Help! Homework is a constant battle in our home

May 23, 2023 • 7 min
Help! Homework is a constant battle in our home

Dear Mattsons, 

Homework is a battle. Every night my daughter gets easily frustrated and calls herself stupid. One or both of us frequently ends up in tears. How do I build up her confidence, teach responsibility, and maybe even instill a love of learning? 

Hating Homework

I love that you’re asking this question because you’re not giving up on it. You’re going, “okay how do I still help her enjoy learning.” Every kid has different learning styles and there are just seasons of frustration based on the subject. Maybe the tensions that are going on developmentally where she’s at. So just in the moment, recognize she’s frustrated and empathize, this is hard for you. You’re frustrated and you don’t like your homework right now. That is not the time to do a lot of teaching and coaching. Some of the tips we’re going to give you are more in the neutral times, not during homework time. 

Researchers indicate that up to 77% of self-talk is negative. You report in the question that she is expressing and feeling like she is stupid. One of the things that you can do is just acknowledge that every one of us has negative self-talk.

And self-talk are the words that we say to ourselves that are put downs, in our own minds. We may even utter them under our breath, or worse out loud to others, and normalize the struggle of negative self-talk. You can give her a practical tip that hopefully you’re integrating too, which is to kind of grab that, and here’s where we integrate our faith, negative self-talk thought bubble and hold it up against God’s word and his truth. 

So as an example of this, if I might say to myself “Gosh, I’m so stupid.” I grab that negative self-talk and I then use what is in many, many Bibles a concordance, a topical study. Look up words that relate to stupid, foolish or whatever it might be, and God has in his sovereignty ordained me to find some verse that has to do with the word that is like that. And we will show her and help her to find those topical sources.

God’s already working in her, and she can take that verse, she can put it on a sticky note. I am a sticky note guy where I am going to see it. And when I have that negative self-talk of “I’m stupid,” Jesus says the spirit reminds us of everything I have taught you. So here that verse pops up right there in that moment, that’s God’s work in that space. And then we do what Jesus did, which is to speak the word. That is how he countered negative temptation and self. I don’t know if he had negative self-talk, but he had things coming at him. 

And speaking it aloud, so I might say that instead of feeling stupid, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, or that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. These are scriptures that directly fight that negative self-talk and we all have it. So or how? 

Yeah, I love that, because you are really attached to that shameful language and saying it is reframing it for your child and her, not identifying in that negative place, but saying I am a child of God who has, and I can do all things through Christ, and I sometimes feel stupid, or this is frustrating. 

That is the human side of it. So, we are tackling that. And then we are also tackling thinking about who she is. So, this is where you are going to have a dialogue with her about setting her up for success. Every child has different learning styles, and we have an oldest daughter who likes quiet. She wants her own space, very structured, right? And she is in her zone, she is going to be doing her homework, do not mess her. Then you have the other child who wants the radio on, wants us around, she would love to do homework in the middle. And it is hard for her to pull away and do homework. So, you are trying to figure out what would help her, you’re going to try some things out. 

Normalize the fact that you are setting her up for success, but routine is important, once she knows what routine helps her. So, thinking about is it harder for her to watch a show first and then do homework, or is it better for her to come home, knock it out of the park, and then reward herself with something. But getting her mind wrapped around the fact that homework is her responsibility, like chores, nobody likes to do it unless you really, really love learning. 

And our youngest was so different than our oldest in this space. Many of you have multiple kids, and so siblings are simply different, right? Yes, they are all different. 

Our youngest, we found that being with her physically and engaging with her on homework or the reading was exactly what she needed to do more of it. 

It is the people part, you like to verbally process and so that means more work for us as parents, but you are trying to help her figure it out for life. 

This is what she is going to be doing. She is a verbal processor, so she has learned that she is going to do better in group studies with lectures, or podcast type learning, than sitting there with a book reading to herself. So, that is your challenge, to help set your daughter up for success. Figure out her wiring and if there is a learning disability or something that you have not figured out yet, that could also be playing a role. So, make sure you stay engaged with teachers and do not be afraid to get assessments done. 

If this is a long-standing pattern because we do see a lot of children that do not get diagnosed and they are well into high school and college and they have thought they were stupid, but it was actually a developmental piece that they just needed some coaching and helping. So, do not be afraid to get some extra support if your gut is saying this might be that. 

And I love that we can affirm, affirm. The things that you notice that are direct words from your mouth, mom or dad in this case, people in the family system that can affirm her for who she is and what she is good at and her intelligence, that would directly counteract the negative self-talk that she is dealing with. You cannot go wrong there. Just keep pouring it on. What you are seeing, noticing, celebrating in, and helping her in that battle. 

Yeah, I mean, there are some authors that speak to more of the learning styles that there is up to 12 different smarts. Right. There are kids that are body smart, kids that are people smart, .ds that are learner smart. So that’s part of that. Language is figuring out what your daughter does really well. Make sure she knows that. That is her gifting, and maybe homework, this particular subject, this style of learning is going to be tough, but she can do it because she can do all things through Christ who strengthens her. 

So, I was telling Jeff that I used to give M&M’s occasionally. I’d give myself an M&M when I made it through something hard, when I had an assignment just to get myself to finish it. I do like to reward with food. So, if there is something that feels motivating for your daughter, do not be afraid to use that as well. 

And honestly, I have a real passion for daughters. So, if you are raising a daughter, you know, 2nd grade all the way through high school, we have some courses for you. They are called Helping Moms Raise Confident Daughters. They are a beautiful resource for you to be able to have intentional conversations with your daughter about things like this, building her confidence and her relationship with God, with you, and learning more about herself. Visit and make sure you pick out a course that is the right age for you and your daughter. 

Mom, you are the right parent for the job. And Tara and I are here cheering you on. 

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About the Author:

Jeff and Terra Mattson

Jeff Mattson (MA ORL) and Terra Mattson (MA LPC, LMFT) are Christian Parenting spokespeople and the co-hosts of the Living Wholehearted Podcast in the Christian Parenting Podcast Network.

After two decades studying and working in leadership and trauma-informed therapy, Jeff and Terra are bridging the gap between Biblical, clinical, and relational wisdom to help leaders live with integrity in the home, work, and community.

They are the co-founders of Living Wholehearted, a professional counseling and organizational development firm. Terra is the author of Courageous: Being Daughters Rooted in Grace and together they co-authored Shrinking the Integrity Gap: Between what Leaders Preach and Live. Jeff and Terra have skin in the game as they raise their two daughters just outside Portland, OR on five acres of old growth woods. There is never a dull moment in the Mattson home!

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