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Too Much Homework
Q: My wife is Japanese and I am American. She feels that our children should study three to four hours a day, six to seven days a week. When we go on vacation our children are still expected to study several hours every day. On the summer American break, our ten-year-old is sent to Japan and schooled there.
I tell my wife that play is also important for a child's well-being, but she won't listen. How much studying is too much?
A: You wife's study and homework rules for your kids are unrealistic and seriously detrimental to their cognitive and emotional development. They are not able to develop fully in the face of these daily extreme study demands. I do not mean to sound harsh, but you are stealing your children's childhood from them, forcing them to become academic robots and leaving them no time in their lives to just "be kids." Play is the work of young children. Without free time to explore their own natural curiosities and interests, kids can never realize their potential as independent human beings. By enforcing this punishment-like study regime upon them, even on their vacations, you are parenting through control and intimidation. I am sure that your children would be punished harshly if they expressed any disagreement to your wife about her study demands.
Your letter clearly highlights a major chasm between you and your wife in terms of your parenting philosophies. If this situation is left unchecked, I predict that your kids will begin to exhibit more and more behavioral and emotional problems as they age, resisting your wife's demands. Your marriage may suffer as a result of maintaining this academic schedule for them. You and your wife must seek professional family counseling in order to see how these unrealistic academic expectations are harming your kids. You have been going along with her demands, albeit with heartfelt objections and concerns. Please get some professional help for yourselves as parents before you have to get professional help for your kids' serious mental health problems. Just because they currently are "with the program" and perhaps succeeding academically does not mean that they are not being harmed in many ways. Your wife needs to discover what is driving her unrealistic demands regarding your kids' academic performance.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.