How to Handle Homework Frustrations

Homework. There is something about that word, years after I finished with school, that still sends shivers down my spine. It reminds me of a Law and Order episode. The part right after the “dun-dun.” Something dramatic and unpredictable is about to happen. Will we finish the homework in less than an hour or will this be an all-night event? What’s the likelihood I will lose my mind and voice? Will I eventually solve the math problem that my son warned me is too hard? “I don’t know” is my answer as the suspense builds.

For my daughter, her homework is bound to be a breeze. She’s only five. My son is where the challenge exists. Anyone with a head-strong child knows it can be a bear getting him/ her to admit an answer is wrong. I practically have to make a case and give evidence to convince my son he needs to go over his work again.

The pushback is real.  He’s only a quarter of the way through school, and if this is what it’s like in elementary, what will middle and high school hold?

I mull through this as we sit at the table and catch myself thinking back to when I was a child. Was this punishment for how I acted towards my mother? What had I done to deserve this? An error I made was placing too much emphasis on me. I was focused on my feelings versus my son and his.

Every parent remembers what it was like to be a kid. We remember the games, our friends, teachers (the good ones and especially the bad ones), and we remember homework. Whether you did it or just let it sit to the side, we held the same frustration as our children. Our childhoods are not so far removed that we do not remember what it was like to be a kid and to need help. That’s what I try to keep in mind when I help my son.

Kids get frustrated too

If I have to look up YouTube tutorials to help my son, how can I get upset when he doesn’t understand the work? Sometimes the first step to helping our children with homework is putting ourselves in their shoes. They may be little people, but they share the same feelings, and sometimes thoughts, as adults.

Homework is not a punishment

It’s easy to think of homework as a punishment, both as a kid and as an adult. One positive to homework is that it is a window into your child’s struggles. Sometimes it’s when we’re doing homework that I learn what my son and daughter are having a difficult time understanding. I hope the teacher sees it as well, but if the teacher misses it, this is something I can bring to his/her attention.

It’s an opportunity to reflect

I remember sitting at our dining room table crying over homework. Asking myself if I was smart enough. One night my mother caught me crying. She made me a cup of tea and sat with me as I did my homework. There was no criticism. Just a dose of mom love. I try to do the same thing. Sometimes our kids need words of encouragement. A hand to hold. Or someone to walk them through an issue step by step. Sometimes they need it all, and homework is one of those times.

It teaches life lessons

Waiting until the last minute. Not asking for help. It doesn’t matter if you’re ten or fifty. Those are ingredients for a stressful night. As much as we want to help our children, sometimes they have to learn a hard lesson, and the lesson is sometimes turning in an incomplete assignment or not turning one in at all.

As our children transition into different stages of their lives so will homework. Its presence will fluctuate and so will our children’s need for our help. If homework has taught me anything it’s that it serves as a glimpse into our children’s lives as well as ours. It highlights struggles. Our crowning achievements. How we express our feelings. And how we seek help. It gives us a lot of material, and as much as we may hate homework, I’ve come to learn that it is sometimes the mirror I didn’t know I needed.

Latanya Muhammad

Latanya Muhammad is a student advisor, group facilitator and freelance writer in Maryland. When she is not writing, she is wrangling her two children and husband. To read more of her work, or to interact, visit her website SheTanAgainWrites or find her on Facebook and Instagram.