My daughter (almost 11) started middle school three weeks ago. Everything was going smoothly and it seemed like she was handling the whole transition in a very calm and cheerful manner. Well, life can never be that good, can it?
Yesterday, she came home with quite a bit of homework. She has never been scared by homework, she usually sits down and does it. Yesterday, however, she kept saying, “I can’t concentrate,” “I can’t do it,” and was asking me to help her. I did not understand what was really going on right away and I suggested she move to a quieter room, instead of the kitchen table.
After an hour she was still not progressing, and by then she was very nervous. She was crying, shouting, trying to hurt me physically, and yelling at me what a terrible mother I am. I decided it was time for me to set the limit, get closer and see what came out. I had her sit right next to me and do her homework, while I was timing her and watching closely what she was doing. I should add the task she was working on was really easy and on a regular day it would have taken her 5 to 7 minutes max. That’s how I realized that the stress had nothing to do with the actual task.
The whole time, a lot of steam and anger were coming out. Sitting closely and watching her, I also noticed she was using a very slow and meticulous manner of writing, which was not her own. I asked her to write faster. As she was writing and sobbing, she said something about how she can’t write as nicely and neatly as one of the other girls in her class, and I finally realized what had been bothering her the entire time.
After she calmed down, I spent some time admiring her qualities as a person and as a student, and reminding her how comparing yourself to others is not a smart thing to do. I can easily see how the fact that I was not fully attuned to her from the very beginning made the situation worse, but I feel good things came out of it.
Getting closer to my daughter as she did her homework allowed her to offload some of the things that were sitting there waiting for the right time to come out. (Like her high expectations for herself and her fear of not fulfilling them.) For the rest of the evening we were very close and connected, and I could see the thankful look in her eyes, and that’s worth it all!
– a mom in Israel