I’m so sorry.
I didn’t understand.
I judged you and thought, If your kid doesn’t turn in homework, you must not be giving him harsh enough consequences. You must not being consistent. You must not be following through.
I assumed it was a parenting issue, not a child issue.
You need to take away TV. You need to take away video games. You need to make him go to bed early. You need to take away treats. You need to give him an assignment book to get signed by his teacher. You need to ground him. You need to take every. single. thing. away until he realizes that turning in his work will result in privileges being returned.
And then, then he will turn his homework in. Because it wouldn’t make sense if he didn’t.
I am so, so sorry.
Because now, I understand.
Now I am the mom of the child who just doesn’t make any sense at all.
It all started with positive reinforcement: keeping grades up and turning in assignments equaled video game time or a later bed time or a special treat and praise from mom and dad. That worked. For about ten minutes. Slowly but surely, he stopped turning things in. Then, we started taking things away. First, it was video game privileges. Then, it was TV time (we let our kids watch Netflix from about 6 pm to 7 pm weeknights). Then, it was time with friends. Until everything except this child’s bed, pillow and blanket was taken away.
He goes to school (with an assignment book to get signed by his teacher, I might add), spends the day doing who-knows-what (not paying attention, I can tell you that), and then comes home with his appropriate assignments listed in his assignment book (sometimes).
I check it.
I make sure he does it.
He leaves it at home. Or in his backpack. Or on the bus. Or God knows where. And it never makes its way to the teacher.
And when he has an assignment at school and doesn’t finish it, instead of bringing it home to complete, he’ll stick it in his cubby and forget about it.
And, on the rare occasion that he does do an assignment and turn it in, he does a crappy job. He leaves half of them blank, until I check it and point out the ones he missed, then he’ll do a few more, then a few more, then a few more…you get the picture. His work ethic is pretty much non-existent.
I have met with the teacher. I have walked in with him and made him talk to her while I was there to ask about what he could do to be more responsible.
I am now the parent who is failing. Because nothing I can do, nothing can make him turn his work in, aside from someone else doing it for him, which will never happen, because that teaches him nothing.
It makes absolutely no sense. Why would someone put in time to do an assignment just to get zero credit?
I understand this child doesn’t have the mental capability of looking into the future and seeing what tomorrow will bring. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t even know how to plan for the next minute. He is a child of impulses. He wants something right now, so he does it. He doesn’t care if five minutes later, his world will crumble.
I’ve given him every tool I can without completely enabling him.
I’ve helped him make task lists. I’ve given him colorful folders with dividers. I’ve reminded him what privileges will be returned if he just turns his assignments in. I’ve given him set homework time and reminded him in the morning as he leaves to make sure he turns in his homework.
But it doesn’t work.
Until that motivation comes from within himself, it’s going to be a constant battle.
So, parent of a child who doesn’t turn in his homework: I’m sorry. I am so very sorry that I ever thought I understood when I really didn’t. I had no. idea.
But now I do. It’s exhausting. It’s draining and discouraging and frustrating and saddening. Because I want him to do well so badly. It’s not even about the grades. It’s about setting his mind to a task and completing it. It’s about having pride in his work, and pride in himself, and the confidence that he can do well if he puts his mind to it.
So, please: give me your best ideas for helping a child who doesn’t turn his work in. I’m pretty sure I’ve already tried them. But I’m willing to listen now because I realize I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. I’m just hoping I can make it to this kid’s graduation and see him walk across the stage. Because that will be a miracle in and of itself.