with 5 different teachers. It was the most painful year of my life and I swore I wouldn't live through another year like that. The school had a policy whereby if a student didn't turn in their work, they were sent to an after-school program where they would complete the missing work, either homework or classwork. The teachers weren't sending him. So here's an established process that would have given me an indication of a problem if he was being sent to this thing everyday and they weren't using it. We managed to get him into high school. I figured new school, new attitude and although first term wasn't all that bad, here we are at second term and I'm having flashbacks of 8th grade. I told him that we've tried it his way and it's obviously not working. That I'm about to e-mail all of his teachers to get the homework on a daily basis because I can't trust him and then I'm going to ask him to show it to me when he says it's finished. If he prefers that I not do this, then he needs to tell me his adjusted plan of action. He tells me that the work isn't too difficult, that he doesn't need to stay for extra help (he won't unless the teachers say he needs to, which they're not) and I'm at a point where I'm not worrying about getting him to college any longer (which had always been just assumed), I'm worrying about getting him to senior year.

    Posted by marchingmom December 31, 08 11:23 PM
  1. It doesn't matter what he does. The American educational system is so inferior to those in China, Japan, and Korea that even if your son gets strait As, your son won't know half as much as a Chinese kid 4 years younger than him. Twenty years from now your son will be working for the Chinese, Japanese, or Koreans mopping floors . . . just like all Americans will be. So don't worry, because it just doesn't matter.

    If you are genuinely concerned about your child's future then get out of America. The nation has dumbed down to a point where it is no longer internationally competitive.

    Posted by Ralston January 1, 09 02:21 AM
  1. Have you ever considered why teachers give homework? Generally, it is not "busy work" as so many suggest. Oftentimes there is opportunity to show depth of understanding and creativity in thinking that cannot be shown on a test. By not doing your homework, students are missing opportunities to explore different ways of thinking. Written work, the kind not found on tests, usually require a greater understanding of a topic. So, before you say "why do homework if he does so well on tests" think about the whole picture. "Tests" per say, only test one type knowledge.

    Posted by DebL January 1, 09 09:53 AM
  1. I never did my daily homework either. Like your son, I did well enough on tests and large projects like reports to skate by, unless a teacher decided to make homework a significant proportion of the grade. My parents would get upset on report-card day or at parent-teacher conferences, but ultimately shrugged and told me that doing homework was my decision, but that bad grades would limit my options for later in life.

    Things worked out for me. I always did well on large projects and found that as one gets older, life is more about doing large, independent projects, and my grades improved at a corresponding rate. I ended up going to a college that saw potential, avoided homework classes in favor of projects, and ended up getting a Ph.D. from one of the better universities.

    However, I can look back and understand that my life on a day-to-day basis would have been a lot better back then if I had just put in an hour a day slamming out the homework. If I could go back now I’d tell my younger self to think of all the times that he felt awkward during those moments of turning in homework, or waiting for the teacher to return assignments, and the feeling of dread of receiving bad grades and to realize that it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, homework is a stupid, dreary waste of time, but just try it for a week and see if things feel better. I’d tell myself that, believe it or not, by doing homework along with everyone else I’d feel more engaged with what was going on in class and hate it less. And, to be blunt, anything that makes school more tolerable has got to be a strategy worth checking out, right?

    Posted by Dan January 1, 09 11:00 AM
  1. As a parent, teacher and consultant, I talk to parents about this all of the time. I understand that what I am about to tell you is NOT easy, but it is effective. Do not make your son do his homework. Tell him that he is getting older, you are no longer going to push him to do his work, and whether or not he does his homework is his choice. After he picks his jaw off the floor, he will probably want to know "what will happen." Explain that he will have to suffer the consequences at school. (You might want to look into what will happen.) Of course, you can have personal/family consequences for grades. For example, if your son gets anything below a 'C', he can't have... whatever it is. I understand that this is not easy, but you really don't want to spend the next 5 years fighting with your son; and the fact is, you can't make anyone care. Either he does or he doesn't. Good luck! And, don't give up.
    Angela Norton Tyler
    www.family-homework-answers.com

    Posted by Angela Norton Tyler January 1, 09 12:47 PM
  1. I agree with previous posters. The reason I stopped doing homework at that age was because it wasn't challenging enough. I would suggest confirming this with the child and then approaching his teachers. Perhaps he's eligible to be in a class for gifted students or should skip a grade.
    It is unfortunate that many teachers factor homework to be 20% of a student's grade. It results in the floundering of those students who feel insulted by the amount of busy-work being sent home with them. Why grade a student poorly if they are contributing to class, get execellent test scores, but simply slack on homework?

    Posted by Noel January 1, 09 02:11 PM
  1. I suggest Alfie Kohn's amazing book, The Homework Myth. This is not a homework assignment, it is optional.

    Posted by Stephen Krashen January 1, 09 02:17 PM
  1. Unfortunately for you, teenagers don't really think about consequences. It's not their fault. Their brains just are wired differently. (Sometime in their early 20s, the brain structure changes and thinking about consequences becomes natural.) When he says he doesn't care about his grades, he means he's not aware of any immediate impact and that's the only one that matters. You'll need to help him process longer-term consequences.

    As a high school teacher, I can tell you that personal organization and keeping track of homework in high school is a big jump up from 8th grade, and most 9th grade students feel overwhelmed by the change, even if they were decent students in 8th grade. The ones who already established bad habits in 8th grade tend to continue them through 9th, and flunk. It's hard to bounce back from the double whammy of not knowing the material and not having the study skills and habits.

    I recommend talking with your child's teachers to see if they have any insight about why he is not doing his homework. Find out from them what sorts of assignments they give, and what they expect students to gain from doing those assignments.

    This is a few years off, but your son might need to take a year off and work before starting college to put school work into perspective and make him a better student.

    Posted by grain_of_salt January 2, 09 11:25 AM
  1. With my above comment suggesting that the parent sit down with the kid for one hour a day and support a regular homework schedule by being there, I wasn't saying there aren't issues with homework (alfie Kohn, etc). What I am saying is there is a larger issue of helping your child confront the boredom and tedium of doing tasks that aren't "fun" on the surface. But even a stupid homework assignment has some interest in it, if it's only the interest in a job well done, which is worth more than anything the curriculum could provide.


    I am reminded of William Zinnser's story about his first job as a writer at a newspaper, when his editor sat him down and told him the true secret to being a writer: "Apply ass to chair."

    Once that first five minutes of getting underway is gone, the next two hours is nothing. That is what I am suggesting that this parent teach her kid, by enforcing a family rule that the time between x and y is for homework and taking it seriously and doing it consistently.

    Later on when he gets the bug, if he wants to "fight the system" and petition for more independence by submitting his journal-published articles about classical dynamics and saying that he should be exempt from homework, I would support that. Or if he is demonstrates mastery of something and wants to study another subject, great. But my experience (learned the hard way in my own life as a kid, student, and adult) is that unless you dot your is's and cross your t's, you will both lose self-esteem by not completing your homework, and lose esteem in other's eyes. The way to achieve is to first meet, then surpass others' expectations, and after that begin to write your own expectations. At that point everyone has to step back and follow YOU instead of you having to do what they say.

    Not enforcing this kind of work discipline is neglectful of children's true developmental needs. Even brilliant people need this kind of support when growing up.

    Also, stepping back and saying "youre responsible for your own work" and will suffer your own consequences may not work. If you are going to give this a go, realize it is in some sense a high-risk intervention: last resort--because you are a hypocrite if you back down from it, and and your child may not yet have the basics in place to even know how to be responsible and discipline himself yet. Monkey-see, monkey-do, seeing the example that your parent is willing to sit with you and enforce your work time at first, will get across the fact that doing your work is normative behavior. He probably doesn't get a chance to see it otherwise because in the schools you just sit and listen in class. One other way this could work is if he got a homework buddy. Having a peer group where it is normal to be productive is very helpful to kids, and they can support one another. But a parent has to be involved as well.

