Monthly archives: August 2015

When did Homework take over?

Posted on Communication, General, Parenting, Stress August 20, 2015 by Mary George

I do not think that there is anyone out there that laments the beginning of school as much as I do. Gone are the carefree, mellow summer days and back are the rushed mornings, homework meltdowns and the activity taxi. I can feel my anxiety rise just at the thought of the after school grind, especially homework. I find myself having to mentally prepare with a plan of attack for those crushing after school hours. Where did this come from? When did homework take over our children’s and our lives?

I was talking to a friend of mine who’s child was in the same 1st grade class as mine and she told me that Monday nights had now become her “wine and sentence night” so she could deal with the 10, seven word sentences that her son had to write with his spelling words. A seven-word sentence for a 6 year old!? Imagine the time and tears that occurred every Monday night. A few years ago my son had to stop doing some of his after school activities because he could not also complete his 2 hours worth of homework…he was only in 2nd grade at the time. No joke.

The general guideline suggested by the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association, is the “10-minute rule,” meaning 10 minutes per grade level per night – 10 minutes of homework in the first grade, 20 minutes in the second grade, all the way up to 120 minutes for senior year of high school. While this is the recommended standard, “a study in The American Journal of Family Therapy of 1100 parents of children from kindergarten to 12th grade, found that children in the first grade had up to three times the homework load recommended by the NEA and the National PTA.” What purpose does this actually serve our children? Through the Common Core and other state mandated curriculums teachers are expected to teach an insurmountable amount of information and try their best to help their students understand and retain the information for the testing. Our teachers have an enormous amount of pressure placed on them to have their students do well on these tests despite the students’ ability in their classroom and other factors. In public schools teachers may have students that perform on a younger grade level, despite being promoted and their inability to do the work, while others in the classroom are achieving at a higher level. A teacher has to figure out how to teach to all of the levels and have them all learn. Homework is supposedly assigned to reinforce these skills that have been taught in class but has it become our solution for teachers who have had ineffective training to teach the new standards or who are unable to teach to differing levels? Have we through our government mandates and lack of proper funding created a situation for our schools and teachers that is now forcing them to turn to hours of homework for our children? Our children have become the pawns in this game – What is the cost to our children?

In an interesting article on CNN, Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, the contributing editor of the study and clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology and co-author of “The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting that Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life,” says, regarding the overload of homework, that, “the cost [to our children] is enormous. The data shows that homework over this level is not only not beneficial to children’s grades or GPA, but there’s really a plethora of evidence that it’s detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills and their quality of life.” So where does this leave us? Excess homework is not beneficial on any level but what can we do to try to change things and improve our children’s and family’s quality of life? Again the National PTA has some helpful hints for parents on their site. Here are the essentials but to read more on each please so to their website:

  1. If your child has trouble completing homework without help, find out why.
  2. Talk with the teacher if you feel homework is excessive.
  3. Ask for individual adaptations for your child.
  4. Stop putting homework on your to-do list.
  5. Stand up for your right to a balanced family life
  6. The Where and When of Homework

The beginning of the school year can be challenging for all of us. Give your children and yourself the time to adjust to the changes and be sure to talk to each other

—Mary & Claire

 

**My Remarkable Self is available to give workshops, school/camp assemblies and classes for parents, students, educators and businesses. Please contact us for further information.**

© Kids Empowered LLC and My Remarkable Self™ 2015

Our Children: The Age of Perfectionism & Anti-Depressants

Posted on General, Parenting, Stress August 5, 2015 by Mary George

 

A number of years ago we were teaching one of our 7th grade classes and talking about stress and conflicts. One of our students raised her hand and expressed how her biggest stress was her parents’ constant pressure about her grades, extracurricular activities and getting into college. I personally was dumbfounded at the thought that a 12 year old was that anxious and pressured about getting into college. This was a 7th grader! Shouldn’t she be more worried about things that were pertinent to her age and what was happening NOW in her life? Since this time I have learned quite a bit from talking to people who have children entering their middle and high school years and the pressure that they feel about helping their children make the right decisions to A. get them into the “correct University” and B. have their University experience translate into a “good job” for the expected type of lifestyle.

