Your son just started eighth grade, and he's already struggling with homework, just like last
year. What are you gonna do? Well, let's talk about that today on Tips on Teens. My name is Kent
Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I specialize in helping kids,
teens, and families to live happier lives. I lead two organizations, Teen Therapy Center and
the non -profit 501c3 organization, Child and Teen Counseling, both here in Woodland Hills,
California. Every Wednesday noon, I jump onto Facebook Live to answer your parenting questions.
Let's answer today's. My son just started eighth grade, and already we're having a really tough
time with the homework. This has been a struggle for us in the past. He has a really hard time staying
focused, and it feels like what should take him an hour to complete takes two or three. I used
to sit with him and help him, but it would cause so much tension in our relationship. I feel like
he should be old enough now to do it on his own.
Any advice? Yes. Thank you for your question. I think a lot of parents, again, can really relate
to this one. First thing, you wanna rule some things out. Has your son been assessed for any learning
differences, visual processing issues, auditory processing issues, attention issues,
and if so, are those being treated appropriately? There's a wide variety of ways to treat that,
right? There's medication, there's educational therapy, there's vision therapy, just to
name a few. But let's assume we've ruled that out. We assume that he's been tested, he's fine,
he's just bored and just finds homework tedious, and he doesn't wanna do it. And you're tired
of arguing with him. And I agree with you. You shouldn't argue with him. Here's the thing, and
I'm gonna say something, and it's controversial, and a lot of people disagree with this. And
when I say this, some parents may clutch their pearls. But here's the thing. His homework, while
important, is not the most important thing in his life. At
13, whatever grade he gets in his math class is not going to set him up for anything in his life.
It's not going to matter. What will matter at 13 is his relationship with you. His relationship
with you is so much more important than how he does in school. And again, this is the controversial
part. I believe, and it's through my experience working with a lot of kids, kids who graduate
high school with a 2 .0 GPA, but have a really loving, supportive relationship with their family
and their parents are much better prepared for success in life than the kid who graduates high
school with a 4 .4 GPA and feels like he's never good enough and just has an awful, toxic, tense
relationship with his parents. Because that relation with his parents is creating his internal
sense of self, his self -esteem, his self -love, helps him find balance in his life. And I think
that's really important. So what I would do is I would game plan with your son. It's like, what
are his expectations of the homework
00:03:11 Speaker 2
and what are yours? Is there a middle ground you guys can find that both you can agree to? And then
maybe it's setting a time of, okay, from time X to time Y, maybe it's an hour, maybe it's two hours,
wherever that is, you're doing homework and you're doing it in a place where there's no distractions.
You're doing it in the dining room table, the kitchen table, in his room, it's probably too distracting
is my guess. You may need to make sure that his phone's not with him. You know, there are some compromises
here that he's not going to have that he wants. He probably wants to play video games all day,
but he can't access video games until he's done with his homework. And maybe you say, I'm gonna
do an arbitrary time here, two hours. After two hours of you sitting and doing homework with
a 15 minute break in the middle. After you're done, you're done. If you wanna keep doing it, go
ahead. But if you feel like you can't do anymore, then stop. And talk to his teachers, advocate
with his teachers,
00:04:00 Speaker 2
that hey, he's doing all this homework, he needs a break. He also may need an extracurricular
activity, which is really important. Whether that's a sport, whether it's an instrument,
theater, you know, scouts, any number of things where he's having some positive social engagement
or in creative engagement with himself and other people, I think is really important. That's
gonna help him also. Also, you guys not arguing is a really big part of this. The arguing isn't
worth it, it's just not. Now, you may be going, well, I want him to go to Princeton and Harvard.
Again, that's not necessarily a recipe for success. There are a lot of people who grind and grind
and grind, get to a quote, good school, which no one can really define. And then they burn out
because they're so burnt out from middle school and high school. So take your time, make sure
you have some balance in his life, make sure you guys have a positive, healthy relationship.
I'm not saying, you know, you'll never argue because you
will, because you're a human family and human families will argue from time to time, but make
sure there's a way to repair those. Make sure that it's not all about expectation and you achieving,
achieving, achieving, because that's not really a healthy way to live life and that's not really
a recipe for success. When he's an adult and he has an adult mindset, he can turn that on once he
finds his passion. And his passion may not be college. It may be in a trade. Maybe he wants to be
an electrician or whatever it is. Maybe he's really into doing things with his hands and building
things. There's no sense of going to college if you don't really want to go to college. It's a
recipe for failure if you go to college because you have to and don't want to. So make sure you
guys are focusing on your relationship, set some reasonable boundaries that he can agree to,
realize he's gonna do it imperfectly, and let him find his own passions that are outside of video
games. And if he says that's all
he has, again, get him involved in other activities that are social and creative so he does have
less video games in his life. Anyways, it's a big topic. Thank you for your question. If you'd
like me to answer your question here on Tips on Teens, email us just like everyone else does at
tipsonteens@teentherapycenter .com. You can also direct messages right here on Facebook.
We love your questions. Thank you very much. I'll see you next Wednesday noon on Facebook Live.
My name is Kent Toussaint with Teen Therapy Center and Child and Teen Counseling. I'll see you
guys next week. Bye bye.
A CONTROVERSIAL VIEW ON HOMEWORK
We have a lot of experience working with teens and families, so we know homework is a big struggle for many. Parents want their kids to do well in school so they can get into a “good college” (whatever that really means), and thus getting homework done can become a real source of stress. Kids might struggle with homework for a variety of reasons. It could be they have auditory or visual processing disorders, learning disabilities, or maybe they’re just bored. Here’s our controversial point of view that might rankle some parents: homework isn’t that important!
RECIPES FOR DISASTER, RECIPES FOR SUCCESS
What matters most for your kid, more than homework even, is their relationship with you! Kids who graduate from high school with low GPA, but who have a loving relationship with their family, are set up for lasting success in life. Bringing peace to your home around the topic of homework may take a combination of compromise between you and your kid, advocacy from parents, and possibly the letting go of certain expectations.
There’s more to say, and we get focused on the topic in this Tips on Teens:
“My son just started 8th grade and already we’re having a really tough time with the homework. This has been a struggle for us in the past. He has a really hard time staying focused, and it feels like what should take him an hour to complete takes two or three. I used to sit with him and help him but it would cause so much tension in our relationship. I feel like he should be old enough now to do it on his own. Any advice?”
Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. We love to hear from you!
Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE! Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/
If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.