    Posted by steve January 2, 09 01:26 PM
  1. If your kid thinks homework is a waste of time (because he's smart), I would say he or she is probably right. The key here is to recognize and agree with their perception that the work is below him or her, along with empasizing that it's important to do it to a high level. What you can see as an adult is the value of good work habits. A kid usually can't see that value. Point it out to him/her and make homework time a part of your family schedule. It feels good to know your family is behind you and that you have a role in it by, for example, doing homework between 5 and 6 every day.

    Who knows, they may actually learn something when they start working on that "dumb" assignment and be grateful for it. It may not be what the lesson was intended to teach, but they *will* learn something by working.

    Posted by steve January 2, 09 01:32 PM
  1. If you want your kid to work at McDonald's or go to an Ivy League school make sure they can handle busywork, otherwise, find what they love to do and support that and they'll be successful. We made the mistake of taking away my son's life for a year (no TV, friends, video games for a year until his homework was done). We sat over his shoulder every night as he did his homework and guess what? He wouldn't turn it in! It was his only way to protest! We realized it was like an anorexic refusing to eat it was his only mode of control at that age and he knew it drove the adults around him crazy! This year he finally has a challenge with 3 APs and he's getting A's (not that APs are necessarily the answer but you need something more challenging than the regular High School fare). I think kids should be able to test out of classes that are a waste of time for them. I think all you can do is give them information that might help them in the future but if it's not a learning disability then let them make their own choices. My younger kids are good doobies and do just about everything that's assigned to them and a while ago I would have wished my oldest was like that but instead I wish my younger ones were more discerning about whether the homework is worth their while or not (sometimes I think I need to take blood pressure medicine when I see how stupid their homework is). Just be supportive of any effort he makes inside school or out.

    Posted by Parent in one of those Wtowns January 2, 09 01:37 PM
  1. I've had a similar problem with my son (is it me or does this seem to be an overwhelmingly "male" issue??). Anyway, regardless of ability to do well on exams, my conversation with my son is "welcome to the real world". That statement used to irk me to no end when I was a kid, but I cannot resist using it on him now. There's lots of things that I don't like to do...get up at 5:30am to go to work tops the list, not to mention all the running around I do for my kids and their activities nights and weekends! Yet, I do them because it is my RESPONSIBILITY. It's never too early to teach a kid that term. Make sure there are real punisments attached to not following through as well as some benefits to provide incentive for improvement.

    Posted by beentheredonewiththat January 2, 09 08:54 PM
  1. I get so ticked off when parents whine and complain about homework. A child who doesn't do homework is not bored; he/she is LAZY and rules the household. Homework is rarely given as just "busy work" anymore by most teachers... it is either a review of that day's lesson or practice of concepts or preparatory for the next day's lesson. Most teachers stay after school LONG past "work hours" to give kids extra help. Most teachers go way above and beyond their paltry paycheck. Grow up, parents. Make your kid do the work. YOU'RE the boss. Parents are so scared that their kids won't like them today. It's disgusting. What happens when the kid goes to college and has to read a 400-page book or write three papers in a week? What happens when they (hopefully) get a job where every task isn't exciting and they (gasp!) might have to take work home?

    Posted by Marissa January 3, 09 01:01 PM
  1. Have you discussed honestly and openly with him the reason for doing homework? If you've been pretending that it is about learning, he'll know you are lying. After all, he is able to get excellent grades WITHOUT doing the homework.

    Maybe it is about building habits that will be necessary to succeed in high school? (That is an answer I sometimes give second-semester seniors who wonder why they should continue working.) Maybe it is about living up to societal expectations? There must be SOME good reason we require children to go through such a tedious exercise as completing homework problems on material they have already mastered.

    Posted by TF, Boston, MA January 3, 09 08:42 PM
  1. My daughter is in the 4th grade and we struggle with homework as well. She is the youngest in her class and in the top of her class academically. She used to do her homework, then never turned it in. That was last year. This year, she just doesn't do it. I asked her teacher if we could have a list of the homework she had to do for the week so that we could see how she enters it in her journal and then does it. Her teacher refused and instead put her on a reward system. So, we were told of the problem and then cut out of the solution. So be it.

    But, in the end, I've seen what the teachers give out and it is not a challenge. Some may provide work that challenges or that expands on what was leaned in the classroom. As a whole, that has not been our experience.

    The reality is that schools teach to the lowest common denominator. Homework is for that. Yes, it builds a level of responsibility. Yes, it teaches kids to take the good with the bad. However, homework is not the only way to learn that. I have to think that with so many kids not doing it and so many parents frustrated with the issue, we have a greater problem than just how parents are raising their kids. It may be partly that in some cases, but our schools are failing our kids in the long run. No Child Left Behind was built for inner city kids that couldn't graduate. We've dumbed down our schools even more and turned teachers into statisticians trying to bust the MCAS score.

    I also have friends that have taken their kids out of public and put them in private. To be honest, I think those kids would have excelled regardless of what school they are in. I've yet to see one that is truly "better" other than trust funds and deep connections with Ivy and T1 schools.

    So, let's get to the real issue of what I think parents have not been doing (I'll include myself). Getting more involved in changing our school system and relationships with teachers. Participate in curriculum discussions. Participate in ways to improve how are kids are taught. Stop leaving this up to politicians and PhDs. If we hated homework and feel schools failed us and we are upset with how they are failing our kids, get involved in more than the parent teacher conference. Demand more from our teachers and schools in a proactive manner.

    Posted by mich January 4, 09 12:51 PM
  1. I work at a learning center and this is a very common complaint from most of the parents that seek my help. The advice I give to most parents (the advice I am most thanked for giving) is twofold. First, a child should be taken on a college tour while they are in 8th grade - no later. The reasons being twofold as well. First, they need to realize that college is not just more of the same old torture "school" that they have been subjected to for the last 8+ years. This is especially helpful if an older sibling or relative is attending college and the child can spend an overnight visit with the relative. Second, they need to hear from someone other than mom and dad that in order to attend this university/college, their GPA needs to be x, y or z. The GPA should be translated into A, A-, B+, B, B- etc. They can check with their guidance counselor to obtain their current GPA.

    The second thing I recommend is that the child be placed on a behavior modification plan. The plan being this. There are certain expectations of all of us, and as a student, you will need to complete homework nightly and perform well on tests (barring remedial issues that should be screened for prior to entering into this agreement.) The agreement is - the student will be afforded freedoms on a weekly basis. The student is in control and has the power to obtain these freedoms or forgo them. All access to fun and sports is determined by weekly reports. An index card is presented to all teachers on the Friday of every week. This index card has 4 columns. 1st column lists the students subjects listed on the report card. 2nd column has the heading of "all homework turned in". 3rd column has the heading of "all scores 80 or above" - NOTE THIS SHOULD BE INCLUDED ONLY IF THE CHILD IS CAPABLE OF THIS - TESTING WILL HELP YOU KNOW IF THIS IS POSSIBLE. Last column is for the teachers signature. Teachers will place either a check or minus sign depicting compliance or non-compliance. I do not recommend + and - as a child can doctor the document to change the - to a +. This weekly report will determine whether a child has access to computers, friends, phone, electronics, sports, fun, after school activities, and more. Checks on all items earns a student freedoms, a minus on any one items means they forgo ALL freedoms and privileges.

    Be brave parents - come down hard. The child is making the choice - you are not the evil one - they are deciding whether they want to hang with friends or not. Place all onus on them - it is where it belongs.

    I have experience with more than 500 students and parents and I have never seen this fail - IF THE PARENTS ARE BRAVE AND CONSISTENT AND DO NOT WAIVER IN THEIR CONVICTION THAT THE CHILD CHOOSES THE CONSEQUENCE.

    I know you can do this - good luck and stand firm.

