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Why do kids refuse to do their homework?

I get a lot of these type of questions from parents very distressed with the fact that their child refuses to do their homework. Many times, the children will lie about the homework’s completion, stating they turned it in when they didn’t. These lies can be very creative too 🙂

Most of the time, the parents REALLY are doing everything to stay on top of the situation. Teachers blame them for the child’s behavior but the parent feels helpless to do anything more to motivate the child. That’s when they come to me for answers. They don’t always like the one’s I have to give them and honestly, there are times, I really don’t know why. Fortunately, that isn’t too often. 

Why do the kids act this way and how can you correct it? I can only answer this question for the foster and adoptive children that I work with and not in more general terms. Most kids will get on track with their homework and be more compliant with a little extra vigilance on the part of the parent and a couple consequences put in place for some leverage. All kids test the limits at home and school and once they realize the limits are going to be firm and all the adults in their lives are working as a team to help the child, all is well…

But not for more traumatized children with huge losses in their lives. Unfortunately, these losses become part of the child’s Internal Working Model (John Bowlby) and color how they see the world, their caregivers/parents, and themselves. Self-defeating beliefs in a persons Internal Working Model are extremely hard to change. Not impossible, but their is a lot of work involved. 

The reason parents of these kids don’t like my answers is that I don’t focus on the homework at all. Remember, the issue is the child’s negative IWM, not the homework. That is just the expression of the negative belief system, not the cause. I want to address what is under the behavior and focus on the beliefs. Letting go of the need for the child to get good grades or have perfect behavior in the classroom is difficult for parents. When parents do get this concept and are willing to follow my suggestions to address the “roots” of the problem and partner with me and the child against the problem, the situation dramatically changes. 

Now I will give a quick disclaimer here. In some instances, the behavior never changes but what does improve is the relationship (read: Attachment) between the parent and child when mom and dad can keep the big picture in mind. I tell parents that it is more important to win the battle for the relationship versus the battle of the homework. School will come and go but the relationship is for ever! 

Of course, 80% of the behaviors will improve with a little psychoeducation on study skills, scheduling, communication with the teacher, better reinforcement systems, etc. It is the other 20% that I am focusing on in this post. 

The bottom line for this 20% of children who refuse to do their homework is control. Given their negative IWM about themselves, they haven’t experienced much control in their lives and this is one area that the adults can’t force them into compliance. They might improve for a time but fall back into the same control patterns. Even more reason to work on the roots of all this, improve the relationship/attachment, build more internal strength over grade point averages. 

Share your struggles and thoughts on this topic by leaving a comment or sharing with us over on Facebook at

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Daily Love Notes

Valentine Boxes All Year Round

There are many ways to show love for family members. However, in our family, we don’t write to each other as much as we talk to each other or do acts of service. So, for one of our family activities we decided to make a family mail system.


Outside Mom and Dad’s bedroom door we made a family post office. Each of us have our own mail box, with flag to indicate when there is a message we need to pick up.


Our family is loving this! I spend moments each day writing love notes my family will want to keep forever, and depositing small gifts into the boxes. Everyone else does the same. My small children come to me and say, “Mom, your flag is up, you better go check your mailbox.”


They can’t wait for me to see the love notes they have put in my box. “Mom, you are the best mom ever! Love, Londyn”


When I read the notes some of the children blush a bit or turn away. They have written things they normally wouldn’t say. Really kind, mushy things like, “Mom, I love when you sing me songs.”


I think we are really going to love having those mail boxes in the hall to remind us to tell others how much we love and appreciate them.


I’m pretty sure these boxes will end up being our fun new Valentine boxes for 2012. This activity is also teaching my children how to write a letter, and why spelling is important.


Making A Post Office


This is what we did. We ordered small metal mail boxes from Oriental trading for $2 each. Then we decorated them how we wanted to. Then Dad used a long screw and a washer and screwed each one to the wall.

Happy Valentines Day! 

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Ron Huxley Writes: Daily love notes is an excellent way to keep children engaged and promote strong family connections. What would you put in a note to your child?

Depression and Parental Insightfulness

Research articles often have a “duh” factor when it comes to outcomes in various studies. After you read them you think “I could have told you that!” The up side of academic studies is that they point a laser light of attention on areas of life that need attention. Society seems more willing to spend money and time on correcting problems when we draw a big circle around a social problem in the lab.

This was true, for me, of a study on the level of parental insightfulness and maternal depression (see clip below). The findings of the study was that mom’s (why do we always study moms!) who were depressed are less likely to be able to see life from the vantage point of their children. This results in less emotional attachment and parenting effectiveness. The obviousness of this research is that mom’s or dad’s that are depressed are less likely to see much of anything outside of their own internal pain. This isn’t a slam on depressed parents. I have experienced it and it isn’t purposeful. Depression is usually due to a chemical imbalance and requires professional interventions that may or may not involve medications.

I mention this study on the blog because I want draw a big circle around this issue and say that the long-term effects of a poor attachment between parent and child can have some serious effects on self-esteem and future relationships. I guess this is a call to action for anyone who feels they are depressed, even occasionally. Help yourself and your child by getting some help. There is plenty of help available, from changing diets to clinical therapy. I have found that playing with my child lifts my mood even when I was tired and emotionally down.

“Insightfulness is seen as the mental capacity that provides the context for a secure child–parent attachment. It involves the ability to see things from the child’s perspective and is based on insight into the child’s motives, a complex view of the child and openness to new information about the child. To test our hypothesis that maternal insightfulness is related to maternal depression, we utilized the Insightfulness Assessment (IA) developed by Oppenheim and Koren-Karie to conduct and analyse interviews in which mothers discussed their perceptions of video segments of their interactions with their children. We compared the results of a control group of 30 mothers without a diagnosis of depression with a sample of 23 mothers diagnosed with depression (International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision). As expected, depression was negatively related to maternal insightfulness.”

Source: Share what you have done to increase your mood and deal with depression by leaving a comment below or posting on our Facebook ParentingToolbox Page.