Should we help our daughter with schoolwork?

Mother: “Should we help our 13-year-old daughter with homework and planning, or let her underachieve? She went to the two-year HAVO/VWO bridge class with pre-university advice. In March of this year, it will be decided who from the class can continue to pre-university education. With our help she now stands nines, eights and some sixs and sevens, but the pre-university education standard requires a higher average, which she will or will not achieve.

“We are not those parents who think their child belongs in pre-university education, but we know she can do it. She can handle it easily in terms of learning level, she is a hard worker, but she is hopeless in planning. She always starts too late, estimates the amount of material too late, doesn’t use her diary, doesn’t have an overview. That’s why we help her. If we say ‘start now’, we check her agenda. Sometimes she likes that, but usually it doesn’t matter to her; then she shouts: ‘No no no! I don’t want anything to do with you!’

“We know it would be more instructive if she were to fall through the ice because of bad planning, but then she might get in trouble, so I help her and get her behind her pants.

“The class is busy, teachers often don’t get to explain all the material, that’s why we also help her with maths and physics and we often test languages.

“I find it difficult not to ‘interfere’ with it. Not now that the hour is approaching and the teachers will soon be voting on vwo/havo. One says: ‘You have to let her do it herself’, the other buys help with a homework institute. Has my child been helped more with doing everything himself and where is the limit? Has our guidance prevented her from becoming a more independent student?”

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What do the experts say?

More direction

Tisha Neve: “Sit around the table with her at a relaxed moment and say, ‘Let’s talk about school, because we always have discussions about that. We think you can do VWO, and we’re sorry if you can’t. So we’re on top of it. But what do you want and what would help you?’ Listen and keep asking. In this way you give her control and hopefully you will find out what is behind her behavior. Now you can make arrangements that feel right for everyone. Letting go completely is now too big a step, but giving her more control and a voice within your framework often works very well. Say, “Maybe it’s a little early, but we’ll see if you can handle a little more responsibility with our help.” That gives her the space to dare to knock if it doesn’t work out.

“Also honestly check whether you really don’t care whether she is in pre-university education. Or are you so on top of it that it feels to your child as if it does matter?”

Behind the rags

Bass Delivery: “Young adolescents cannot plan. According to modern neuropsychology, the necessary brain development will take years. The so-called study house, which was introduced in secondary education in the 1990s and which left far too much control to the pupil, has fortunately been abolished. So your daughter can really use your help. Try concentrating on your schoolwork if anything unrelated to school seems particularly interesting. So stay behind her at this stage, but above all discuss what she wants herself. If she doesn’t stick to it, there’s no point in planning.

“You say that you do not belong to that group of parents whose children have to go to pre-university education at all costs. These parents often go against the expert judgment of the teacher. You are convinced that your daughter can easily cope with the learning level. If the teachers agree with you, I’d give it another go.”

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