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Temper Tantrum Homework

After the start of the second grade, I very quickly noticed some heavy struggles around homework come up. It was clear I was going to need to help my child with school. At the start of the year, my son’s second grade teacher gave all the parents special instructions for doing homework this year: set a timer for 30 minutes for homework time, and when that timer goes off, put the pencil down and walk away. If any tears or yelling happens before the timer goes off, put the pencil down and walk away. It was as though he was perfectly foreshadowing what we were about to see.

For a number of days in a row, when homework time approached in the evening, my son met it with resistance and frustration. I would see a range of reactions, from announcing that it was boring and he wasn’t going to do it, to kicking and yelling and crying over his homework. I noticed in myself how inflexible I was around homework time – I was frustrated that he wouldn’t just sit down and do the assignments that looked to me like they were easy enough to do with his eyes closed! It got to the point where I could not touch homework time – we just had to wait until my husband got home to do it with him, as he was somehow able to put more play and lightness to it and succeeded in helping our son get it completed. I could see that this was going to be an emotional project for the whole family and needed a new strategy fast.

I started on this issue in my own listening partnerships. I got listening about how frustrating homework was, how intolerable my sons behavior was, especially when it was always topics I know he is good at and have seen him complete with ease! I got listening around how when I was his age homework was easy for me, so why did it have to be such a struggle for him? And finally, how I don’t like that homework even exists! It cuts into our family time in the evenings, and more often than not is IS as boring as my son says it is.

Next, I made a point to do Special Time with my son before my husband got home to do homework with him. Honestly I was happy to do Special Time in place of homework with my son, it was much more enjoyable. We would wrestle, or pillow fight, or play his favorite video game depending on what he would choose. I started to notice that homework time seemed to go much easier when he would get this extra connection. I saw these as little victories along the way, but still I found that writing homework of any kind continued to be a frustrating struggle.

One evening my son pulled out his spelling and writing assignments and asked for my help. He was already upset about the subject of the homework before he even pulled it out of his backpack. I asked him to read me the instructions while I was cooking something in the kitchen. He became more and more distracted and agitated. I told him it was time to stop playing with what he was playing with and sit down to focus on homework. “Then come help me!!” He screamed. He screamed this again, and I put down what I was doing to come in closer to him. He kept yelling “Help me! Help me!” over and over again, and the closer I got to him while offering my help with my words, the louder he yelled it. He was kicking and screaming on the floor and I just continued to say “I am here to help you,” while he continued to scream for help.

This went on for some time and I continued to stay close, holding a gentle arm around his baby brother to make sure he did not accidentally get kicked. I acknowledged that homework was frustrating, that he works really hard all day at school. He screamed and kicked, and cried a small amount. After a while his system began to settle down and relax. He turned to a toy to play with and I let him take his time to play and relax while I went back to the kitchen to cook dinner.

By the time dinner was done, he had returned to the table and quietly completed his homework on his own. He was very proud of his work, and showed me each part.  In these last few weeks, I have continued my connection tools all in combination, and it has meant that I have been able to help him with his homework. He now will often complete it before my husband gets home and we get extra time to play and connect as a whole family.


—Natalie Thiel, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor

If you have challenges around homework or setting limits, consider our online Setting Limits and Building Cooperation course.


Posted inParenting | TaggedParenting by Connection, Special Time, homework, school struggles, listening, listening time, homework challenges, parenting solutions, natalie thiel |

Script Edit

Violette:[focusing on a worksheet] This is William's homework assignment, well this is what he thought was his homework assignment, and he really had two copies of it. Here's the copy he did. [camera focuses on the bottom of the page] The bottom of it he didn't quite do what he was supposed to so I asked him to fix it. He's throwing a fit. He forgot his homework Monday night-

William:[over his mum] Mum I wasn't throwing a fit.

Violette: -so they sent it home the next day, and this is what they sent. [holds up a crumpled worksheet]

William: What are you talking about, you're so lying.

Violette: He crumpled it up, and then it turned - he said that was really classwork [William snatches and crumples the worksheet] but it turns out I found the real homework assignment [holds up the assignment] and he won't do it. He's crumpling it up right now and this is a copy I'm sending - I'm sending this to the school principal. [William throws the crumpled worksheet at the camera] He's gonna be in the resource room.

William: (incomprehensible) so stupid isn't it?

Violette:[holds up the assignment] You need to do this now.

