By Dr. Joseph Gianesin, Behavioral Consultant
My daughter won't turn in her homework. In the classroom, she knows the answers when the teacher asks questions. When she has to do a worksheet in class, she
refuses to turn it in. When the teacher asks her about it, she can't find it so she misses physical education and recess to do it, and she still won't turn it in. My husband and I have talked to her and punished her. She still doesn't turn in anything or try to do her homework. It takes her an hour and a half for one subject, and still she doesn't finish it. What can we do to change all of this?
In the description you have given regarding you daughter, she is capable of doing, understanding and completing the required work. When she is asked to
turn in her work in written form, she refuses to do so even at the risk of losing recess and physical education class. In response to this, you and your husband have made a concerted effort to support the teacher by talking with her and even providing consequences at home. These efforts have failed to change her attitude and performance.
There could be many reasons for her behavior toward homework and following directions at home and school. One hypothesis is that she has difficulty with authority figures, and this is her way of a winning a power struggle with adults. To check out this hypothesis, I would ask if this was occurring in all of the environments in which she interacts. If she is takes an opposing opinion with authority figures most of the time, then this is a good indication that this hypothesis is worth exploring.
If not, it may be that she is afraid of turning in something on paper that reflects her inadequacy to complete the work to her personal satisfaction. Is she a perfectionist? Does she get frustrated when things don't go exactly her way?
Finally, your daughter may be seeking attention from you and the teacher, even if it is negative. As you probe further, keep in mind these recommendations for homework: First, for every child, predictability, routine and consistency is extremely important. I counsel parents to find a designated homework place in the house that is free from distractions and stimuli. A certain time should be agreed upon when the child is to be in the homework routine. (I often give the child a structured choice: You can do it at 5:30, 6:00 or 7:00; the child can pick the time but not the fact that they have to do it.) Homework time is honored every day regardless of whether the child has homework or not. It they don't have homework, they should have a book that they can read during that designated time. This type of training early sets the stage for homework in the upper-grades. Be sure and build in some play time and relaxation time for your child. It is as important as the homework.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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