    Posted by Kelly Wilson January 4, 09 07:06 PM
  1. I am having the same issue with my 12 almost 13 year old. It seems with him that he has good intentions but gets bogged down. He like the boy in the post gets pretty good test scores and brings his report card grade down by incomplete or not handed in assignments. I wish I knew the answer, I don't. I can see that sometimes like Barbara says I have gotten to involved, but in elementary school it was expected that a parent be involved. Now all of sudden he's in 7th grade, JR. High in our district and I'm not suppose to help at all. I should say he doesn't do to badly with the regular assignments. It's the endless amount of "projects" that cost money and time that get to him, and yes me. I am not a person that condons busy work and that is what to much of his homework is. But I wouldn't tell him that.

    Posted by mammabee February 17, 09 09:10 PM
  1. To everyone who said kids are bored and not challenged, THANK YOU! I HATE DOING MY HOMEWORK! I have a low math teacher and she talks to me like a baby! Nothing that my parents do helps! They give me money, Gadgets, etc. And I still don't do it. I want to get good grades but since most of my grades count on homework I can't. My parents don't understand because they think straight forward: You just do it. My cousin has the same problem. I was going to get held back because of my grades but I tested too high on my AIMs (highest in the state) that they wouldn't. Parents don't understand what smart kids are going thru these days.

    Posted by SlipKnoT February 25, 09 12:51 AM
  1. Does anyone have a child who can sit there staring for hours!? Just will not do the work, and really there isn't much homework. He is in 5th grade and its the same thing every year. We have had him tested for everything, all without a clue as to why he won't do the work. He is sweet and gets good grades, except for not doing the homework. He just wont try. Punishments and rewards don't motivate, When I asked him why, he says he doesn't know why he won't do the work. Any when we go over the homework verbally, he clearly knows the material -- just won't write it out!

    Posted by lucy April 22, 09 09:48 AM
  1. Sounds like me almost. Ace every test and quiz and then not do or forget to do homework because i didn't really care about it. I always thought why do homework when already know it. Have you asked him what goes though his mind when he's staring at the homework? Or what he thinks of when he thinks of homework? Or when he's told he has to do homework? Or of what homework he has to do?

    Posted by Daniel June 5, 09 11:49 AM
  1. I have a really bright 13 year old, tests off the charts but he's growing like a weed & going through puberty & tired like crazy (3 shoe sizes in 6 months). This all leads up to major forgetfulness. This is a kid who is always busy, inventing, creating, building and at the beginning of the semester did very well but now is nose diving in grades...homework and tests. He'll make really stupid mistakes, just not double checking his work or double checks it wrong. He says he cares but I wonder. He started a new school & we wonder if that is it, very traditional learning now vs.his old school which was more active learning. I think that the way they teach boys today with their different learning styles is almost oppressive. Plus, they do have tons and tons of homework. My son says he just wants to get it done and doesn't seem to care much about quality, almost like he's already burned out! Yes, we've had all the discussions people have presented here. He gets it but the motivation is lacking as well as the focus. I keep thinking he'll grow out of it when he's done with all the fast puberty growth. Sleeping is another issue!! I'm trying not to be a helicopter parent but he plummets if we back off. Yes, he has restrictions, boundaries, standards set and consequences. My daughter is younger, super focused, not a test off the charts kid but has straight A's & self motivated. She's so easy compared to our son. I think sometimes the very bright think they don't need to do the work to get ahead and then whamo, one day they do have to do the work and they think they know it and they don't, but they can't seem to see the reality that hard work makes a difference. So many times he's said he knows the material and has studied it & then he bombs the test because he didn't know the material. If he gets bad grades on the math, he won't move up to the higher class so he'll be even more bored. The teacher says he knows he knows the material...he just makes really stupid mistakes or writes down the answer but won't put in all the steps required. He's not competitive so could care less to get a better grade. Even his favorite classes he's doing poorly now (low c's) and this is a kid who was an honor student in 6th grade. He used to love to learn and now I fear he is losing that love of learning and wonder if the new school is a huge mistake.

    .


    Posted by JJ December 1, 09 12:56 PM
  1. I have a 13 yr old son,who is ADD he refuses medication,he was bullied in 7th grade real bad since then grades just fell and haven't improved at all.He says the work is to hard i finally have gotten him to work in class but homework is a no go.They have tested him and he test far below grade level in all areas.but dose not qualify for special ed he is on a 504 plan and that is not working at all he can not focus in classes of 32 kids its to loud he says and if there's a distraction and he cant concentrate he becomes part of the distraction and gets in trouble. I tell the school he needs a smaller class setting and they say he has to be in special ed for that,so i requested him to be re tested he has lost all interest in school.He is a great base ball player and knows he cant play high school ball with these grades but he just cry's and says he cant do the work.... and says no one understands,i really feel for him but don't know what to do, he says he feels stupid and dumb.....i feel the school should be doing more this is how these kids give up and start getting into trouble,i wish someone could tell me what to do.He is starting to act out and have behavior issues and be coming defiant at school i feel its a cry for help,they say hes being lazy and he acts like this or like that he says they target him and its a racial thing,i don't know that to be true,but i do know that's how he feels......

    Posted by renee garcia April 19, 10 08:35 PM
  1. thx for all of the comments, i have a new point of view, my son is doing the exact same things, not doing homework, no real reasons, already took the PS3 and all. did his homework with him tonight and will continue to do so, when he doesnt give it the attention i think he should, punishment abounds, im not letting him take this kind of chance with his future, but i also want him to know that im not scared to sit there and stickit out with him, i think he wants attention and to be pointed in the right direction..:) thx again

    Posted by Angie January 19, 11 11:43 PM
  1. In this world there will be tons of times when you have to do things because your boss says so, whether you think it is worthwhile or not. You as an adult don't get to change those things, students don't get to either.

    Sometimes you just have to do it because you have to do it. Whether you need to to learn it or not. It's a cop out to say "well he's bored, he already know it so doing homework is ridiculous" Doing it anyway teaches other skills. Skills that employers are going to value.

    Posted by get real April 18, 11 06:15 PM
 
54 comments so far...
  1. Your son likely doesn't see the value in homework because his test grades are stil good. This will likely change in high school, but in the meantime does your son realize that he is likely shutting himself out of high school honors classes because of his lack of follow-through? What is he doing with his time in the evenings? If assignments aren't written down and you find out later that there were indeed assignments then I would cut off TV/computer access for substantial time periods. Another idea is that there is an hour and half of "academic time" each evening where he is expected to read or review past work regardless of whether there is homework that night or not.

    Posted by PatriciaD December 31, 08 08:45 AM
  1. I was like that too from about 4th through 8th grade. I was a good kid, never had any attitude problems, but I just never bothered with homework, even pathetically simple homework, and it really didn't matter how much trouble I got in with teachers or my parents. I still don't know exactly what caused it, but I do remember feeling frustrated by how boring and tedious most of the assignments seemed - so perhaps there is something to the theory that kids will slack off if they're not properly challenged. Anyway, it's very possible this will just pass on its own, as it did with me. At the same time, however, I do think you'll be helping your child immensely by setting aside a certain amount of time each day for homework and teaching him good studying skills. Poor studying and homework skills take time to develop, and you really don't want him to have to learn them from scratch once he gets to college and realizes he cannot simply coast by any longer as he could in middle and high school.

    Posted by Srae December 31, 08 09:14 AM
  1. I remember right around that age, I stopped doing my homework. I thought to myself...if I sit in the class and understand whats going on, then I don't need to do my homework. I think your son is smart enough to still follow along with class, you should let him know that his grades are his responsibility. If he wants to get good grades, then he will figure out how to get them. The more you push him, the more way he'll act out. I'd say you should have one serious heart to heart about what you want for him in his life. Ask him what he wants for his life. If he's serious about what he wants and it involves higher education, then he'll figure out that he needs to do whats expected of him.

    Posted by Sabrina December 31, 08 09:24 AM
  1. "He is very bright, and gets terrific grades on exams"
    What is the point of doing homework if you already know enough to get "terrific grades on exams?" Maybe he just doesn't like doing mindless busy work . The kind of work that servers no purpose than to prove that he's a good little hoop jumper.
    You need to acknowlege that it is indeed stupid and pointless, in his case, but it needs to get done. You need to make sure that the teachers send you his assignments and before he goes to bed you need to confirm that it is all done.

