Empowering my kids to make their own choices is something that’s important to me. I want them to feel confident they can make their way in life and for them to feel capable they need to practice how to make good choices, and what to do when their choices aren’t so good.
With this in mind, one of my favorite phrases is, “What’s your plan?”
For example, when my son comes home and says he has a lot of homework I might say something like, “You have soccer practice tonight so what’s your plan for getting it done?”
He’ll tell me his plan and sometimes I might raise a concern or give him something to consider. “Okay, so you’re going to do it after practice. What if you want to stay later and play with your friends?” I’ll listen to his response and typically I don’t offer any more suggestions at this point. I just say “Sounds like you know what you want to do.”
Because some of the benefits of homework are to teach responsibility and accountability if I always tell my son when to do his homework he really isn’t getting those benefits.
You might be wondering, “What if he doesn’t do it!?”
Great question — what if he doesn’t? I can’t say for sure, but I do know it won’t lead to death or him never getting into college. Likely, he’ll have to explain himself at school or the consequence may even be a poor grade.
Am I being a neglectful parent? I suppose some might think so, but I feel I’m setting my kiddo up for success in life — even if he doesn’t get all “A”s in middle school. I want him to practice making decisions and to learn what works and doesn’t work while the stakes are small.
Don’t get me wrong, I do support my son along the way! Like when his plan doesn’t work out so well, we talk about what he could do differently. Questions like, “How long do you think it will take you to do this assignment?” or “What can you do with your homework when you finish so you know you’ll bring it to school?”
Suggestions that begin with “I wonder…” are usually well received. “I wonder if you’d be able to relax more if you got your work out of the way before playing with your friends — then I won’t have to call you inside in the middle of a game?”
If your child struggles with homework or fights you about doing it remember that their behavior is a language — it’s telling you something.
Maybe they don’t understand the material or maybe they feel like everyone is always telling them what to do. Rather than be the homework “police” (just enforcing that it get done) think about how you can help your kiddo take responsibility for what they need to do. What skills can you help them develop? Get them thinking about how they want to handle situations when they don’t understand the material, what they could do if they leave their homework at school/home, what they can do when things don’t go as planned, etc.
Even if your kiddo is younger and isn’t in school yet they can still practice making decisions. Instead of always giving them the answer (or finding it with a google search, lol) ask what they think, find ways for them to explore and be curious, experiment and problem solve. Let them play and take chances and make mistakes.
Ultimately, good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.
Everything will be okay.