Creativity Nerding

Take Small Bites: Dealing with Nerd Stress




That was the scene at Nerd Central just the other night.

I hope I don’t sound like everything in our household is hunky dory and that my Nerds are perfect little angels. Though we have a very happy home, we have our moments of dysfunction just like everyone else.

The other night, it was GirlTastic’s turn to break down and it was nearly legendary. Kicking. Screaming. Shouting. She refused to do her homework and she felt that life was unfair because of the workload. Of course being the Clueless Dad that I am, I don’t think I handled it in the best way.

So, true to form, I’ve put together an AAR: After Action Review to help you, other Clueless parents, see where I went wrong and hopefully avoid the same mistakes.

Situation Analysis: Fourth grade is tough. There’s a heavier workload and the kids are expected to work more independently. For GirlTastic, it meant a new way of working and eventually, she saw her fun time with friends was getting impacted. Time with friends is a top motivator and GirlTastic lives for her play dates. Cue terrible parent moment.

Confrontation: To be honest, I couldn’t understand the problem. Up until this moment, she was good about getting her work done. And it didn’t seem like it was terribly difficult. What was the problem?

That’s what I should have said, but instead, I tried to argue with her about big kid stuff like “priorities” and “grades” and “blah, blah, blah.” Obviously this only infuriated the poor kid further.

Thankfully, Clue’d In Mom got everyone to chill.

Discovery: We’ve always taught our kids to get their homework done first thing after school so they could enjoy the rest of the day. Each night, I would ask GirlTastic “Did you finish your homework?” and true to form, she would readily reply, “I got the stuff for tomorrow done.” Like clockwork. I was the Clueless Dad of the year and my kid would get straight A’s. Or 4’s. Or Smiley Faces. Still not sure how the grading system works.

So, what was the problem?

Digging Deeper: She was right. GirlTastic was indeed completing her homework that was due for the following day. But that didn’t account for other longer-term assignments due later in the week. Those were “special” and she would ultimately put it off until the night before. One such assignment included a 100 pages of reading in a very challenging book. And though she was reading each night, she was only getting through a page or two at a time, leaving the bulk of the assignment for the night before it was due. Add on a few social studies pages, science, and the day-to-day work, Wow! Now, I’m stressed.

Although I was screaming right back at her, GirlTastic was well within her right to freak out!

Getting to the Root Cause: Thanks to Awesome Mom’s coolness, we all took a deep, cleansing breath and sat down to tackle the issues.

First, we looked at the level of her day-to-day work and found that it wasn’t too much to manage. Next, we examined the long-term work: reading, long-term projects, packets, etc. And bingo, we could all feel the stress growing.

What GirlTastic didn’t understand was that she needed to break this work up in little bites. How could she know? How many times have you put off a project at work until the last minute?  Prioritizing, organizing and scheduling are all adult concepts – not kid terms. These things are not taught in school and aren’t typically intuitive for a 10-year old.

We just assumed that GirlTastic knew how to manage her own work. Can you imagine that? We can barely manage our own carpool schedule and somehow, we expected a 10 year old kid to grasp this concept. Classic Clueless Dad!

So, we worked together and mapped out a schedule that broke her work up into little chunks over the course of the week. Instead of reading 100 pages in a week, she now just has to read 12 pages a night. Instead of answering two full pages of social studies questions, she only has to respond to 3 questions a day. This strategy gave her small, achievable goals and took the stress out of the homework.

The same can go for any project – school or otherwise.

I’m pretty sure that there are plenty more confrontations in our future but I feel like we’ve taught our little Nerd a very important lesson on how to set goals and manage work. It’s something that will hopefully carry over into other areas of her life and help her cope with future challenges.

If your Nerd is getting stressed about workload, remember to breath and take small bites!

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