    Posted by jmo December 31, 08 09:57 AM
  1. I've known kids like this. They are too bright for their current school environment. They look upon the homework as a waste of time.

    I think the educator's should know by now that one way of learning does not fit all types, especially the talented. We seem to spend a lot of money on people with disabilities, but tend not to spend any on those with great abilities.

    Hate to say this, but with the economic climate we have now, we should be putting our money where we will get the greatest return. How abou diverting some of the "special needs" money to those who can really use it for the greater good.

    Posted by Al December 31, 08 09:58 AM
  1. A kid who is bright and gets great grades on the tests, but doesn't do homework, sounds to me like a kid who is bored because the classes are too easy. If he can learn without doing the homework (as he apparently is), he may be making a rational decision that there are better things to do with his time. Unfortunately he may not be factoring in the long-term implication -- that people are more likely to believe you can handle tough work and give you the opportunity to do it ifyour grades and work habits are good. (And, indeed, that you will not develop good habits this way, and someday that will come back to haunt you.)

    If that's what's going on, I'm sympathetic to both sides. I did my homework at that age because I cared tremendously about my future opportunities, but I can't say it was ever very worthwhile otherwise.

    Posted by Andromeda December 31, 08 10:02 AM
  1. (re: 13 yo doesn't do homework) It sounds to me like the child is bored. Since he is smart and gets good grades on tests, he is obviously able to learn the material without doing the homework. The fault might be the school's for not challenging the child appropriately.

    Posted by Chuck Connell December 31, 08 10:57 AM
  1. The teacher should be giving the child detention if he is not doing homework & perhaps he will learn that way. The parent should also punish him for not doing his homework. NO TV, GAMES, COMPUTER. It sounds like he is just lazy. Especially since he gets good grades otherwise

    Posted by me December 31, 08 11:27 AM
  1. I had the same issues with my son. It became a real problem in 6th grade. It was recommended by the teachers to have him tested. He has add and now takes a low dose of meds. They help him in school somewhat but he refuses to take them. He thinks he doesn't need any help. He also still refuses to do homework. My son doesn't care either and is a freshman and starting to slip where he is having trouble catching up. In grade and middle school a student can get by but in high school you need to do the homework and even if you miss 1 or 2 assignments it can really bring the grade down. He is in a special class for students with organizational and students who have trouble with school work.

    See if f

    Posted by Chris December 31, 08 11:40 AM
  1. My 12 year old daughter gets more homework than I ever had in High school. The schools really have ramped up the amount of homework required by kids today. My parent's never even cared about my homework and my wife and I have to constantly check to make sure the homework is done. I got a call from a math teacher complaining about a missed assignment. I told her that she was barking up the wrong tree by calling me. She should talk to my wife. My wife is the scholar in the family and I have never liked homework. In my 44 years I have still not learned to like homework so don't think calling me on my cell phone to complain about my daughter missing an assignment expecting to have a sympathetic ear on the other end. If you have to give her a detention then give it to her. Just don't call me complaining about it. I also told her that the amount of work they give out is way way too much and how do they expect these kids to have a life beyond school with 2 or more hours of homework a day. With that much homework the kids are bound to miss an assignment or two.

    Posted by Paul Bahre December 31, 08 11:54 AM
  1. Why on earth does this child need to do homework if he is bright, happy, engaged, learning the material, and doing well on tests?!

    I'm betting (in response to #7) that this is the kind of kid that spends his free time drawing, writing, building robots, programming computers, or doing other things to stimulate his mind, not sitting on the couch and watching TV.

    You need to speak with his teacher and demand that he be assigned work that actually challenges him. Either that, or allow him to submit evidence of other kinds of creative/intellectual work in lieu of the assigned busywork. Otherwise the "lesson" being taught is that the grown-ups in his life don't care enough about him to allow him to use his time productively.

    Posted by Eric December 31, 08 12:27 PM
  1. I was very surprised by the response from Barbara Meltz, which suggested that somehow the parents made mistakes in trying to get their kid to do his work. I can't believe she is not familiar with children who just don't feel that they need to conform to the school's agenda. The fact that the parents had success in getting their kid to do his homework in earlier grades is a good thing, and it means that at least their child responds to some sort of pressure. Some kids don't.
    If staying on top of a child's homework requirements works, why not do it. I have read stories of many successful people who credited their success to their parent's persistance or insistance.Not everybody left to their own devices as a child becomes successful. And there are people who are very successful because they were pushed to work hard.

    Posted by Debbie R. December 31, 08 12:35 PM
  1. This doesn't happen with all children, but the exceptionally bright ones have this problem. I have three boys: and only the last one has this "homework" issue. If he knows the work, and he gets excellent grades on the tests - why make him do the busy work? I asked to have him held back - the teachers refused. I have rewarded him - no result.

    I am at a complete loss, too. If he homework is redundant can't we get an advanced class or some other activity that will keep his interest?

    Posted by Alice Werner December 31, 08 12:41 PM
  1. Teachers these days are passing off way too much of their responsibility to the working parents outside of school hours. I hated home work, & If it did not get done in spare time at school, then it didn't get done. I was also someone who excelled in tests & exams so I did not fail. I had better things to do after school, whether it be pickup games with friends, hanging out, or working. Kids that don't do well enough on Tests & exams, need to spend more time studying or getting extra instruction, whether it be in homework or staying after, emphasis on staying after. most of the teachers in my community do not want to stay after regular school hours to help the children in need because they are whining about their paltry salaries, (40k -95k based on tenure from 2007 fiscal year annual review). I wish good Teachers could make the 6 figure pay they so desperately seek for their 9 month jobs but only a handful of Massachusetts communities can afford to pay those kind of salaries, & I haven't heard of any of them ponying up, so don't be trying to bust community finances when many of the tenured teachers have no business teaching our children & fall back on the MTA for undeserved security. I have always been pro union, however the MTA has done a great disservice to the children & communities of this state. They need to consider some serious relinquishing of power & accept proper oversight in order to weed out many of these teachers that have no business heading up a classroom full of young minds. They have been as disgraceful as has the execs for Wall St & the Big 3, & it's time to take a big step back. This would go a long way toward spending money & resources properly to provide quality & advanced education for the many brilliant students that are left behind due to boredom..I would love to see our community stand up & force the teacher's union of our community to strike when the next strike contract expires. Thousands of working parents in our community have lost their jobs , hundreds have lost their houses, the values of our houses have fallen by 20-30% over the past 2 years, & yet our property taxes are skyrocketing in order to cover education costs. Enough is enough, & I know for a fact that this same scenario is going on in 99% of the communities in this state. If I hadn't lost the equity in my home I would sell out & get the hell out of this state as thousands are doing already. It's despicable what is going on in this state financially considering the 100s of billions that are poured into the coffers every year.

    Posted by Dave Z December 31, 08 01:03 PM
  1. Frankly, as a society, we put WAY too much value in what and how a thirteen-year-old thinks and feels. Who cares if he's too bored or under-challenged to be interested in doing his homework? It's a requirement and needs to be done. It's a life-lesson. Sure, we'd all love to have a job that is constantly challenging, but, reality is not like that. Boring, meaningless tasks are a part of life and often contribute to a larger, greater collective good. Even if we don't like what we're doing, we still need to do it. Homework is like that. Do it or fail. Any kid who aces tests without trying but doesn't do his homework is arrogant and won't truly understand where his talents and hard work will get him in life until a teacher has
    the courage to fail him. The REAL problem is that too many parents don't understand this idea and believe their child deserves an "A" simply because they tried. Our country's education system is so messed up because so many people believe they are entitled to "the best," which means a high grade. The truth is that nobody deserves squat --money, a good job, a good grade-- without working for it, despite whether they like the work or not.

