The #1 Question Parents Ask Most: Surprising Facts
Did you ask your child about his or her homework this week? In parent circles, homework has become a point of contention. Parents ask each other, “Do you agree there is too much homework?” If you are one of the parents questioning students’ school assignments, you may want to do your own homework on this subject.
In his book, “The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing,” researcher Alfie Kohn says none of the studies on homework show a significant positive effect on high school learning. Some of the studies actually show harm, and, at best, the studies are neutral, Kohn reports.
I agree with parents who feel that for many teens there’s too much homework. When my own daughters were going through high school (two different schools), I felt this way, but I thought it was just me. Now, more parents are speaking up and questioning high school work levels. You’ve probably heard the “benefits” of more homework, but how often do you hear about how teens benefit from less homework?
Benefits of Less Homework
There are at least three major benefits of less homework:
- Increase parent-teen bonding time
- Reduce family stress
- Free-up time for life-changing activities
Increase Parent-Teen Bonding Time
At one of my recent parent workshops, one mother told me, “I used to bond with my child while taking a walk in the woods, but now she has too much homework and other school activities: there’s no time.” If you are a high school parent, this is a crucial age for family bonding. We need positive relationships to buffer against the negative effects of stress, says Dr. George Vaillant. Additionally, Dr. Ned Hallowell explains that parent-teen connection leads to adult happiness.
Less homework frees-up opportunities for reconnecting with your teen: nice for you, vital for your child.
Reduce Family Stress
The high levels of homework can damage parent-child relationships in another way: students’ school demands can begin to feel like parents’ school demands—and we can end up nagging our teens because of the pressure we feel to make sure they get the best possible start in life.
In my worst moments as a parent, I imagined my teens lying on the couch watching TV for the next 30 years—if I didn’t prod them now! Sadly, when I looked around for help, all the resources encouraged more nagging and prodding: schedules, planners, tutors, consequences, kind-but-authoritative expectation-setting… it’s exhausting just to think about it. Looking back, I think it’s a good thing that I didn’t have the energy or the discipline to follow-through on all the advice we got—it’s one assignment I’m glad I failed.
At the age where our kids most need to know we are there for them, school pressures can add to our stress and undermine the love and trust teens need (even if they don’t show it).
Free Up Time for Life-Changing Activities
Even if you’ve maintained a great relationship with your teen, you still have good reason to question the amount of high school work. Engagement — “flow”— occurs when you are absorbed in an activity that challenges your skills or uses your strengths in new ways, and flow gives kids a chance to flourish, says Martin Seligman. What better life lessons could our teens learn?
Sadly, most teens are not engaged in their academic classes, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi reports. Most of the flow in high school learning happens in non-academic areas—electives, sports, and arts. Outside of school, hobbies, games, and community activities like volunteer service and scouting can be highly-engaging—yet these are often minimized due to time-pressure. If most of students’ school experience is not engaging, do we really want to add even more non-engaging homework to the daily strain—and deprive teens of activities where they can flourish?
If you are wondering how to help your teen thrive, my response is: less homework, more flow.
Hallowell, E. (2003). The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy. New York: Ballantine Books.
Kohn, A. (2006). The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing. Cambridge: Da Capo Lifelong Books.
Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press.
Shernoff, D. J., Csikszentmihalyi, M., Shneider, B., & Shernoff, E. S. (2003). Student engagement in high school classrooms from the perspective of flow theory. School Psychology Quarterly, 18(2), 158-176.
Vaillant, G. (1998). Adaptation to Life. New York, NY: Harvard University Press.