Daughter Gets Frustrated with Homework
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Daughter Gets Frustrated with Homework

Parenting expert Jan Faull, MEd, on kids with homework troubles.

Q. "My 8-year-old daughter is smart, but she has difficulty with her homework. She is a good reader, and does her work at school. When she has a problem with her homework, my husband and I will try to help but she refuses to try. If she can't immediately do something, she starts to cry. And she doesn't pay attention when you try to explain things to her. I am very frustrated with of all her crying and her refusal to listen. How can I get her to behave and not get so frustrated?"

A. Right now it's most important that your daughter learn to manage her emotions with respect to homework. This is more important than the quality of her assignments, and it will serve her better over her long-term academic life. It's important to keep in mind that in the short run her homework may suffer, but in the long run she and her approach to homework will most likely improve.

Realize that no one can think when emotional. So your job is to help her settle her homework-related emotions so she can approach her homework with thought and reason rather than tears.

When tears well up in her eyes, notice how you are feeling and take a few deep breaths. What your daughter needs from you is patience and understanding while she works past her frustrations. Be respectful of her feelings, and express yourself clearly and calmly.

With your own emotions in check, move gently toward your daughter and ask her how she's feeling. If she can't express herself, read her emotional body language and say, "It looks to me like you're frustrated with your assignments. I understand; I feel the same way sometimes when I have to do something that seems difficult and complicated."

Also add, "I'm going to sit right here next to you, and when you're done crying, we can work together to complete your assignments." Tell her that you have faith that she has everything necessary to complete these assignments: she's smart and a good student. Also let her know that if she needs your help you're willing, all she needs to do is ask.

But also remember, for right now the quality of the work is not as important as your child learning to clear her mind of all those emotions so she can eventually focus and concentrate. When she completes her work, don't check it. Your responsibility is to offer a calming presence when she's emotional. The assignments are her responsibility. How she completes them is between her and her teacher.

It may take up to three weeks for your daughter to turn off the homework-related tears. Guiding her to change her approach will be a true test of your parenting patience. You'll need to bear up through it all; your efforts will pay off when she can approach homework without a tear-stained face.

Lastly, it's a good idea to talk to your daughter's teacher. Let her know what's going on and ask for her insights and ideas.