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whiteliondreams's avatar

When does stern child rearing become emotive abuse?

Asked by whiteliondreams (1711 points ) September 7th, 2012

So, say you are doing your own homework after a long days work, you come home each day and your kid says they did their homework. Apparently, it wasn’t done right and the person who is supposed to be watching the kids isn’t helping because they, too, have homework; so, everyone has homework, but the parent becomes upset and feels that using stern standardization and light material threats (no this and that) to persuade the child to work diligently and neatly (i.e. writing).

Meanwhile, it’s now after 7pm, the kid showers and makes their way back to finish their homework. It is 10pm now and the ranting of how the parent is tired of the child being lazy has not died off. The parent is fumed and informs the child that at 4am they will be getting up to finish their homework. It was so and now the environment is hostile.

My analysis is that the parent is overly stressed and the child is not paying attention in school to what they are teaching. The babysitter is not an innocent, but is neither to blame due to their restricted and limited role as a guardian. Do you feel that in the parent’s view, behaving in such a way is productive or nonproductive for the child? Granted, all people learn differently and their emotions play a significant role in motivation and learning. I also do not see it as abuse, but I do recognize it as being borderline.

What is your opinion on the matter? Do you have alternative solutions? Is this abuse or “tough love”?

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33 Answers

jca's avatar

You didn’t say how old the kid is. How old is the babysitter? Is she authoritative? How many hours, approximately, would it take the kid to do the homework?

I don’t think of 4 am as abusive, but it may be unnecessary, as it does seem a bit excessive. That’s why I ask how many hours of homework we’re talking about. If an hour of homework, why can’t the kid wake up at 5 or 6? But no, I don’t think of that as abusive. It’s not like you’er waking the kid up at 4 am to do outside and do 1000 pushups or something.

Also, if the babysitter is not doing a job you feel is adequate, you have every right to talk to him/her about it.

You could tell the kid and the babysitter that going forward, these are the rules regarding homework and if the rules are not followed, there will be consequences. Then be sure to follow through to be consistent. Make sure all is clear so there are no misunderstandings. The past is the past and cannot be changed but you can try to change the future.

creative1's avatar

I don’t see this as abuse but possibly an un-needed struggle. My question is how old is said child… if they are young and in grammar school then the parent should take a few minutes away from their studies to find out what is happening and why the child is not doing their homework on their own. If they need help then its quicker for the parent to take a little time to help the child understand their assignment and get it done than to argue with them and they still not get it done. As the parent I would also sit down with the babysitter if one of their duties was to help the child with their homework. If the child is a bit older on the borderline of needing a sitter then maybe get them a tutor that comes over after school rather than your typical babysitter. That way the homework is getting done every night. If its a case where the child is waiting until last minute to do long assignments they were given a while ago I would have a talk with the school where each teacher writes down their assignments in say a notebook just for this reason. That way when the child goes home then the child is to give it to either the babysitter or tutor when they get home so all homework is tackled in a timely fashion.

zenvelo's avatar

The problem is poor parenting from the start. It fails at this point: but the parent becomes upset and feels that using stern standardization and light material threats (no this and that) to persuade the child to work diligently and neatly (i.e. writing).

That’s when the struggle could be avoided. If the parent spent ten or fifteen minutes going over the homework with the child, and patiently instructing how to cleanup the homework, the child could spend some time redoing it.

The home work was capable of being done after school, why would the parent rant and rave until 10 o’clock? And why would he use the term lazy to a kid who started on his own when he got home from school?

SuperMouse's avatar

I don’t think this crosses the line to abuse. I do agree with the rest that there is some not so great parenting. I have had the experience of working on homework along side my kids. My cardinal rule is that the kid’s homework comes first. I figure that I can finish mine after bedtime. I am not too certain about the choice to keep a kid up until 10:00 then force them to get up at 4:00 a.m. as punishment. It seems that might be setting the kid up for a tough time at school the next day and that is never a good thing. I also agree with the analysis that the parent is overly stressed.

JLeslie's avatar

The child went back to doing their homework at 7pm and was not done by 10pm? I agree with most of what is said above, not abusive, but probably not the best way to handle things. I would say if the child was deprived of sleep often it does border on abusive.

I think I would let the kid get an F on his homework if he didn’t do it. It is a power struggle at this point between the parent and the child, which in my opinion is better to avoid if possible. Since we don’t know if there is a long history of the child not doing his homework, it is hard to really make a judgement. Also, I, like @jca, would be curious about the child’s age. Back to the homework taking more than 3 hours, that needs to be investigated. Possibly the school is sending home too much homework? If it was because the child procrastinated on a project he had days to finish, but didn’t start until the last minute that is a different issue.