William: Why?

Violette: 'Cause it says...homework. (Trivia: This is in the intro of Violette1st's videos.)

William: It's 9:33!

Violette: That's because you were off. School was closed today from snow and you had all day to do this.

William: It's 9:33 Mum I just want to watch Naruto!

Violette: You need to do your homework.

William: No.

Violette: Yes. [William crumples up the assignment and starts walking away] I am sending this to your school.

William:[stops] Okay Mum, just delete it, okay?

Violette: No.

William: I will break that camera.

Violette: I'm gonna send it to your school.

William: I will break that camera!

Violette: Then I'm gonna send a copy to grandma who bought the camera so-so she can see how you're treating it. [William walks away] Get over here.

William: No.

Violette: Alright, let me get this uploaded. [holds a worksheet in front of the camera]

William:[returning] Okay Mum! What to you want me to do?

Violette: I want you to do your homework as assigned.

William: Mum, do I have to do it? It's 9:34 in the morning.

Violette: Look, all you have - it is not 9:34 in the morning. All it is is subtracted - repeated subtraction on four problems.

William: Mum!

William's Mum: It's easy, you're taking-

William: It's 9:34!

William's Mum: Look! Just do repeated subtraction four times, and then you'll be done.

William:[over his mum] Mum, it's 9:34 I want to watch Naruto!

William's Mum: Okay well go get the pen, let's do this real quick - pencil.

William: You should have let me watch Naruto earlier.

William's Mum: Uhh, you could have done this earlier but you chose to play around. [William crumples the assignment] Alright, now you just made yourself look worse. [William tosses the assignment aside] That was not a good idea, that's getting shown - this video is doing you in.

William: Don't show it to her!

William's Mum: Yup. I'm going to.

William: Okay Mum.

William's Mum: Well then do it now.

William: It I do it, will you just delete it off it?!

William's Mum:[uncrumples the assignment] I don't - I have to wait till - I'll consider it. If you do it with pride.

William Mum why are you making me do this at 9:35? [covers the camera with the assignment]

William's Mum: Okay yeah I can already see it, I already saw the homework, thank you for showing it to the video camera.

William: You're acting so stupid on it.

William's Mum: And I-now I have you on video telling your mother you said she's stupid.

William: Yeah you are stupid.

William's Mum: Let's get our pencil out and do this.

William: No. Mum it's 9:35!

William's Mum:[over William] The video's getting longer and longer.

William: It's 9:36, for real can I just watch Naruto?

William's Mum: This is what I'm going to do-

William: I'm so bored!

William's Mum: You can go watch Naruto and skip your homework but I'm uploading this.

William: No!

William's Mum: Yes I am.

William: No!

William's Mum: Yes I am. [moves the camera around while William still tries to block it with the assignment]

William: [hums quietly] You're so stupid.

William's Mum: Do your homework.

William: No, you're so stupid.

William's Mum: Stop blocking the camera.

William: No.

William's Mum: Oh, I can't wait till daddy wakes up so I can show him how you're acting.

William: I can't wait till daddy wakes up-wakes up so I can te-show him how stupid you're acting.

William's Mum: This is getting uploaded, you know.

William: I don't care.

William's Mum: Good. [grabs the assignment] Let's go. Do your homework.

William:[grabs the assignment] Mum why do I have to do it? It's so late, can I just do it in the morning?

William's Mum: No.

William: Why?!

William's Mum: 'Cause you know you won't get up. [William tries to cover the camera with his hand]

William: Yeah I will.

William's Mum: No. Do it now. [William covers the camera with the assignment] You're the one who put it off all night long. You've been stalling and stalling.

William: Mum, why...can't I just go watch Naruto? I just wanna go watch Naruto. [stops blocking the camera] everyone else gets to watch Naruto-

William's Mum: Since when?

William: -but me-

William's Mum:[over William] Well everybody else did their homework.

William: -and everyone is watching Naruto but me! [wails]

Everyone else is watching Naruto right now but me! [crying]

William's Mum: You tricked me. You said can you have two pieces of chocolate before you finish your homework, and then you'll finish it. You got your chocolate and then you didn't do it, you tricked me.

William: What about chocolate?! What are you talking about chocolate?

William's Mum: You had your two pieces of candy. You said you would - after you got those you'd do your homework. [William covers the camera with the assignment] You lied.

William:[stops blocking the camera] Mum just d-delete the stupid video!

