One of my friends read my recent article on schoolwork and told me a great little story which I just have to share. In a brief encounter with her daughter, she quickly found out that, as the German proverb states, “He who teaches children learns more than they do.”

I'll do my best to recount it to you with the same humility and humor that she brought to me...

The other evening, my daughter Emily was at the table, doing some homework. It was the end of a really long day – meetings, deadlines, traffic, and a pile of laundry waiting for me at the end of it all. I had finally gotten my younger daughter to bed after much cajoling and all I wanted to do was to sit down with a book and a nice glass of wine.

From the recesses of the kitchen, I hear, “Mommy???!??! Could you get my math book in my room?” (insert HUGE sigh and eye roll here) I drug my tired rear end off of the couch and said with a shake of my head as I walked upstairs, “You know, Emily, you are old enough to be getting your own things. I am not going to be your errand girl forever.” Without missing a beat, Emily said, “Well, then stop doing things for me! What you’re doing is saying yes and then complaining about it!”

Ugh. My stomach dropped as my astute 10 year old stopped me dead in my tracks. She was totally right. I had turned into that mom. You know, the one who martyrs herself and then resents her kids for it. How did I get here? And why did I feel the need to rush upstairs and get her that book? I think deep down it was a fear that if I said no, it would take her 20 minutes before she sat back down again – something would distract her and she would end up brushing her hair for the 100th time that day instead of finishing her math homework, which was already one day late. Upon realizing this, I finally saw how wrapped up I had become in the whole homework battle. I still carried her weight and felt responsible for her grade. What would her teachers think if she weren’t a responsible student? I would be seen as – horror of horrors – a lazy mom!!!!

Once again, my daughter showed me the truth that was there all along. I was hovering like a helicopter mom. It progressed so subtly, that I didn't even recognize it happening. Emily taught me that I constantly need to evaluate the things that I am doing and see if they match the things I believe. Do I believe that her schoolwork is something that she should be responsible for? Yes. Have I been acting that way? No.

I sat back down with a smile, knowing that she was right. “Thanks for reminding me sweetie – you are old enough to be responsible for your own stuff. Your legs work just as well as mine and if you need your book, you know where it is.” She gave a half-hearted protest as she shuffled off to her room, but I saw the smile on her face as she not only caught me red-handed, but took on the task of running her own life, even if just for a little bit.

Bravo Emily. Here’s to you and to your mom who possesses the best possible combination of parenting tools: the desire to be ScreamFree and the integrity to know when she’s not. I think both of you are well on your way to a great relationship.

If you find yourself struggling with homework battles like these, you are certainly not alone. Many well-intentioned parents, myself included, tend to take responsibility for their child’s schoolwork. We feel that it is our job to make sure they do well in school. What we fail to realize is that it’s really not. If we want our kids to grow up and become responsible adults, we’d better let them have a little more responsibility now so that they can learn how to handle it. It is a major shift in thinking to become responsible to your children instead of responsible for them and it’s very difficult to do.

You are responsible to your child in that you should provide the tools, time, and environment that your child needs to do his schoolwork. You are not, however, responsible for whether or not he does his schoolwork. That task is his and he should be the one to either reap the benefits or taste the consequences of his own actions.

Author's Bio: 

Jenny Runkel is the co-founder of ScreamFree Living. For more information, visit