Teaching Patience and Attention
Did your father help you with your homework? If so, you have at least some sense of how to be involved. You probably also understand how important your involvement can be in helping your kids learn to be independent.
Going through afternoon and evening after-school activities requires effort and teamwork. Cooking and serving dinner, doing dishes, making sure baths and teeth and nighttime bonding all ask for your attention. And don’t forget homework. No matter what the age homework starts for your children, all children need help. Learning to be organized, to stay with a task, and to be focused requires guidance. Dads can fill that role.
Landing at Home
When you come home from work, get ready for your own transition before you come into the house. Prepare by taking a couple of breaths and committing to what you’d like to feel when you see the family. Make a conscious choice how you will feel when you walk in the door. Imagine yourself feeling that feeling, take a breath and head on in.
If you co-parent with a spouse who’s already on the parenting job, make sure you greet and appreciate your spouse. Dogs are great teachers here: Let your spouse know you value them, wag your tail, so to speak, make happy sounds, and get ready for the kids.
If you’re an appreciative father, your kids will usually be glad to see you. As you shift attention from your spouse to the children, stay connected to the other parent emotionally via eye contact. Comment to them and about them. Ask questions, be an interested dad. Make the time to connect with your words, eyes, feelings, hands.
This transition energy isn’t always easy to muster and maintain. It is available always. You must accept it to experience it. It’s critical for continuing on to the other aspects of the evening, including homework.
AND NOW THE HOMEWORK FOLKS!!
Teaching your children to put away their screens and take out their assignments is an assignment which goes easier when you do it matter-of-factly. An attitude of business as usual—cordial and connected—can help the kids emotionally shift from play to paying attention.
Finding a place and time for homework is a simple and important contribution. Getting them into an expected evening rhythm helps make the process predictable and comfortable.
Keeping Their Attention
Your children have no idea at first about how much of their evening will go into homework. All children are distractible and your job is good-naturedly keeping them attentive. This means your attention being given to them, what they’re doing and saying and communicating. If you stay tuned to them they’ll be more tuned to you and your guidance.
Avoid the mistake of expecting your kids to go through their homework without re-focusing effort on your part. Whether they don’t understand or are distracted by the world, you are there to keep them connected to the task. As they drift away, let them know with a touch or word that you are still there for them.
Keep in mind they’ve been asked to pay attention, listen, and understand for most of their day. If you are tight or demanding, that may be more than they can handle. Stay in a place of appreciating their innocence and learning.
If you find yourself being distracted, stressed or irritated in response to their struggle or lack of understanding, take a breath and refocus. Choose a feeling which represents your ideal learning situation for your child. Right now as you’re reading this, practice by choosing a word to guide your homework efforts. What word describes the outcome you desire for the homework process? Any word that you choose consciously, that fits with your love of your family, will act as a guide. Your power as a dad grows from your use of your mind in shaping your behavior. By choosing a quality to guide you give your child and you a direction that is based in respect.
In a single evening homework session, you may need to re-track several times while you guide your kids through the development of their learning. Your modeling of re-tracking yourself with your mindful breathing is a strong example of how to stay the course. Keep your sense of humor, play a bit. Let them play a bit and bring them back repeatedly. Soon the homework will be done.
This time of bonding during shared accomplishments is what fatherhood is about. Sharing your understanding of school with your children leads them to value themselves.
It’s worth it when you close your eyes later in the night, knowing you have helped them take another step towards feeling valuable and valued by their dad.
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