Homework: from Despair to Success!
February 8, 2020
“I can’t do this and it’s making me want to break my computer!”
Bristling with frustration, she threw herself on the floor and burst into tears.
“I can’t do it! This is stupid! I don’t know where to start!”
Fairly typical homework struggles for this energetic, big-hearted and sensitive 11 year-old. A lot of parents I work with will be familiar with this level of homework-related drama!
Ten minutes later, she told me her confidence in her ability to finish this piece of English homework had gone from “zero or one out of ten”, to a whopping nine out of ten!
“Was our talking today useful for you then?”
“Yes, VERY useful, thank you!” Big beaming smile, and getting on with the homework.
This is the magic of the Solution-Focused approach. And here’s another part of the magic, that people often miss:
“Did you notice that I didn’t actually give you the answer? I had a few ideas I could have suggested, for what you could do to get started on the homework, but I didn’t do that. Did you notice what I did instead?”
“No. I just thought you told me what to do and then it made sense.”
“Well, I didn’t know what would work for you. So, I asked you, “What is one piece of homework you’ve completed so far this term?” and you showed me your history homework from last week. Do you remember that?”
“Yes. It was the Thomas Becket homework. That was also quite boring.”
“Right. It wasn’t a topic you were very interested in, like this English homework. So I asked you what you did to get going on that homework.”
“Yeah, and I said it was easier because it was a list of ten questions I just had to answer.”
“Right, and then you made your English homework into a list of ten questions too.”
“Yeah. And now I can answer them. It’s easy. Why didn’t my English teacher do it like that in the first place?”
“Well, sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t. But now you know something that works for you. You can use it again. And you can help your friends when they get stuck with their homework – not by telling them what works for you, but by asking them how they managed to do their homework last time, and then, they will tell you what worked for them.”
“Yeah. I can do that. Can you let me get on with this English homework now? Thanks.”
The whole conversation was a bit longer than that, I used a few more Solution-Focused questions during the ten minutes, but this part about looking back at a past homework success to find what works for this child to move forward, was the turning point.
What always amazes me is how the energy in the room just flips over in a moment. From intense frustration and despair and stuckness, to confidence and flowing forward freely towards their goals. This method works for everyday struggles like homework, and also with the big-picture challenges. Building one solution at a time, together, by focusing on what works for that child. That’s the joy of using Solution-Focused coaching with kids, teens and parents.