Last night, when I was making dinner, I heard my son say, "I am doing my homework, mom.” It felt like I was in a dream—could this be real? Did those words really just come out of my son’s mouth?
You see, it wasn’t long ago that my son and I would spend HOURS sitting at the table to “do” homework. I would coax, threaten, and bribe to no avail. Night after night, we were battling.
I had created such a negative environment for my son because I was listening to the “stories” in my head about my son’s abilities and intentions without truly understanding what was going on for him.
I discovered that I was tailoring “homework time” to fit my needs, not his. I was doing it the way that worked for me, without asking what worked for him.
I would stand over him and pressure him, which only increased his stress and anxiety. He would often shut down, and very little ever got done.
When I changed my story from: “He doesn’t care” to “He’s doing the best he can,” there was a noticeable shift to my parenting approach. I began asking and experimenting with my son to figure out what worked for him.
I used to “require” my son to stick to a fixed schedule— come home, have a snack, take a short break and do homework. I realized that some days that worked, but other days he needed a longer break, some physical activity, or connection before he could set his mind on doing homework. Believing he was doing the best he could, allowed me to become more patient, more flexible, and the battles diminished.
One by one, with the help of my coach, I started changing the stories in my head, the ones I had believed for so long. Remarkably, my son’s attitude and ability to do homework changed too. Instead of seeing my son as defiant, lazy, and unmotivated, I searched for the meaning under his struggle. I did not understand that he really wanted to do the work, but he could not get started.
For most kids doing homework is not such a big deal. Sure, they don’t always want to do it, but they can get themselves to sit down and “make it happen.” For our kids impacted by ADHD, it is not so easy. In fact, getting started, maintaining focus, sustaining energy, and completing a task are all EF deficits related to ADHD. And let’s not forget the ADHD trait that makes doing homework extra challenging for our kids — if there’s no interest, there’s no motivation!
In other words, our kids have a lot to overcome to “simply” get their homework done.
We can do our part by paying attention to the negative stories in our heads that keep us from being the parent we want to be and from the relationship we want to have with our children.
What stories are keeping you stuck battling over homework?
What stories are keeping you from a better relationship with your child?
Let us know in the comments!
Coco and Vicky