Many parents seek out a mindfulness practice because they are looking for a skillful way to respond to their children’s tantrums. Mindfulness is about noticing what actually is happening in the present moment—in a kind and curious way—so we can choose what to do next. Any one of those skills—choosing to pay attention…staying in the present rather than being distracted by our own thoughts or worries…or being interested or compassionate in response to whatever is happening—can help us be more effective and empathic…and not just when it comes to managing the inevitable meltdown. Mindfulness can be helpful in a variety of challenging parenting situations, including homework battles.
The reality is that most kids don’t want to do homework. Of course they don’t. They’ve been sitting in chairs all day, trying to pay attention to something that they may or may not find particularly interesting, and then they get home and are expected to do the same thing all over again. Maybe they’re tired or hungry…bored by the work…stressed by the length or difficulty of the assignment…or confused about where to start.
We parents also may feel tired or stressed after a long day at work or at home with younger kids. We might be worried about our child’s academic performance…bored and frustrated by the constant homework negotiations and battles…or pulled in 10 different directions as we try to make dinner, wrangle the other children and keep our kid focused on his spelling. You probably know how this scene often plays out—parent nags, kid procrastinates, parent nags more, maybe yells or threatens, kid either explodes or shuts down, and the whole thing comes to a screeching halt. The homework doesn’t get done, and the level of tension and frustration in the house shoots way up, which only reinforces everyone’s dislike of homework, thus all but guaranteeing another miserable day tomorrow.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Now, I’m not saying that mindfulness will turn your child into an eager academic, but it can take some of the stress out of the process. It all starts with us and our approach to the situation. Let’s say you ask your child to do his homework. Maybe he sits down at the table…maybe he doesn’t. Either way, at some step in the process (or perhaps before it even begins), you realize that your son isn’t interested in his spelling words. You notice yourself starting to nag, and you stop. Just stop.
You can read all of the details about how mindfulness can help ease your homework stress over at the Mastering Happiness blog on BottomLineInc.