Being a parent I understand completely wanting nothing but the best for your children and having expectations for them. But how often do we stop and think about the pressure that we are putting on them and what they are equipped to handle at their ages? Too often I hear of middle to high school age children who are on anti-depressants and who are taking time off because of the stress they are under. Are we doing this to our children? What is our pressure gauge as parents and what is the fine line that we need to walk? In an Excerpt from How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims, she believes that “helicopter parenting” (otherwise known as a style of child rearing in which an overprotective mother or father discourages a child’s independence by being too involved in the child’s life) is the source of many of these emotional problems that our children are facing or will face. She says, “as parents, our intentions are sound—more than sound: We love our kids fiercely and want only the very best for them. Yet, having succumbed to a combination of safety fears, a college admissions arms race, and perhaps our own needy ego, our sense of what is “best” for our kids is completely out of whack. We don’t want our kids to bonk their heads or have hurt feelings, but we’re willing to take real chances with their mental health?”

Is our own ego and “keeping up with the Jones’ causing us to parent this way? Is perfectionism worth the cost of our children’s mental health? Our culture has evolved into one of hyperachievement and perfectionism and our expectations of our children reflect this. After school they are scheduled in activity after activity with the hours of homework on top of it. When do they just play? When do they use their imaginations to create? When do they experience childhood? Think back to the days when we were little and roamed around the neighborhood with our friends. We did okay, didn’t we? Do we think by pushing our children that their lives will be better than ours and they will not have to work so hard? Well, they already are working harder than I did early on thus creating an anxiety within children as young as elementary school that is palpable.

Madeline Levine, psychologist and author of The Price of Privilege, said that “when we parent this way we deprive our kids of the opportunity to be creative, to problem solve, to develop coping skills, to build resilience, to figure out what makes them happy, to figure out who they are.” We as parents need to consider changing how we view our children and their future. We have the ability to help our children now by giving them the gift of time to just play and to learn how to be themselves. We can give them the room to explore what their unique interests and strengths are in order to find happiness and satisfaction in what they are doing rather than trying to pigeon hole them into something that either we want for them or is our interest. They need to create and make choices. AND they need to fail. As much as we hate to watch our children fail at anything, they need to experience it in order to handle situations as they grow into adulthood.

Author and New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni writes in Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, “these cultural dynamics of perfectionism and overindulgence have now combined to create adolescents who are ultra-focused on success but don’t know how to fail.” The inability to deal with failure as adolescents grow into adulthood, has led to insecurity, depression and loneliness. It has also led to a suicide epidemic that is plaguing college campuses as described in Campus Suicide and the Pressure of Perfection, NYT. In this article they describe the how college female students felt pressure to be “effortlessly perfect’: smart, accomplished, fit, beautiful and popular, all without visible effort. Otherwise known at some schools as the “Duck Syndrome” – duck appears to glide calmly across the water, while beneath the surface it frantically, relentlessly paddles.”

We need to give good thought to how we parent and how our children are going to function in their future. What can we do to help them? Julie Lythcott-Haims explains that “the data emerging about the mental health of our kids only confirms the harm done by asking so little of them when it comes to life skills yet so much of them when it comes to adhering to the academic plans we’ve made for them.” Not only do we need to try to ease the pressure that we put on our children, but we also need to give them the coping skills to handle stress and pressures put on them today. Isn’t that what parenting is? Let’s work to help our children grow into adults who are happy, healthy and know who they are and what they want to do.

 

—Mary & Claire

 

**My Remarkable Self is available to give workshops, school/camp assemblies and classes for parents, students, educators and businesses. Please contact us for further information.**

© Kids Empowered LLC and My Remarkable Self™ 2015