    Posted by Mr. B December 31, 08 01:41 PM
  1. Why do we evaluate these issues too much. Not doing his homework is not an instantaneous thing. It has progression to it. You have to recognize the signs. Stay involved.
    Hes not the boss, you are.
    Soved!

    Posted by typical_white_person December 31, 08 01:51 PM
  1. Jmo: Why should the teacher send the parents the assignment? The child at age 13 certainly is capable of being responsible for their own actions. As far as the student being "bored" or not challenged, I really doubt that offering more difficult material will increase homework completion. This lack of work ethic is becoming commonplace in our children and is difficult to overcome. Obviously, some homework can seem tedious or unneccesary, but most (if not all) is assigned for a reason... By age 13, a teacher only sees the student for 45-60 minutes per class in most cases... Follow up work can help with mastery.

    Posted by HubbDave1 December 31, 08 02:05 PM
  1. Yup, count me on the list of those who aced the exams, but couldn't do homework. There is definitely no single, right answer for this issue. There can be a wide array of contributing factors. For me, it was purely the boredom factor. From a young age, I basically refused to carry my work home with me! (Seems a little advanced now, looking back at it...) But apparently I subconsciously needed to set boundaries for the school. Anything necessary was already covered in class -- why the extra busy work?? Some kids may need the repetition, some kids don't. This is a possible mindframe worth exploring, especially if your child is on the "bright" side...

    Posted by DJMcG December 31, 08 02:42 PM
  1. This is a great conversation as I am struggling with a 13 year old son who does not do his homework despite interventions from us (his parents) as well as the school. He has also "borrowed" friends work to turn in as assignments. He does suffer from ADD and he has agreed to start taking a light dosage of medicine after school to help which his school work. I like the idea of mandatory study time every night. Thanks for the great advice. We are going to try this when he returns to school next week. He also does well with test grades. However, missing assignments are brining down his grades

    Posted by redcardinal December 31, 08 02:52 PM
  1. I'm sure it's boring to him, but he still needs to do it. While a child may know the material, there is still a work ethic that needs to be preached, and that work ethic is simply not there. I think it's that he's lazy more than he's bored. If it's so easy for him to do, then it should be a breeze.

    Repetition often strengthens your skills, so there is some value in doing homework that may seem easy. If he doesn't want to do it and he wants to fail, well that's his choice, I suppose.

    If he was truly smart, he would realize that the ramifications of getting poor grades are.

    Posted by Mikey "Insane" Monkeypants December 31, 08 03:09 PM
  1. I completely agree with Paul B., the amount of homework given out is crazy. I too never did homework at the elementary/high school level and avoided most in college. I am not sure what is behind the drive to give lots of school homework. Two to four hours a day of extra work seems like a lot and I have kids all ages and that’s what they get after 6th grade. So they miss out on playing in the woods or non-organized after school activities. I am not sure all this extra work enriches children’s lives so much as allows adults to keep kids busy.

    As for the issue we are commenting about above, try a daily log with all assignments and teachers initialing each day and the parent doing the same. If the child won’t get the log signed and do the work, take away things until something motivates him to comply. Obviously a bright kid, the parents and teachers involved just need to be smarter than he is and make it clear that this is important to them and why it should be to him (if there really is a good reason, which I doubt). I am not a teachers best friend as a parent but I don’t obstruct either and it would seem a guidance counselor could step in and assist all parties.

    Posted by bhp December 31, 08 04:16 PM
  1. Regarding Al's comment that funds could be diverted from special needs to a greater good: you couldn't be more wrong and obviously don't understand the depth of the issue or what you are talking about. Kids struggling in school due to various learning disabilities used to be considered stupid back when I was a kid. These kids were allowed to fall off the radar screen while the schools focused on the stars. Do you know what happened to those kids? Their self-esteem plummeted and they became trouble makers and law breakers. The cost to our society of not helping every child reach his or her potential is staggering. You may not see it in school-related costs, but you will see it in other areas of our society; the criminal justice system, the mental health system, etc. We need to teach these kidshow to bring out the best in themselves and not ignore them. You have no idea he struggles they face each day. Please blog about a topic you actually know about.

    Posted by Sandy December 31, 08 04:30 PM
  1. I agree that there is too much homework. It is assigned for the sake of giving out an assignment. Every single school has a written homework policy that requires a certain amount of time - i.e 1 1/2 hours of homework - be spent on homework. Teachers are required to assign it whether there is any point at all. Parents must go along with it or be accused of neglect. The schools are invading the homelife of these kids who should be persuing other interests, like getting some exercise and fresh air.

    Posted by Anne December 31, 08 05:39 PM
  1. To Sandy: yes, there are some very bright and well-meaning students who have legitimate learning disabilities. But there is also such a thing as stupid kids and nasty, bratty kids, too! Not everyone is born with the same level of intelligence. Similarly, not every instance of misbehavior and laziness is some kind of "syndrome" or disability. It's a sad reflection on society that we increasingly eschew demanding excellence so as to not "hurt" someone's "self-esteem." But you're not doing anyone any favors by enabling bad conduct by trying to stick the label of "disability" on it. you worry about schools catering to the "stars" but don't you realize how pathetically low learning standards are in today's schools?


    Posted by tb December 31, 08 05:58 PM
  1. This story sounds similar to how I was as a child/ teenager. I consistently earned excellent grades but could care less about the homework. I had a very stimulating upbringing. We never went on cruises or to beach vacations, instead we went to museums, historical sites, Wash DC, London, Paris and others. In school I would often read ahead, learn math when the teacher would still be teaching the basics to other students and even skip what I thought were worthless classes (they were). Be proud, it sounds like your son is years ahead of his peers, but be cautious too. He could soon have that careless attitude at the beginning of semesters and begin to fall behind. Watch out, make sure he is keeping up with the topics but if he is bored, don't make him do useless homework. I recommend speaking with his teachers. For me, his never went away, however I was still able to earn a doctorate degree in only 6-years and are now very well employed and a work-a-holic. I would also recommend having him tested for having a photographic memory as that could very well be the case.

    Posted by J-W December 31, 08 06:33 PM
  1. Not doing homework - sounds so familiar! That executive function piece can make such a difference. Wish we had figured that out years ago. Our very bright high testing son struggled in High School. Even a so called "excellent" school system wasn't helpful. He wasn't a problem child, everyone liked him, why was he having trouble? He hated the social scene, the busy work and the teachers that just went through the motions. It just didn't come as easy as it seemed to for his peers and that was totally demoralizing. Professionals outside of the school system said it would all be better when he was out, and that seems to be the case. Listen to what he is saying and seek counsel outside the school system.

    Posted by caf December 31, 08 06:50 PM
  1. Susan. You should make it quite simple. You ask him if there is any kind of reason he has to tell you why he keeps refusing to do homework. I'm betting he just doesn't want to. That's when you tell him he is punished (in some way, whatever will get his attention) until the next report card comes back showing that he is doing his job. There unfortunately may not be any kind of puzzle to solve here. Just the need to be a parent and do the dirty work of parenting.....putting up with a miserable kid so that in the long run he learns responsibility.

    Posted by Mother of ten December 31, 08 07:30 PM
  1. "Neither positive nor negative consequences have any effect"

    Sounds to me like a spineless parent who cannot be consistent and then claims that consequences do not work. No, they do not work if you cannot stay on course, and based on the submission you cannot.

    People (including 13-year old ones) behave rationally, and you are obviously providing incorrect incentives or failing to provide the right disincentives that would shape the kid's behaviour - stand up and take responsibility instead of whining to the world.

    Also, your child will do well on exams up to the point where just intelligence will not carry him, and then will start failing due to his lack of study habits / discipline. When it happens, do not forget to post another update to this board...

    Posted by HBX December 31, 08 10:09 PM
  1. Your child doesn't get an option of not doing homework. That is disrespectful of his true needs. How's this. Sit down with him for an hour every day at the same table and that's his time to do his homework. Read a book or do other work while he does his homework, and do not intrude. The goal here is just to support him and provide structure for learning how to keep a work schedule.

