Why do children have to do homework? Who would ask a question like that? Children? Parents? Teachers? You be the judge. Or maybe you know from experience.

You hear a lot of complaining about homework. You would think somebody would fix it. Unless it is just there to complain about.

"I think we developed language because of our deep need to complain." --Lily Tomlin

But logic suggests that when people keep doing something long enough to see the result, they probably have a good reason. Even though the reason may not be in what people say.

Psychology suggests: If you want to know the real goal, don’t listen to what people say. Look at what they do. Look at where that takes them. Look at where they are going.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. “

Applying those principles to homework, you see immediately that the main function of homework is to give children practice in doing things they don’t want to do. Dress it up in all the fancy talk you like, but that’s what really happens.

But don’t imagine investigative journalism here. “What they don’t tell you about homework.”

Learning to do what you don’t want to do is practice in self-management. Is self-management a reasonable instructional objective? Sure. Most adults will recognize self-management as a critically important life skill. Those adults who don’t see it that way are probably in prison or drug rehab.

From this standpoint, you see that “fixing” homework so that it is easy and entertaining would defeat its purpose. Before we fix homework that way, we should change the workouts in track and field. Set the pole vault bar to five feet. Cut the hundred yard dash to the one yard step.

That’s not to say you don’t want to look for easy ways for your children to learn things. The more they learn with easy ways, the more they will know. Just don’t expect them to learn to like homework.

Should you tell your children the truth about homework? Probably. They will figure it out anyway. Tell them and you’ll get some kid cred. (You need that more than street cred). Besides, you can put some conviction behind it. Even give examples from your own experience. That will work a lot better than trying to explain why anybody needs to know what happened to the Santa Maria.

Author's Bio: 

S. H. Evans was Professor of Psychology at Texas Christian University and an independent consultant in behavioral research. Now retired, he works with Dr. D. F. Dansereau, Professor of Psychology at TCU. They maintain a free website based on work by the Applied Cognitive Research Lab at TCU. This site, thinkerer.org, provides simple, commonsense tools for self-improvement, self-direction, and other psychological fixes.