Parents of school-age children soon realize that it is harder than they realized to keep tabs on what is going on at school and what teachers expect of their children. Many schools or individual teachers have implemented systems of keeping track of assignments on a daily basis. This procedure requires the child to write down their assignments, show the assignment book to their parents, obtain a signature of receipt, and then bring that information back to the teacher. Although this seems labor-intensive, it is often to the benefit of both the student and the teacher. This is implemented most often in younger grades so that parents are kept in the loop, work gets done more readily, and learning can (hopefully) occur.
The Truth is Discovered
Regardless of whether or not your child’s school or teacher has an assignment tracking system in place, it is still a good idea to find ways to keep track of what your child is doing. Emailing is an excellent way to stay in contact with your child’s teacher, especially in higher grades when there is less likely to be a homework tracking system. As long as you are not emailing the teachers on a daily (or even weekly) basis, most teachers are more than happy to help you keep tabs on your child’s progress. Sending the email is the easy part, but reading the words “missing assignments” in the return email is a tough fact to swallow. You thought you were keeping up with your child’s assignments and you were diligent in your daily inquiries about homework and upcoming tests. What you didn’t expect was that your child was being less than truthful and notes that were supposed to get to you never quite made it for some reason.
Now What Do You Do?
Probably one of the hardest things to cope with as a parent is to realize that your child has been lying to you. You are struck by the fact that when you inquired about school and homework, they may have looked you right in the eye and said “I don’t have any homework” or “I finished my homework at school”. The good news is that there is a fairly high likelihood that they were telling the truth. It turns out that many students finish their homework at school during off-hours but then forget to turn the assignment in. The bad news is that there isn’t anything that you can do to make them turn their homework in, on-time or at all. This can be a relief for some parents when they finally realize, especially once their children reach the middle and high school years, that the responsibility for turning their assignments in ultimately rests on the child and not the parent.
Keep the Lecture Brief and Low-Key
Whatever the reason is that your child has not turned in their homework, the fact remains that they didn’t do it and it is still a teaching moment and you are still the parent. Some things to keep in mind when approaching your child about missing homework assignments is to try to get some sort of evidence from the teacher of the missing assignments, stay calm when relaying your information, and keep the talk brief. If you have an email from the teacher, you can open up a dialogue with your child about missing homework assignments by asking your child to explain the situation after having him or her read your evidence. Give them the chance to present their case and listen to everything they have to say, even if you don’t believe it. This helps to keep the lines of communication open and your child will know that you really do care about their side of the story. While this information is being relayed, stay calm. Getting upset just makes your child want to clam up because they figure you will just yell anyway and not really hear what they have to say. Finally, keep the whole encounter brief. Even if you revisit the topic later on, keep each session down to a few minutes because the bottom line is that there isn’t that much to say and your child will tune out after a while.
Remember that while you are responsible for helping them learn to be responsible students and human beings, you can’t ever do their duties for them, because if you do they will never learn to become independent, responsible citizens when they are adults.