I work with parents all the time who complain that homework causes stress in their homes each night.
What I say to parents is that homework isn’t the problem. It is how we—parents and kids— are being with the homework that causes the stress. I show parents the two ways we can be with our kids’ stress.
When we are above the line we are consciously aware of what is occurring for us. When we are below the line we are caught in fear-based drama that causes stress and anxiety.
I suggest to parents that shifting how we are being with the homework can reduce stress levels in both parents and children.
Conscious Parenting has been all the rage recently. But what is it really, and how can we apply it to daily life?
Conscious simply means to be awake or aware of what is occurring—internally and around us—in any given moment. When we are unconscious we are unaware. So when we are parenting consciously we are parenting from full awareness. How can we apply Conscious Parenting to the dreaded daily stress-inducing drama-rich homework dilemma? Join me in my home for a walk-through of the perfect storm for homework drama.
On the first day of school, my 7th grader didn’t come home until after volleyball practice at 6:20. It was a long day that followed a fitful first-night-before-school sleep for her. I suspected she would be exhausted.
Sure enough she walked in the door moody, grouchy and temperamental. Within minutes she was in tears in the kitchen telling me all that was yet to be done: shower, dinner, and the dreaded HOMEWORK.
"There is not enough time mom, and I am SOOO tired!" she exclaimed as tears ran down her sweaty face.
I’ve been through 14 years of first days of school as a parent. I was expecting this and prepared myself. In the past, I jumped right in and got wrapped up in the drama. I’d up my stress to add to my kids’ stress and we’d be off to the races.
Tonight I was better prepared.
So when she showed up all stressed and triggered, the first thing I did was to ask myself the question? Where am I?
Am I above the line or below the line?
When we as parents get caught up in the fears our children bring us, it’s all too easy to join them in below-the-line drama. I am acutely aware of my tendency to drop into fear. I had the thought that this was going to be (yet another) difficult and long night, and my mind immediately raised the stakes to the prospect of a difficult year! I noticed the thoughts, and instead of buying into them, I simply allowed them to pass through. I calmly sat with her and allowed her to vent for a minute or two. I listened to her, repeated what I heard her say and then I sent her up to shower before dinner.
I could feel my body and breath relax as she left the room, but I knew the night was just beginning.
Dinner came and went and while I cleaned the kitchen, I had her sit down and get her homework started. Reliably, her resistance kicked in and it was obvious she was below-the-line and creating drama. I once again had a choice to make; would I meet her drama with my own, or stay present and curious?
As her resistance and emotions escalated, I noticed myself getting triggered. Deep down, I was aware that her resistance was simply an invitation to model patience, which is what we both really needed to get through this night. Patience, resilience and healthy dose of grit.
As she struggled to focus, I noticed my struggle to want to focus. I wanted to give her the answers, to move on already and get this over with. I wanted to “save” us both from this nightmare. And I resisted that urge. Each moment was an invitation for me to practice remaining present and to create the conditions for success - both hers and mine.
I continued to check in with myself and notice the moments when she unconsciously tried to draw me into drama. I would ask myself “what do I choose?” over and over again. I chose again and again not to succumb to the temptation of drama, yet rather to surrender to the as is-ness of the moment. Drama. Never easy, always worthwhile.
In the end, she completed her homework more quickly than she usually did. She did the work, I didn’t. She discovered so much that night - most importantly, she learned about herself. She practiced cultivating resilience, patience perseverance and time management skills. She saw how her tendency to panic interfered with her ability to think clearly and problem solve. And she learned that she is a capable, self-empowered being.
And I didn’t yell or lose my temper once. Big win for me!
I am under no illusion that every night will be stress free going forward, but I do know that I am empowered to create a stress free environment. All I need to do is simply check in and ask myself one simple question:
Where am I?
When I choose fear I go below the line and I create drama in my life and my children’s lives. When I stop, take pause and choose consciously, I am empowered to create the circumstances I most want. What’s most exciting for me is that I am reminded again and again that it’s within my power to cultivate authentic success in my life and to support my children to cultivate the same in theirs. .
And this is what I am committed to.
To learn more about tuning into your intuition, above and below the line parenting, cultivating presence and setting your kids up for success while becoming a drama free family register here for more information about the online Foundations of Conscious Parenting Course.
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