End the Homework Battle
Once again, perhaps I oversold the headline. Yet hear me out.
This past week, I had the most unusual parent/teacher conference. A mother and father requested a conference with me. Their child is in my high school leadership course.
At the conference, they told me that they have had frequent battles with their child about homework- worsening in recent years. In typical script, child is underperforming. Mom and/or Dad increase their oversight- reminding, suggesting, pleading, threatening...punishing. Yet sometimes, the only outcome is halting progress (if not regression) on the part of the student and frayed nerves for all involved. Is there a better path forward?
One aspect of effective leadership is that the leader (which is anyone, really- see this example) defines themselves to another. In this case, the student used "I statements" with their parents. The student talked about how the parents continual worry and focused conversations on school was making this student more anxious. Instead of this predicable script, the student asked his parents instead to be a resource for him. The father told me: "Our child asked us to come along side him and be a resource at his initiative." Dad went on to say that it was the child who defined himself to his parents and how the child was the one who stated their preferences in a thoughtful way; leading to a broadening of options and more reasoned parent/child dialogue.
No guarantees here- the parents have to use wisdom for sure. What happens if the child gets even worse (not unlikely- at least temporarily)? I am not sure about that.
But for all of us parents- a good reminder. Where does our responsibility end for our children, and where does theirs begin?
This student- they were the leader of the family with this matter. Mom and Dad went on to say that they are studying Bowen Family Systems Theory together- the student is sharing their understanding of it and seeing how as a family they might apply it.
If leadership is influence, then this is it. Not a panacea for sure, but perhaps an antidote for adolescent anxiety?