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wundayatta's avatar

One thing I know is that, unless the babysitter was hired as a tutor, it is not their job to help with homework. It is the parent’s job. Another thing I know is that the parent does not seem to be taking a constructive approach to helping the child with their homework. Sometimes—indeed, most of the time—children need help, not to be harangued about being lazy. They may not know how to think about what they are doing, or they may not know how to do it.

Sometimes, the child needs to be let out of the homework. Teachers assign way too much homework these days. It doesn’t seem to help in terms of retention, I think. It seems to be overload. Sometimes the best thing parents can do is stand between the kid and the teacher and tell them enough is enough. Although that can backfire, too, and make the teacher hold a grudge against the kid. So it’s tricky.

Sometimes it’s best to homeschool, if problems like these get out of hand. Of course, most of us can’t do that, so we’re stuck going to schools that aren’t all that imaginative in how they teach the kids. I know my daughter is just sticking it out so she can go to college and do something interesting. I think she is planning to go to college where she gets to decide what to do.

High school should be that way, too, in my opinion. And no homework except what the child chooses to take on because they are interested in it.

jca's avatar

The OP worded the question in a weird way also, referring to this situation as if it were not his/her own. Is this the situation in another household, or your own, @whiteliondreams? It’s worded as if it’s someone else’s situation.

The tutor will not act as a babysitter, as @creative1 suggested. However, contrary to what @wundayatta said, yes, agreed that the babysitter is not a tutor but it’s not out of a babysitter’s responsibilities to attempt to control what the child does, and I think it’s not unheard of for a babysitter to tell the child “first you have to do homework, then you can play video games” or something like that. It’s the babysitter’s job to control what goes on in the household. That’s also why I asked the age of the child and the age of the babysitter. Maybe the babysitter is too close in age to the child.

whiteliondreams's avatar

I will add that the child is 8, a female, has very bad handwriting (which is the area of concern here), and has slacked on a specific assignment for the whole week. It isn’t a lot of homework, and the term lazy is used because she does not want to write neatly. It’s been an ongoing struggle for over a year. I know what the real problem is, but I am looking for indirect solutions to the way in which the parent interacts with the child; which you have all provided to me so ever kindly—given the vagueness.

Had I given more details, then the context would change and I would see more finger pointing as opposed to constructive criticism. I do want you all to understand that the situation is difficult, but not serious. There are many factors left out intentionally that affect both the parent and the child. I appreciate everyone’s input as it was very helpful. Thank you.

tedd's avatar

When you stop being stern out of love, and start being stern out of spite.

Keep_on_running's avatar

I agree with @tedd. It’s only when the child grows up and realises the parent was doing it out of love that it isn’t abuse anymore.

JLeslie's avatar

@whiteliondreams Only 8. Her handwriting is the concern? I find that interesting since I read so much about how children aren’t taught to write any more. Is the parent sure the child can write neatly? I think it is pretty awful there are knockdown drag out fights over handwriting or homework at age 8. Has the parent taken the time to do the homework with the kid in a constructive supportive way? Have they practiced writing outside of homework doing a fun task to make sure the child is not having dexterity trouble?

If this is the one part of school work the child avoids, then I think it means something significant that maybe the child is not communicating. I see it all the time, I understand why parents get frustrated and are unsure. Years ago when I asked my nephew what time it was and he had to walk to see the clock on the wall (I had asked him the time, because I thought he would not have to make any effort except turn his head to the clock) I told his mother I think he needs glasses. She told me he had been telling her the same thing for months, but she didn’t know whether to believe him or not, didn’t know if he was just making excuses and giving her a hard time. She brought him to the doctor after my comment, and indeed the kid was having trouble seeing. If for sure it is laziness and a lack of caring, and not an actual physical problem, then let the kid get a low grade in handwriting. The parent should lay off, and just give positive reinforcement when the child is doing things right. Or, have another adult ask the child why they are having trouble in handwriting. Just my opinion with limited infornation of course.

zenvelo's avatar

If handwriting is a concern, it needs to be investigated before the child is called lazy. Is she using the proper hand? Lots of kids have been told to hold a pencil in the right hand even though they are left handed.

And developmentally the child may have delayed motor skills.

But when a child doing her best is called lazy, that is abusive.

JLeslie's avatar

@zenvelo Good point. The child could be writing with their right when they are really lefty.

Coloma's avatar

I agree with @zenvelo and I am a lefty that was punished and rideculed for my sloppy writing as a child. I had several teachers try to change hands and force to write with my right hand.
Well fuck, when you drag your hand across your work it is going to smear!
I was also a gifted kid and was bored a lot of the time in school, my teachers always said that if something interested me wild horses couldn’t drag me away, but, if I was not interested or properly motivated, forget it, nothing would make me do the work.

