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Welcome, medical contents search April 25, 2013
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Junior high student neglects homework, absorbed in Internet chatting.

Strictly regulate anything other than schoolwork.

A problem with my 7th grade son's homework is getting serious. Up to the 4th grade, there was no problem, since I was helping him with his homework and arranging his after school schedule. I started to pay less attention because of my other children, and now he doesn't seem to be doing his homework at all. His grades are failing. Even his private tutor can't help him because he refuses to write down the homework. Sometimes, he works at his homework for10 minutes or less, and then goes on-line to chat on the Internet. He says that he hates going to school and takes no interest in his studies. I am really concerned, not just about his homework, but about his lack of interest in anything other than chatting on the net. What should I do? Forbid him from going on-line until his grades improve?

In my work doing psychological assessment and consulting, one of the most commonly heard complaints from parents is this: "My child doesn't do homework." Having seen countless parents who try to force their children to do homework (and their children who refuse), I found that there are three general groupings of homework avoiders.

First, in exploring this symptom, I often uncover kids with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) who have gone undetected until now. That's because they easily slip by in the lower grades where the amount of homework is not significant and they get a lot of help from home. But AD literally means lack of attention, and students with this condition tend to be completely oblivious to the teacher's directions, often simply forgetting to glimpse the bulletin board for the assignment. Even when they do attempt it at home, they have such short attention spans that they can't sit still long enough to accomplish any real work.

Easily bored and frustrated by their lack of accomplishment, they soon give up. Meanwhile, mom observes their apparent laziness with mounting anger. Parents need to understand that if their child tests out to be ADHD, he/she has a genuine biological disorder that can be greatly helped with biofeedback or medicine, after the usual measures to instill pride in work and personal discipline fail. Their children are not simply lazy or wayward, but are bio-chemically challenged.

Secondly, I've discovered that often the problem stems from parental over-involvement with their children's homework from the beginning, more or less doing it for them instead of with them, so that when the time comes from the kids to work on their own, they are unable to. They haven't developed the discipline and habit of working independently. The lesson here is that it is important to create an environment in which children are encouraged to work, but not one in which they are coddled and dependent on others.

Thirdly, I've observed that when children are angry with their parents or defiant, one of the ways they can express their hostility is by not doing homework, and even flunking out of school. Parents can crush their kids' enthusiasm by being overly critical, too. For example, one of my patients, a depressed teenage girl, confessed: "I do want to get good grades. Every day I resolve to do every assignment and study hard. But it's never good enough for my parents-they never see my effort or my successes, only my failures. I can't do my homework when I'm upset like this. I just want to leave home."

We human beings need to learn at least one basic truth about life-do the best job that we can, and take responsibility for the outcome, regardless.

From the first grade on, children should learn the habit of doing their homework as soon as they get home. Such a childhood habit can carry through life, instilling them with a sense of responsibility, self-discipline, and task-oriented accomplishment, and the satisfaction that comes from knowing that you've done your personal best.

As for computer games, the Internet, TV, phone calls, and all the endless possibilities for escapism and recreation that our society is prone to, these privileges come after the homework.

So if your child's problem is not caused by an attention deficit disorder or other organic or psychological conditions (like anxiety/panic disorders), then the solution is within your purview, one that requires your firm guidance and structuring. Freedom without bounds is chaos. They'll thank you later in life for helping them to build a firm foundation.

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