Lying about homework

Alyson Schafer shares advice on how to handle kids who lie about doing their homework

Q: My 10-year-old has been lying to me about homework. He’ll do some, but he’ll hide the work he doesn’t want to do. How should I handle this?

A: You need to help your son solve the underlying problem: why he doesn’t want to do homework.

There are two common reasons:

Boredom If the homework is rote repetition of what children already know, this creates academic malaise; research shows most homework of this nature actually hurts learning. If you think it’s just boredom, don’t ask if he has done all his homework, which sets him up for a lie. Let the consequences of incomplete work unfold the next day at school with his teacher.

Challenge Perhaps the homework is too challenging — imagine if every time you sat down at your desk, the little gremlin in your head said, You’re stupid. You don’t get this — it’s above you. You’ll never learn this. Flooded with thoughts like these, a child’s feelings of inferiority create an angst that drives him to flee the situation any way he can, including lying about being done.
Children stay motivated when they feel there’s some hope of success. Once they decide that no amount of effort will bring success, they stop trying all together. That is the essence of the discouraged learner.

So how do you “re-encourage” him? Clearly state that you notice he’s not completing his work and it must mean he’s feeling down about school work. See if you can talk to him about his thoughts and feelings. Is it the volume? Does he understand the concepts?

I suggest setting up a meeting with your child and the teacher to help identify what the issues are and decide on some strategies that address the hurdles. Be supportive and caring, showing him you want to help find solutions that work for him. Avoid being judgmental and punitive. Your child should feel you have his back, not that you are “the homework police.”

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