    Don't help him with it, dont' ask about it, and don't intrude, during this time. just say that there is going to be a new regime and the time between x and y is for you to do your homework. I will sit at this table with you and you will do it.

    When the time is up, I will get up and if you are done you can get up. If there is more, you wll take a 5 minute break (get a snack, walk around--no more than 5 minutes) and start another session. In the second period, I will not sit at the same table.


    WAfter a month After a month of success of you working on your homeworrk regularly, I may decide to not sit at the table with you but you will stick to the same schedule.


    Very likely, the kid is so smart he has seen no need for disciplined work up to now and very soon he will fall into a pit as the harder work of high school hits him He is under-prepared by not having developed discipline.. And as a parent you have not provided the structure for it. this sounds like me when I was 13. I would have loved to have parentalsupport for this when I was a kid. My guess is once he gets a taste for what it is like to be on top of things and has success in sticking to a shchedule, it will be addictive because he will find power he didn't know he had.

    Posted by steve December 31, 08 10:23 PM
  1. Wow Susan, I could have written your question word for word! I was so stressed I was getting hives AND when my son did his homework he often lost it at school. We went to a therapist (a doctorate of Ed who was a former guidance counselor). He told me to back off and let him fail, that it was his responsibility and he needed to learn the consequences. That advice helped a lot, my hives are gone. He was also diagnosed with ADD (no hyperactivity) so I VERY reluctantly put him on Concerta-I must say it made a big difference, He's bright enough to assess himself and he's happy with the change. He is maturing emotionally and developing his own coping strategies as well. You're involved and caring, that's what counts.

    Posted by mcase December 31, 08 10:41 PM
  1. I guess I'm happy to see it's not just 'us'. I have 2 different scenario's. I've got one bright bulb who thinks homework is a waste of his time. Then I've got one diagnosed ADD Inattentive with Executive Function issues who was an excellent student until about 6th grade. He's the one I'm most worried about. Got him back on track and he was fine until last term of 7th grade. Then he decided he wasn't going to participate at all in 8th grade, but through ALOT of persistence on my part and ALOT of communication with the school on my part, on a daily basis with 5 different teachers. It was the most painful year of my life and I swore I wouldn't live through another year like that. The school had a policy whereby if a student didn't turn in their work, they were sent to an after-school program where they would complete the missing work, either homework or classwork. The teachers weren't sending him. So here's an established process that would have given me an indication of a problem if he was being sent to this thing everyday and they weren't using it. We managed to get him into high school. I figured new school, new attitude and although first term wasn't all that bad, here we are at second term and I'm having flashbacks of 8th grade. I told him that we've tried it his way and it's obviously not working. That I'm about to e-mail all of his teachers to get the homework on a daily basis because I can't trust him and then I'm going to ask him to show it to me when he says it's finished. If he prefers that I not do this, then he needs to tell me his adjusted plan of action. He tells me that the work isn't too difficult, that he doesn't need to stay for extra help (he won't unless the teachers say he needs to, which they're not) and I'm at a point where I'm not worrying about getting him to college any longer (which had always been just assumed), I'm worrying about getting him to senior year.

    Posted by marchingmom December 31, 08 11:23 PM
  1. It doesn't matter what he does. The American educational system is so inferior to those in China, Japan, and Korea that even if your son gets strait As, your son won't know half as much as a Chinese kid 4 years younger than him. Twenty years from now your son will be working for the Chinese, Japanese, or Koreans mopping floors . . . just like all Americans will be. So don't worry, because it just doesn't matter.

    If you are genuinely concerned about your child's future then get out of America. The nation has dumbed down to a point where it is no longer internationally competitive.

    Posted by Ralston January 1, 09 02:21 AM
  1. Have you ever considered why teachers give homework? Generally, it is not "busy work" as so many suggest. Oftentimes there is opportunity to show depth of understanding and creativity in thinking that cannot be shown on a test. By not doing your homework, students are missing opportunities to explore different ways of thinking. Written work, the kind not found on tests, usually require a greater understanding of a topic. So, before you say "why do homework if he does so well on tests" think about the whole picture. "Tests" per say, only test one type knowledge.

    Posted by DebL January 1, 09 09:53 AM
  1. I never did my daily homework either. Like your son, I did well enough on tests and large projects like reports to skate by, unless a teacher decided to make homework a significant proportion of the grade. My parents would get upset on report-card day or at parent-teacher conferences, but ultimately shrugged and told me that doing homework was my decision, but that bad grades would limit my options for later in life.

    Things worked out for me. I always did well on large projects and found that as one gets older, life is more about doing large, independent projects, and my grades improved at a corresponding rate. I ended up going to a college that saw potential, avoided homework classes in favor of projects, and ended up getting a Ph.D. from one of the better universities.

    However, I can look back and understand that my life on a day-to-day basis would have been a lot better back then if I had just put in an hour a day slamming out the homework. If I could go back now I’d tell my younger self to think of all the times that he felt awkward during those moments of turning in homework, or waiting for the teacher to return assignments, and the feeling of dread of receiving bad grades and to realize that it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, homework is a stupid, dreary waste of time, but just try it for a week and see if things feel better. I’d tell myself that, believe it or not, by doing homework along with everyone else I’d feel more engaged with what was going on in class and hate it less. And, to be blunt, anything that makes school more tolerable has got to be a strategy worth checking out, right?

    Posted by Dan January 1, 09 11:00 AM
  1. As a parent, teacher and consultant, I talk to parents about this all of the time. I understand that what I am about to tell you is NOT easy, but it is effective. Do not make your son do his homework. Tell him that he is getting older, you are no longer going to push him to do his work, and whether or not he does his homework is his choice. After he picks his jaw off the floor, he will probably want to know "what will happen." Explain that he will have to suffer the consequences at school. (You might want to look into what will happen.) Of course, you can have personal/family consequences for grades. For example, if your son gets anything below a 'C', he can't have... whatever it is. I understand that this is not easy, but you really don't want to spend the next 5 years fighting with your son; and the fact is, you can't make anyone care. Either he does or he doesn't. Good luck! And, don't give up.
    Angela Norton Tyler
    www.family-homework-answers.com

    Posted by Angela Norton Tyler January 1, 09 12:47 PM
  1. I agree with previous posters. The reason I stopped doing homework at that age was because it wasn't challenging enough. I would suggest confirming this with the child and then approaching his teachers. Perhaps he's eligible to be in a class for gifted students or should skip a grade.
    It is unfortunate that many teachers factor homework to be 20% of a student's grade. It results in the floundering of those students who feel insulted by the amount of busy-work being sent home with them. Why grade a student poorly if they are contributing to class, get execellent test scores, but simply slack on homework?

    Posted by Noel January 1, 09 02:11 PM
  1. I suggest Alfie Kohn's amazing book, The Homework Myth. This is not a homework assignment, it is optional.

    Posted by Stephen Krashen January 1, 09 02:17 PM
  1. Unfortunately for you, teenagers don't really think about consequences. It's not their fault. Their brains just are wired differently. (Sometime in their early 20s, the brain structure changes and thinking about consequences becomes natural.) When he says he doesn't care about his grades, he means he's not aware of any immediate impact and that's the only one that matters. You'll need to help him process longer-term consequences.

    As a high school teacher, I can tell you that personal organization and keeping track of homework in high school is a big jump up from 8th grade, and most 9th grade students feel overwhelmed by the change, even if they were decent students in 8th grade. The ones who already established bad habits in 8th grade tend to continue them through 9th, and flunk. It's hard to bounce back from the double whammy of not knowing the material and not having the study skills and habits.

    I recommend talking with your child's teachers to see if they have any insight about why he is not doing his homework. Find out from them what sorts of assignments they give, and what they expect students to gain from doing those assignments.

    This is a few years off, but your son might need to take a year off and work before starting college to put school work into perspective and make him a better student.

