Avoiding Schoolwork Battles

Today’s post is written by Dr. Bridget Engel, clinical psychologist in Erie, CO.  Dr. Engel specializes in working with children, families, and couples.  She is also the author of Counselor’s Corner, a mental health blog.  Dr. Engel’s post is part of this week’s series on student information systems.  

Here we are.  We are already a month plus into school.  The new-ness of the school year is starting to wear off and most everyone is settled into the familiarity of fall.  And I have already spoken with parents who’ve had to wage war with their son or daughter about missing assignments and poor grades.  That’s an age old conflict that goes back many generations.  What’s new is that many of these parents now have access to Infinite Campus technology, hosted through their school district, to stay up-to-date and informed about their child’s academic progress.

Image by Thisischris.com

While Infinite Campus and other tech-based information tools are wonderful in allowing parents to stay engaged in their child’s education, many parents I’ve talked to describe emotional arguments with their kids sprinkled with excuses, debates about it’s accuracy, and circular clashes about how recently it’s been updated by various teachers.  So are you ready to reduce the family feud about homework and missing assignments?  Here are some things to think about:

● Infinite Campus is technology, and only that.  It doesn’t replace a relationship built with your child’s teacher.  Your child’s teacher is the one that spends seven hours a day with your son or daughter.

● Your kid may be right.  Academic databases are often incorrect.  Don’t forget that there is an overwhelmed person behind Infinite Campus who is busy teaching your child.  Sometimes they don’t get all the grades entered.  Be careful about wearing your combat gear at the front door waiting for your child to come home, armed only with what you’ve seen on the computer.

● Be careful about becoming dependent on computer-based technology as your academic babysitter.  Whether your child has missing assignments or not, technology does not replace real life skills.  If your child is struggling to get homework completed or turned in, focus instead on teaching your child how to become more organized, self-sufficient, and independent.

● Watch for warning signs that you are power struggling with your kids about school assignments and grades, especially if it is happening frequently.  Do not get lulled into thinking that lecturing your child or monitoring every move from Infinite Campus is helping them.  Lecturing helps parents feel better;  It very rarely creates behavior change in kids.  Challenge yourself to step back and examine your approach, your goals and your values.

● Think about the whole, rather than the parts.  It’s easy to get focused on the small details and converge on every single assignment.  Would you want your boss to examine and challenge you on every single paper that crossed your desk at work?  Few people grow when micro-managed.  Highlight the end product instead.  Your child is an individual and may do things differently than you.  As long as they are learning something throughout the year and earning acceptable grades, perhaps it’s ok to remark about those missing assignments but refrain from waging war at the dinner table because the Huckleberry Finn poem didn’t get turned in.

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