Accountability

Just got a call from Zac from the middle school office.

“Mom”, he intoned, “could you remind me to do my homework?”

This is part of the middle school program.  As a sort of goad, they’re supposed to call their parents when they don’t do their homework.  This is not the first time I’ve gotten a middle-of-the-day call from Zac. Never mind that there’s no system in place to *make* them do it; they don’t get graded on homework in 6th or 7th grade. The idea is they “work up to it”, so by 8th grade, it counts towards their grade. This puts teachers and parents in awkward positions, pushing and pulling on reluctant students.  How do you get someone to do something they don’t want to do?

Growing up, I always came home and did my homework right away.  Okay, maybe I napped a bit first.  Especially in high school, with all the college-credit classes, and school starting at 7:30 a.m.  I easily had 4 hours’ worth of work each night – Humanities, Economics, Calculus – by my senior year.  I simply could not get behind on the reading and note-taking and math problems.  I even had a study hall, but usually that period you could find me grovelling at Mr. Dowdy’s feet to help my thick skull ingest more calculus formulas.  It also helped that I was a Type A.

Jonathon, on the other hand, was not like me.  A more laid-back sort, he thought homework was a waste of time. He understood the concepts; why bother with busywork?  Though very smart, he didn’t do very well in school, except Chemistry.  He had 116% in that class.  Whatever.

So now, back to our offspring. 

“No,” I said in response to Zac’s query.  Did I tell you his side of the call is somewhat scripted? 

Meanie!

Yep.  See, we tried already.  We nagged and hounded and wheedled and cajoled.  We’re plumb wore out.  Jonathon’s even used himself as an example, citing the holes he discovered in his learning once he got to college, all from skipping homework. We haven’t a nag left in us. Zac is good at dodging direct questions and skipping out the door whenever he senses a whiff of accountability headed his direction. 

He chuckled a little bit.  “Okay”, he replied. 

“We could take away a dollar of your allowance every time you don’t do your homework.  How would that be?” I asked rhetorically.

“Not good”.

“Or…we could take away an hour of computer time.  How bout that?”

He didn’t like that solution, either.

“Well, why don’t you come up with some ideas then?  What would motivate you to get the work done?”  We discussed a few other logistics about tonight and then signed off.

I started to think of the things I don’t like to do.  But as an adult, of a responsible frame of mind, I do them.  You pay your bills, you buy groceries and fill your gas tank before it runs out.  You bathe (hopefully).  Regularly.  You go to the doctor and dentist. You stomach the things that don’t appeal to you because you know they work together to make your life, and others’ lives, work. You realize you’re the one who needs to do the legwork to take care of yourself.  Your parents are not on the job anymore.  And really, would you want them to? I can’t imagine my 73-year-old mother washing my hair.  Creepy! “Now Susan, you need to lean back a little more..” But you don’t wake up one day as an adult, fully formed.  You grow into it, bit by bit.  You pick up care of yourself a step at a time.

I had to laugh. The best way to get Zac onboard is to make him part of the process. He’s always coming up with ways to make his life better. May this become one of them.

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