From Classroom Behavior to Homework Honesty

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”Classroom Defiance – Why Won’t My Child Behave?”


Dear Dr. Gelb:

My 10-year-old daughter is getting into trouble in school because she passes notes and whispers to her friends in class. So I have restricted her twice from watching her favorite TV program, but it hasn’t helped. What else can I do?

Smart Kid’s Mom

Dear Mom:

Television restriction is one form of discipline, and if that doesn’t work obviously it is not a stiff enough consequence because your daughter appears to be willing to give that up to continue the behavior.

Consequences must be in proportion to the improper behavior. That being said, some parents in your position may choose to withdraw their child’s allowance, if the child has one, for a week or two, or until the behavior changes.

Parents should keep in mind that their own behavior must be consistent also (e.g., make the bed, wash dishes) because children tend to emulate caregivers. Parents need to remember as well that they are the authorities in the house and in the family, that they must have final say, and be firm and consistent with it.

”Homework – Why Does My Kid Fib About It?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

On several occasions my 9-year-old has come home from school and told me he had no homework. Later I find out from the teacher that there was homework. I have worked hard to teach my child good values, especially about not lying. Why would my son override my moral teachings?


Dear Truthful:

So often when children have not learned or mastered the mechanics of how to study, then when they open their books everything becomes Greek to them. As a result, it is not uncommon for them to avoid homework, even if it means fibbing to get out of it.

Such children need support and direction. They need someone that they can ask the many, many questions that they no doubt have. They need to be able to ask, “Why — What does this mean?” If they have no one to communicate with about how to learn, then when they go to school so much of what the teacher says tends to be a bunch of words without meaning. And when they get home and try to study or to figure something out, there is no one to help them with the answers; no one to discuss it with. It is not hard to appreciate what a nightmare this must be, and why they would avoid this experience.

Parents must prioritize spending time with their children, learning and growing together. Then studying, and even homework, can be a fun activity, not a nightmare. Keeping in mind that ignorance is invariably the aspect of learning that many children fear, parents should impress upon their children that ignorance is nothing to be ashamed of. All it means is that there are things have not yet been learned. All too often lies, such as those you describe, are intended to hide ignorance.

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

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