Well, school is back in full swing and my competitive children are now arguing over homework. My daughter, in fifth grade, wants to take a break after school and my son, in third, gets his done right away. Then, when he is playing, she is mad that he is finished and she has to buckle down and she puts up a huge fuss. Also, he is really awful about rubbing it in. WHAT should I do?
Claudia, in Harrisburg, PA
You don’t actually have to do anything. You will, of course, because we are moms and moms DO stuff. We worry and ponder and try to fix situations to make our children happier. All of that is really loving but might not be necessary.
Your son is getting his homework done and then playing, and that works for him. Great.
Your daughter recognizes her need for some after school time to relax, and then gets her work done. Great!
Now you’re thinking – no, my kitchen table cannot be the site of melodrama and warfare each day!
I understand that the huge fuss your daughter is making before and during her homework is sucking the fun out of your evenings. You could tune her out and see if she changes her behavior. That would not be a bad lesson! You could also sit with her sometime when there is no homework anywhere in sight (like on a weekend at the park) and talk to her about her dilemma. Ask her to tell you about her frustration. Then ask her for a couple of solutions.
When parents listen and show faith in our children’s abilities to handle their own problems, we are teaching resilience. Your daughter will hear “I notice that you are upset, I care.” Then she will hear “I know you can solve this.” And she can, of course, by doing her homework earlier or believing in the advantages of her own schedule and ignoring her brother. Which I bet is a skill she already has!
As for your son, you can also let this one be or take a more active role. You can try to teach him a little more about empathy. Teaching kids about empathy sometimes works when you have them imagine how they would feel in a certain situation. More often they get it when they are a victim of bad behavior and you point out the similarity: “I understand why you were angry that Mick bragged about getting extra free time when he finished his math sheet. I wonder if that is why your sister gets so mad at you when you brag about your homework being done…”
If you do not intervene, I am certain that your daughter will find an effective way to teach him how icky it is to have someone gloat to your face. In this way siblings are often each others’ best teachers.