    Posted by grain_of_salt January 2, 09 11:25 AM
  1. With my above comment suggesting that the parent sit down with the kid for one hour a day and support a regular homework schedule by being there, I wasn't saying there aren't issues with homework (alfie Kohn, etc). What I am saying is there is a larger issue of helping your child confront the boredom and tedium of doing tasks that aren't "fun" on the surface. But even a stupid homework assignment has some interest in it, if it's only the interest in a job well done, which is worth more than anything the curriculum could provide.


    I am reminded of William Zinnser's story about his first job as a writer at a newspaper, when his editor sat him down and told him the true secret to being a writer: "Apply ass to chair."

    Once that first five minutes of getting underway is gone, the next two hours is nothing. That is what I am suggesting that this parent teach her kid, by enforcing a family rule that the time between x and y is for homework and taking it seriously and doing it consistently.

    Later on when he gets the bug, if he wants to "fight the system" and petition for more independence by submitting his journal-published articles about classical dynamics and saying that he should be exempt from homework, I would support that. Or if he is demonstrates mastery of something and wants to study another subject, great. But my experience (learned the hard way in my own life as a kid, student, and adult) is that unless you dot your is's and cross your t's, you will both lose self-esteem by not completing your homework, and lose esteem in other's eyes. The way to achieve is to first meet, then surpass others' expectations, and after that begin to write your own expectations. At that point everyone has to step back and follow YOU instead of you having to do what they say.

    Not enforcing this kind of work discipline is neglectful of children's true developmental needs. Even brilliant people need this kind of support when growing up.

    Also, stepping back and saying "youre responsible for your own work" and will suffer your own consequences may not work. If you are going to give this a go, realize it is in some sense a high-risk intervention: last resort--because you are a hypocrite if you back down from it, and and your child may not yet have the basics in place to even know how to be responsible and discipline himself yet. Monkey-see, monkey-do, seeing the example that your parent is willing to sit with you and enforce your work time at first, will get across the fact that doing your work is normative behavior. He probably doesn't get a chance to see it otherwise because in the schools you just sit and listen in class. One other way this could work is if he got a homework buddy. Having a peer group where it is normal to be productive is very helpful to kids, and they can support one another. But a parent has to be involved as well.

    Posted by steve January 2, 09 01:26 PM
  1. If your kid thinks homework is a waste of time (because he's smart), I would say he or she is probably right. The key here is to recognize and agree with their perception that the work is below him or her, along with empasizing that it's important to do it to a high level. What you can see as an adult is the value of good work habits. A kid usually can't see that value. Point it out to him/her and make homework time a part of your family schedule. It feels good to know your family is behind you and that you have a role in it by, for example, doing homework between 5 and 6 every day.

    Who knows, they may actually learn something when they start working on that "dumb" assignment and be grateful for it. It may not be what the lesson was intended to teach, but they *will* learn something by working.

    Posted by steve January 2, 09 01:32 PM
  1. If you want your kid to work at McDonald's or go to an Ivy League school make sure they can handle busywork, otherwise, find what they love to do and support that and they'll be successful. We made the mistake of taking away my son's life for a year (no TV, friends, video games for a year until his homework was done). We sat over his shoulder every night as he did his homework and guess what? He wouldn't turn it in! It was his only way to protest! We realized it was like an anorexic refusing to eat it was his only mode of control at that age and he knew it drove the adults around him crazy! This year he finally has a challenge with 3 APs and he's getting A's (not that APs are necessarily the answer but you need something more challenging than the regular High School fare). I think kids should be able to test out of classes that are a waste of time for them. I think all you can do is give them information that might help them in the future but if it's not a learning disability then let them make their own choices. My younger kids are good doobies and do just about everything that's assigned to them and a while ago I would have wished my oldest was like that but instead I wish my younger ones were more discerning about whether the homework is worth their while or not (sometimes I think I need to take blood pressure medicine when I see how stupid their homework is). Just be supportive of any effort he makes inside school or out.

    Posted by Parent in one of those Wtowns January 2, 09 01:37 PM
  1. I've had a similar problem with my son (is it me or does this seem to be an overwhelmingly "male" issue??). Anyway, regardless of ability to do well on exams, my conversation with my son is "welcome to the real world". That statement used to irk me to no end when I was a kid, but I cannot resist using it on him now. There's lots of things that I don't like to do...get up at 5:30am to go to work tops the list, not to mention all the running around I do for my kids and their activities nights and weekends! Yet, I do them because it is my RESPONSIBILITY. It's never too early to teach a kid that term. Make sure there are real punisments attached to not following through as well as some benefits to provide incentive for improvement.

    Posted by beentheredonewiththat January 2, 09 08:54 PM
  1. I get so ticked off when parents whine and complain about homework. A child who doesn't do homework is not bored; he/she is LAZY and rules the household. Homework is rarely given as just "busy work" anymore by most teachers... it is either a review of that day's lesson or practice of concepts or preparatory for the next day's lesson. Most teachers stay after school LONG past "work hours" to give kids extra help. Most teachers go way above and beyond their paltry paycheck. Grow up, parents. Make your kid do the work. YOU'RE the boss. Parents are so scared that their kids won't like them today. It's disgusting. What happens when the kid goes to college and has to read a 400-page book or write three papers in a week? What happens when they (hopefully) get a job where every task isn't exciting and they (gasp!) might have to take work home?

    Posted by Marissa January 3, 09 01:01 PM
  1. Have you discussed honestly and openly with him the reason for doing homework? If you've been pretending that it is about learning, he'll know you are lying. After all, he is able to get excellent grades WITHOUT doing the homework.

    Maybe it is about building habits that will be necessary to succeed in high school? (That is an answer I sometimes give second-semester seniors who wonder why they should continue working.) Maybe it is about living up to societal expectations? There must be SOME good reason we require children to go through such a tedious exercise as completing homework problems on material they have already mastered.

    Posted by TF, Boston, MA January 3, 09 08:42 PM
  1. My daughter is in the 4th grade and we struggle with homework as well. She is the youngest in her class and in the top of her class academically. She used to do her homework, then never turned it in. That was last year. This year, she just doesn't do it. I asked her teacher if we could have a list of the homework she had to do for the week so that we could see how she enters it in her journal and then does it. Her teacher refused and instead put her on a reward system. So, we were told of the problem and then cut out of the solution. So be it.

    But, in the end, I've seen what the teachers give out and it is not a challenge. Some may provide work that challenges or that expands on what was leaned in the classroom. As a whole, that has not been our experience.

    The reality is that schools teach to the lowest common denominator. Homework is for that. Yes, it builds a level of responsibility. Yes, it teaches kids to take the good with the bad. However, homework is not the only way to learn that. I have to think that with so many kids not doing it and so many parents frustrated with the issue, we have a greater problem than just how parents are raising their kids. It may be partly that in some cases, but our schools are failing our kids in the long run. No Child Left Behind was built for inner city kids that couldn't graduate. We've dumbed down our schools even more and turned teachers into statisticians trying to bust the MCAS score.

    I also have friends that have taken their kids out of public and put them in private. To be honest, I think those kids would have excelled regardless of what school they are in. I've yet to see one that is truly "better" other than trust funds and deep connections with Ivy and T1 schools.

    So, let's get to the real issue of what I think parents have not been doing (I'll include myself). Getting more involved in changing our school system and relationships with teachers. Participate in curriculum discussions. Participate in ways to improve how are kids are taught. Stop leaving this up to politicians and PhDs. If we hated homework and feel schools failed us and we are upset with how they are failing our kids, get involved in more than the parent teacher conference. Demand more from our teachers and schools in a proactive manner.

    Posted by mich January 4, 09 12:51 PM
  1. I work at a learning center and this is a very common complaint from most of the parents that seek my help. The advice I give to most parents (the advice I am most thanked for giving) is twofold. First, a child should be taken on a college tour while they are in 8th grade - no later. The reasons being twofold as well. First, they need to realize that college is not just more of the same old torture "school" that they have been subjected to for the last 8+ years. This is especially helpful if an older sibling or relative is attending college and the child can spend an overnight visit with the relative. Second, they need to hear from someone other than mom and dad that in order to attend this university/college, their GPA needs to be x, y or z. The GPA should be translated into A, A-, B+, B, B- etc. They can check with their guidance counselor to obtain their current GPA.