I remain the same 40 years later. lol

Authoritarian parenting is very damaging and yes, I would consider it abusive to call a child “lazy”. I’d also suggest having the child tested for personality type, which makes a huge difference in learning styles and motivations. My particular personality learns best by DOING, not listening to droll lectures and following rote instruction. I found school incredibly boring, unstimulating and rigid in it’s one size fits all approach.

Sunny2's avatar

She may also have disgraphia or the inability to write. The condition can be improved with special help. She may need to learn to type rather than write. Bullying never helps anyone.

SuperMouse's avatar

@whiteliondreams I have a 10 year-old who has always tended to rush through his work which was sloppy and full of errors as a result. I think I might use the adjective “lazy” to describe it because he wanted to race through the school work so he could get on to what he really wants to do. It has been an ongoing battle in our house as well. We have had the most success combating this by monitoring his work and when he falls into the rushing/sloppiness pattern he has to erase and start over. At first he just got angry because he just wanted to be done and do his own thing but after a while (it did take a while) he realized that he wasn’t getting off the hook and started doing it right the first time. When he realized that trying to rush was actually costing him more time in the end, he slowed down and put in the effort. He still sometimes slacks off, but when it is pointed out to him he slows down, concentrates, and does well. FYI, the boy is left handed, but I am not talking about the mess that comes from dragging is hand across the page.

Especially with a situation such as this, I really think it is super important to focus on the child’s homework and save the grown ups homework for after the kid(s) go to bed.

Also, it doesn’t seem fair to assume that @whiteliondreams is telling this child that she is lazy. Perhaps that is just a term he used to here to try to sum up what he thinks might be going on with her. @whiteliondreams, please tell us you aren’t telling her she is lazy. If you are please stop, as that is seriously counter-productive.

JLeslie's avatar

8 is what? 2nd, 3rd grade? When you say handwriting do you mean cursive/script? The child is able to print neatly? A lot of kids have trouble learning cursive, especially boys seem to be more likely to be annoyed by the whole concept. If they are able to print well, then probably it isn’t a lefty righty thing. I know a lot of schools teach cursive in second grade, I think that can be tough. I learned in 3rd, but I was also very young for my grade.

YARNLADY's avatar

Parent efforts to enforce certain rules often end up escalating into arguments. Children, just like adults, resent being told what to do. They act out their feelings by yelling and being stubborn. When the parent/caregiver also acts out, the issues become more muddled.

Abuse would be when there is excessive, harmful punishment, and name calling. I have a really hard time accepting the way my Daughter In Law talks to her children, but I don’t believe it crosses the line.

example “You Fxxxing little Bastard – get back in bed” yelled at the top of her lungs.

Nullo's avatar

When the focus shifts from education to control, I guess.

janedelila's avatar

@YARNLADY That is terrible!! Please try to explain to her that that parenting style ends up being generational….does she want to listen to someone talking to her grandchildren that way? What a shame, poor little kids.

JLeslie's avatar

@janedelila You really think @YARNLADY‘s DIL will care what @YARNLADY says about it. The mother obviously does not think it is a big deal, I don’t think anyone will convince her otherwise. If her kids are upset about it she probably would say the child is very sensitive.

SuperMouse's avatar

@YARNLADY I would tend to think that calling a child an f’ing bastard crosses the line to abuse.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@JLeslie Thank you for the advice. No, she knows how to print and print “neatly” when she wants to and I am positive that @SuperMouse explained this 8 year old exactly. I mean it is exactly what is happening. I will take into great consideration the left handed possibility and other potential issues. You are all amazing people. I am constantly amazed with the quality of perspective and concern I find here at Fluther from you Jellies. Thank you all.

YARNLADY's avatar

@SuperMouse @JLeslie Her take on it is that what she says in her own house is her own business. When her kids got old enough to realize that other people don’t approve of that kind of talk, they say “Mommy said a bad word”. She says “Follow the rules at school and at Grandma’s house, but I will talk any way I want.”

She spends very little time at my house because of that, plus she can’t stand to be away from her computer world any more than absolutely necessary. It’s a fake world where the players create things. She is in that fake world nearly every waking moment of her day, where ever she goes, her laptop goes with her, including the grocery and restaurant. It’s practically all she talks about, as if her unicorns and farm crops were real.

