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Nine-year-old grandson’s homework resistance

Question:

My 9-year-old grandson lives with me part-time. Both of his parents have Bipolar disorder. He has frequent meltdowns regarding completing his homework. 

Last year he struggled in school. He had a teacher who, from my point of view, made it clear that she did not like him. His teacher had very high expectations, and my grandson had difficulty meeting them. He often had to stay in from recess to complete work, and he was repeatedly sent to the assistant principal’s office. He frequently had three hours of homework at night.  

This year he has a nurturing teacher. He is doing better in school, and the homework load is appropriate for his grade. But he still has meltdowns regarding homework. If a concept does not come easily, he gives up and says he can’t do it.  He will become fixated on one problem. He becomes agitated. I have to wait for him to calm down before I can resume explaining a problem or help him complete an assignment. What should only take a short period of time takes an evening of struggle and coercion. 

How can I effectively teach him to do his homework on his own and to the best of his ability? I have resorted to punishment and I don’t want to do that again.

 

Answer:

When children are stressed out by expectations and the demands of school, it often carries over into the home at the end of the day. Taking a break is often the answer. When your grandson comes home from school, do not launch immediately into homework. Give him a snack. Let him play outside. This changes his surroundings and allows some of the stress he is feeling to melt away.  

Afterward, set up a structured study period in an area that is free from distraction but accessible to you for help when needed. At the first sign of frustration, have your grandson take a mini break. Have him put the pencil down; take a deep breath; shake the tension out of his arms; roll his head in a circular motion; raise his shoulders up and down; and/or stand up and walk around the table – anything physical to distract his mind. 

We as adults know that there are times when we have to leave a problem alone, move on to the next one and then return to the troublesome one later. He needs to learn to do the same.

 

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