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Ask the Teacher

Refusing parental help, school involvement, hopeless handwriting, encouraging responsibility

October 2013

Question: My third grader insists on doing his homework without any help or input from me or my husband. Without our help, he makes errors. How can I convince him to let us look over his work?

Children may be reluctant to accept homework support from parents for many reasons. Perhaps your son interprets a teacher's comment to do the work on his own to include eliminating parental help. Maybe he is afraid to disappoint you because the work is not perfect. Some children can more easily accept constructive criticism from the teacher than from mom or dad. Remaining patient when corrections need to be made can be a challenge for some parents; a child avoiding that tension is understandable.

If your child struggles with school work, explain to him that your responsibility as his parent includes a homework check. Offer input without emotion or accusation. (For example, "I think #3 and #7 could use a second look.") Allow him to accept or ignore your advice on the condition that if the graded work shows that you were right and he was not, he will have an established consequence.

A strong student may have earned the right to do his school work independently. Back off if your child has a proven track record for academic success, even if the track record isn't perfect.

Question: Having read so much about the importance of parent involvement in a child's academic success, I definitely want to be involved in my child's Education. My concern is finding a good balance between being informed and supportive without going overboard. How do I know where to draw the line?

Every parent should know basic school policies and classroom procedures. He or she should be attentive to communications designed for parents via email, newsletters, web sites or paper notifications. Daily conversations with your child about what went on at school are a given. Encourage your child to "present" returned work to you with explanations of what he enjoyed, what struggles he may have experienced and what his take-away was from the assignment. Additionally, if your child's school allows classroom volunteers, do what you can in this area to help form your own perspective of your child's classroom experience.

Beyond that, accept the old adage that "no news is good news." If you need additional peace of mind, an occasional request of the teacher that all is well is not out of line.

Question: My daughter's handwriting is horrible. I have tried to help by purchasing many different kinds of paper and pencils and even special pencil grips to encourage her to practice. I end up frustrated, and she ends up in tears. Do you have any tips for helping my daughter improve her handwriting?

The most important consideration with handwriting is whether or not it is legible. If it is legible, you may need to accept the fact that all of the practice in the world may not turn her penmanship into "A+" quality. Fine motor skills develop at significantly different rates, and your daughter may be doing as well as she can right now. If it is illegible, talk with her teacher. Her perspective on what is normal for children your daughter's age will provide good understanding of what is reasonable to expect. She will also know if your child's writing struggles are serious enough to warrant intervention from an occupational therapist.

Question: My son is a high school senior who just does not take his academic responsibilities seriously. If I am not checking his grades online, he doesn't get work turned in. He never studies for tests. How can I get him to be more responsible?

Consider if your son is truly irresponsible or if he is just failing to live up to your perception of what he is capable of. Is this behavior typical of all academic areas or in just one subject?

If basic irresponsibility is the problem, discuss his post-graduation plans. Lay out your clear expectations for him to become independent and responsible effective immediately. Tie those expectations to clear consequences for your role in his post-graduate life. Then step back and require him to earn his successes or deal with the defined consequences of his failures. Do not give in to the temptation to rescue him. What is uncomfortable now will not only be painful later, but will also costs tens of thousands of dollars.

If he is not doing what he is capable of, make sure that your expectations are realistic. If laziness, attitude or other less important interests are getting in the way of his success, don't be afraid to set out clear expectations and consequences as discussed above.

The results you seek may not be immediate. But until your son is forced to take personal responsibility seriously, you will continue to be frustrated. The more allowances you make, the longer it will take him to accept that he is responsible for his effort and its results.

Ask the Teacher is written by Deb Krupowicz, a mother of four and current teacher. Deb holds a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction and has over twenty years of experience teaching preschool, elementary and middle school students. Please send your questions to her at asktheteacher@indyschild.com.

Tags: Ask the Teacher, Education, In This Issue

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