Pandora's avatar

Personally I would not get up at 4 in the morning with the child. I would just inform them that if their mid report reflects that there where assignments missing than I would punish them one week for each assignment. No friends, no tv, no games, no phone. Just school and back home. An the only way to get 2 days knocked off of each assignment missed was to make it up. Even if their teacher doesn’t accept it. I would talk to the teacher and let them know to please sign off on assignments done correctly as they should’ve been.
After the first report card and some time to reflect, they will probably do as they are suppose too.
But I would first see if perhaps the problem was with the assignment and they were frustrated. If that’s the case than the parent should’ve helped them out. If they were just being lazy than I would do the second choice.

JLeslie's avatar

Let us know what is discovered and if it all gets resolved.

whiteliondreams's avatar

Well, it’s become a matter not only of more involvement, due to certain restrictions such as time (arriving late from work), but the child will improve because she wants to. I will also look at implementing some of the recommendations such as spending a few minutes showing her what she needs to do.

The other problem is that she comes home with some homework, which seems she doesn’t know how to do at all. This concerns me because then it is wondered whether a) Is she learning? and b) Is the instructor instructing accordingly? I lean towards the former, but the first report came from school indicating she is doing well. All in all, the teacher indicated her behavior as positive and of little to no concern. Which leaves me to wonder then, what is on her mind?

JLeslie's avatar

@whiteliondreams This is one reason I hate a lot of homework given at young ages. It very often requires a parent to help, and I think homework should be work the child can do on their own the majority of the time. There is an idea in America that parents should be involved with their child’s schoolwork, and I think it has gone overboard. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great and correct for parents to guide their children in their education and work with teachers to make sure their child is doing well and moving along as expected, but this burden being put on parents to aid in their child’s acedemics has gone too far in my opinion. I think it is good to question why she might be acting out or not completing her work, but I would also be curious to talk to other parents and see if their child has trouble with the homework also.

whiteliondreams's avatar

I agree, but I am also working on an essay discussing liberal academics and the implementation of philosophy into the classroom from 6th grade through high school to encourage, develop, and propagate critical thinking, dialectic argument, and other important concepts for thought so children can grow to be logical, rational, and reasonable members of society.

JLeslie's avatar

@whiteliondreams That’s interesting. I have wondered myself about critical thinking, and I actually think parents have a very big impact on children when it comes to this. See, my basic philosophy about school is we pay teachers to teach our children subjects, that is their job. Each parent has subjects they are good at themselves, but their child might excell at something very different. I was very good in math, and at one point my mom said to me, “anything past 5th grade math I can’t help you with.” it was important I had teachers who could teach me math, who could take my skill to its fullest potential, outside of my mom’s ability. Not to mention immigrant children of parents who do not read English well are limited in how they can help their very young children.

I think the parent’s basic job regarding education of their children is to send them to school as behaved, socialized, happy children, who enjoy learning, and feel confident about asking questions. If a child hits the jackpot and their parent can help them with subjects the child is interested in it is wonderful, but I think more or less children should be able to get their academic basic needs fufilled at school. If the child is extraordinary private education for excellerated students or tutoring might be in order to meet the abilities of the child.

Anyway, back to critical thinking, I believe parents do influence this. Critical thinking, questioning, incorporating different types of information, and being willing to make mistakes and be mistaken and learn from it, can happen in almost any situation. It is an attitude, not only academic in my opinion.

Lastly, I think being able to memorize should not be dismissed. Memory is a significant part of what makes people “smart” including playing into critical thinking. People with high IQ’s seem to be able to organize, utilize, and pull from memory better than people with lower IQ’s from what I have read, and that makes sense to me.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@JLeslie I concur, but I would not place a great emphasis on memorization if it is an innate quality. Like cooking to taste, painting to “perfection”, or changing oil on a car – philosophy and any form of critical thinking requires working out the brain muscle, and exercising dialogue to form an educated habit.

I can also only agree with you so far into the influence of parents on their children and their critical thinking skills. I do not think that parents have a full influence on the way children ought to think, but do provide the basis and fundamental guideline towards an ideal. We are on the same page though and I thank you for being so actively engaged in this forum. Have a great day!

JLeslie's avatar

@whiteliondreams I never meant to imply that I think any one source has a full or total influence on a particular part of a child’s developement. Not parents, not teachers, it is much more complicated than that of course.

As far as memory, there is evidence that those with strong memories have a larger hippocampus in the brain. Literally physically larger. Memory can be exercised of course, and enhanced, but there seems to be physical characteristics for good memories also.

Working the brain muscle uses memory to make sense of things. We build on prior knowledge. We make sense of things by incorporating prior knowledge. People who don’t hold information well, or who cannot retrieve information they have learned will not be very good critical thinkers I would imagine. But, I do think that we have a lot of children who are capable of more and better critical thinking who are not being taught how to do it, not being encouraged to do it. I would go as far to say some subcultures in America discourage it.

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