    The second thing I recommend is that the child be placed on a behavior modification plan. The plan being this. There are certain expectations of all of us, and as a student, you will need to complete homework nightly and perform well on tests (barring remedial issues that should be screened for prior to entering into this agreement.) The agreement is - the student will be afforded freedoms on a weekly basis. The student is in control and has the power to obtain these freedoms or forgo them. All access to fun and sports is determined by weekly reports. An index card is presented to all teachers on the Friday of every week. This index card has 4 columns. 1st column lists the students subjects listed on the report card. 2nd column has the heading of "all homework turned in". 3rd column has the heading of "all scores 80 or above" - NOTE THIS SHOULD BE INCLUDED ONLY IF THE CHILD IS CAPABLE OF THIS - TESTING WILL HELP YOU KNOW IF THIS IS POSSIBLE. Last column is for the teachers signature. Teachers will place either a check or minus sign depicting compliance or non-compliance. I do not recommend + and - as a child can doctor the document to change the - to a +. This weekly report will determine whether a child has access to computers, friends, phone, electronics, sports, fun, after school activities, and more. Checks on all items earns a student freedoms, a minus on any one items means they forgo ALL freedoms and privileges.

    Be brave parents - come down hard. The child is making the choice - you are not the evil one - they are deciding whether they want to hang with friends or not. Place all onus on them - it is where it belongs.

    I have experience with more than 500 students and parents and I have never seen this fail - IF THE PARENTS ARE BRAVE AND CONSISTENT AND DO NOT WAIVER IN THEIR CONVICTION THAT THE CHILD CHOOSES THE CONSEQUENCE.

    I know you can do this - good luck and stand firm.

    Posted by Kelly Wilson January 4, 09 07:06 PM
  1. I am having the same issue with my 12 almost 13 year old. It seems with him that he has good intentions but gets bogged down. He like the boy in the post gets pretty good test scores and brings his report card grade down by incomplete or not handed in assignments. I wish I knew the answer, I don't. I can see that sometimes like Barbara says I have gotten to involved, but in elementary school it was expected that a parent be involved. Now all of sudden he's in 7th grade, JR. High in our district and I'm not suppose to help at all. I should say he doesn't do to badly with the regular assignments. It's the endless amount of "projects" that cost money and time that get to him, and yes me. I am not a person that condons busy work and that is what to much of his homework is. But I wouldn't tell him that.

    Posted by mammabee February 17, 09 09:10 PM
  1. To everyone who said kids are bored and not challenged, THANK YOU! I HATE DOING MY HOMEWORK! I have a low math teacher and she talks to me like a baby! Nothing that my parents do helps! They give me money, Gadgets, etc. And I still don't do it. I want to get good grades but since most of my grades count on homework I can't. My parents don't understand because they think straight forward: You just do it. My cousin has the same problem. I was going to get held back because of my grades but I tested too high on my AIMs (highest in the state) that they wouldn't. Parents don't understand what smart kids are going thru these days.

    Posted by SlipKnoT February 25, 09 12:51 AM
  1. Does anyone have a child who can sit there staring for hours!? Just will not do the work, and really there isn't much homework. He is in 5th grade and its the same thing every year. We have had him tested for everything, all without a clue as to why he won't do the work. He is sweet and gets good grades, except for not doing the homework. He just wont try. Punishments and rewards don't motivate, When I asked him why, he says he doesn't know why he won't do the work. Any when we go over the homework verbally, he clearly knows the material -- just won't write it out!

    Posted by lucy April 22, 09 09:48 AM
  1. Sounds like me almost. Ace every test and quiz and then not do or forget to do homework because i didn't really care about it. I always thought why do homework when already know it. Have you asked him what goes though his mind when he's staring at the homework? Or what he thinks of when he thinks of homework? Or when he's told he has to do homework? Or of what homework he has to do?

    Posted by Daniel June 5, 09 11:49 AM
  1. I have a really bright 13 year old, tests off the charts but he's growing like a weed & going through puberty & tired like crazy (3 shoe sizes in 6 months). This all leads up to major forgetfulness. This is a kid who is always busy, inventing, creating, building and at the beginning of the semester did very well but now is nose diving in grades...homework and tests. He'll make really stupid mistakes, just not double checking his work or double checks it wrong. He says he cares but I wonder. He started a new school & we wonder if that is it, very traditional learning now vs.his old school which was more active learning. I think that the way they teach boys today with their different learning styles is almost oppressive. Plus, they do have tons and tons of homework. My son says he just wants to get it done and doesn't seem to care much about quality, almost like he's already burned out! Yes, we've had all the discussions people have presented here. He gets it but the motivation is lacking as well as the focus. I keep thinking he'll grow out of it when he's done with all the fast puberty growth. Sleeping is another issue!! I'm trying not to be a helicopter parent but he plummets if we back off. Yes, he has restrictions, boundaries, standards set and consequences. My daughter is younger, super focused, not a test off the charts kid but has straight A's & self motivated. She's so easy compared to our son. I think sometimes the very bright think they don't need to do the work to get ahead and then whamo, one day they do have to do the work and they think they know it and they don't, but they can't seem to see the reality that hard work makes a difference. So many times he's said he knows the material and has studied it & then he bombs the test because he didn't know the material. If he gets bad grades on the math, he won't move up to the higher class so he'll be even more bored. The teacher says he knows he knows the material...he just makes really stupid mistakes or writes down the answer but won't put in all the steps required. He's not competitive so could care less to get a better grade. Even his favorite classes he's doing poorly now (low c's) and this is a kid who was an honor student in 6th grade. He used to love to learn and now I fear he is losing that love of learning and wonder if the new school is a huge mistake.

    .


    Posted by JJ December 1, 09 12:56 PM
  1. I have a 13 yr old son,who is ADD he refuses medication,he was bullied in 7th grade real bad since then grades just fell and haven't improved at all.He says the work is to hard i finally have gotten him to work in class but homework is a no go.They have tested him and he test far below grade level in all areas.but dose not qualify for special ed he is on a 504 plan and that is not working at all he can not focus in classes of 32 kids its to loud he says and if there's a distraction and he cant concentrate he becomes part of the distraction and gets in trouble. I tell the school he needs a smaller class setting and they say he has to be in special ed for that,so i requested him to be re tested he has lost all interest in school.He is a great base ball player and knows he cant play high school ball with these grades but he just cry's and says he cant do the work.... and says no one understands,i really feel for him but don't know what to do, he says he feels stupid and dumb.....i feel the school should be doing more this is how these kids give up and start getting into trouble,i wish someone could tell me what to do.He is starting to act out and have behavior issues and be coming defiant at school i feel its a cry for help,they say hes being lazy and he acts like this or like that he says they target him and its a racial thing,i don't know that to be true,but i do know that's how he feels......

    Posted by renee garcia April 19, 10 08:35 PM
  1. thx for all of the comments, i have a new point of view, my son is doing the exact same things, not doing homework, no real reasons, already took the PS3 and all. did his homework with him tonight and will continue to do so, when he doesnt give it the attention i think he should, punishment abounds, im not letting him take this kind of chance with his future, but i also want him to know that im not scared to sit there and stickit out with him, i think he wants attention and to be pointed in the right direction..:) thx again

    Posted by Angie January 19, 11 11:43 PM
  1. In this world there will be tons of times when you have to do things because your boss says so, whether you think it is worthwhile or not. You as an adult don't get to change those things, students don't get to either.

    Sometimes you just have to do it because you have to do it. Whether you need to to learn it or not. It's a cop out to say "well he's bored, he already know it so doing homework is ridiculous" Doing it anyway teaches other skills. Skills that employers are going to value.

    Posted by get real April 18, 11 06:15 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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