We made a tough call the other night.
We stopped helping our 8th grader with homework.
Well, OK, we still help, we just don't, well, help.
(Come on Atkins, get to the point already, because, we, the readers, are lost.)
On any normal day, homework is assigned and brought home.
That is issue number one. If homework fails to make it to the house, we don't head back to school to get it (especially because school is now 20 minutes away), nor do we make a big deal about it.
Do I want my child to fail?
(Yes. A little.)
I consulted my Mom on this one, because sometimes what we think of as being helpful is actually hovering. She set me straight. My daughter is 13. Time to present her with reality, but not by sternly laying down the law. We presented the facts calmly.
"Your homework and your grades are solely your responsibility. If you don't understand something, we are there to help. But if you forget to bring home an assignment, turn work in late, fail to study, or give a poor effort, the consequences are all yours. We're not intervening in the decisions you make. We know you can do well! Proud of you!"
Don't get me wrong. It was hard. I was torn between laying down the law, and swooping in and helping her manage every detail of her academic life.
But we can't. Not anymore. So we simply remained even-keeled as we shared that we were backing off.
Our children will never learn the satisfaction of driving towards and fighting for their personal success if they don't also experience and overcome momentary failure. I am of the belief that practice makes progress (not perfect, as the cliche goes). During progress, one will experience setbacks. They're inevitable. Even my daughter needs to learn how to navigate them. This won't happen if we take the hero role in her "I forgot to bring home my spelling words" scenario by emailing the teacher or calling the parent of a classmate to get the words. Instead, we must allow her to stumble and find a solution. See, failure can serve as the push to improve in the future, especially when there are consequences more dire than one's parents getting angry or even a low grade. Poor grades will affect her involvement in karate drill team or basketball, both of which require responsible marks as per the coach's guidelines. She doesn't want to miss out on these!
So, our daughter has choice.
Own it and commit to keeping up with her responsibilities.
Or lose what she loves.
You'll be happy to know, she's doing GREAT. Funny what happens when you raise the bar. Children CAN and WILL rise to the occasion.
(Now, if only she would hear and wake to her alarm in the morning. Any tips for that?)
Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and Beaver County Times online as the Health and Wellness blogger. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 13 and 9, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, will never get enough of the Gilmore Girls, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family. Follow Joline on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!