William's Mum: Not until the homework's complete. The video will not be dele - if you don't finish your homework tonight the video will not be deleted.

William: Oh my gosh I will! (incomprehensible screaming)

William's Mum: Okay go to bed but the video-

William: I'm so bored! Why can't I just go watch Naruto?!

William's Mum: William it's four problems!

William: I wanna go...

William's Mum: William it's four problems!

William: Everyone else is watching Naruto right now but me!

William's Mum: Andy, are you in the house? It's four problems!

William: So what?!

William's Mum: It'll take you a minute. Andy?!

William: [whimpers] (high-pitched) You're making me waste my time to watch Naruto. [cries]

William's Mum:[over William, focusing on a white bag] That's a bag on the sofa. It's gonna take you a minute! It's just four math problems. That's all it is, it's four math problems. That's all it is.

William: Why?

William's Mum: It's four math problems.

William: Why are you making me do this to waste my time?!

William's Mum: That's all it is, it's four math problems.

William: I'm gonna watch Naruto. I have to watch it right now, and when are you-

William's Mum: It's four problems, it'll take you a minute!

William: (cries) It'll take me like...

William's Mum: It's four math problems, just do it.

William: Why are you doing this to me?

William's Mum: 'Cause you're having an...[William removes the phone from the hook, causing it to beep] anxiety attack, now put the phone back on the hook please. [William obeys] Lets do the homework, you got your pencil?

William: No! I'm so tired! [cries] Why are you keeping me up like this?!

William's Mum: All you have to do is take a minute to do your homework.

William:[over his Mum] Why are you keeping me up like this?!

William's Mum: I wish Andy were here right now.

William: Can he get downstairs so I can show how stupid you are?!

William's Mum: Andy's upstairs?!

William: Yeah.

William's Mum: He's outside I thought.

William: No, I think he's up there. [tries to block the camera with his hand] Mum! 

William's Mum: Andy!

William: Shut the stupid video off!

William's Mum: Do your homework first.

William: No. Mum!

William's Mum: Do your four math problems.

William: [shouting] Mum! Turn it off! Shut it off!

William's Mum: Do your homework real quick...

William: No. [crumples the assignment]

William's Mum: -and then the video will go off. Willia-okay, you're making it worse for yourself!

William: I don't care! I just want to watch Naruto!

William's Mum: Where's Andy?!

William: Get him in here so I can show him how stupid you're acting.

William's Mum: Lucy will you get Andy?

Lucy: Where is he?

William's Mum: I don't know. He's either outside or- [William hits his mother's hand] Did you just hit my hand?

William: I just hit your hand, what's wrong with it?

William's Mum: You just said that on video.

William: So?

William's Mum: So now you're gonna be getting a time out tomorrow also.

William: Oh my gosh. Okay I'll just do the homework [covers the camera with the assignment] just shut the stupid video off!

William's Mum: Not until you get the pencil and you start doing the homework.

William: Oh my gosh! (incomprehensible) What is wrong with you?! [walks away to get a pencil] I've got the pencil, delete the video! I won't- (incomprehensible, cries) [returning]

William's Mum:[over William] Not until you do it. The homework. And now you have to wait until you do the time out tomorrow also.

William: No! I'm not doing the homework!

William's Mum: Do your homework!

William: I just hit you in the hand!

William's Mum: Fine, do your homework. And that's not it, it's behind you, the one you crumpled up.

William:[grabs the crumpled assignment] Mum, why are you taping every stupid move I do?!

William's Mum: 'Cause I'm waiting for you to cooperate.

William: You are so stupid!

William's Mum: That's gonna be again - used against you tomorrow too. [William starts writing on the assignment] Lean on your notebook so you don't make a hole.

William: My gosh! [places the assignment on top of a crumpled worksheet and other items, and writes forcefully enough to rip a hole in the homework] Hole, hole right there.

William's Mum: Alright, I'm gonna - now I have you on video putting a hole in your homework. [the pencil is shown to be damaged]

William: Now there's- [starts to walk away]

William's Mum: Where are you going?

William: Going to go drink bleach "[leaves]"

William's Mum: Lucy, you're next! [focuses on a ginger cat] What a good kitty cat, (incomprehensible). Alright, I will resume this later. Hopefully he will do his homework now. Goodbye. [attempts to stop the video, but presses another button which makes a beep sound] Oh, I mean- [the video ends]