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The Mommy Bailout: Are You Helping Your Kid By Excusing Missing Homework?

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If you have a child in school who falls anywhere from first grade to twelfth, you’ve experienced this.

The sad eyes.

The slow tear down the cheek.

And the, “Mom, I don’t know what happened.  Can you just write me a note?”

In my house, it doesn’t occur often but I do get the occasional plea for a homework excuse.  The reasoning behind it ranges anywhere from “I can’t find it” to the 11:00 PM “but Mom I didn’t know it was due tomorrow!”  And each time I’m asked to put pen to paper, I struggle with whether or not I should.

It’s all part of the school experience, isn’t it?  Learning to be responsible for your assignments, putting them in a safe place (backpack is preferred, but anywhere that is not on my kitchen counter will do), and turning everything in on time.  After all, in the “real world” bosses won’t accept a note from your mom.

But when does the “real world” start?

In our house, it started around the fourth grade when my oldest daughter asked if I would write her a note for the fifth time in about two weeks – a definite pattern.  I began to realize that I wasn’t doing her any favors by giving her that piece of paper every morning that would allow her extra time to finish an assignment she clearly could have completed on time.  And since then, unfortunately for her two younger siblings, it’s almost impossible to get me to write one.

I’d like to think that I’m the kind of mom who hugs when necessary, but doles out the proper doses of tough love when needed.  But truth be told…one look from my son with a sad “if I don’t turn that in today I’ll miss recess” or seeing my first grader’s homework sitting on the coffee table after she’s already left for school and knowing there will be tears and a “I had a bad day today” when she gets home…that sometimes makes me want to run down to the school and beg for mercy on behalf of my child.

Sometimes I wonder if this method of parents handing out excuses started with my generation – you know, the “everybody wins, nobody loses because we don’t want you to feel bad about anything” group.  Because I don’t think it would have ever occurred to my parents to write me an excuse for something I knew I had to turn in but for some reason didn’t.  And that kind of parenting has served me well.

I mean, sure I’m typing this piece just minutes before it has to be turned in…but I’m getting it done.  Isn’t that what I want my children to do (only in a timelier manner)?

By writing that note excusing our kids from something they should have done…are we enabling the “victim” mentality so many of us can’t stand?  On James Lehman states, “Children shouldn’t be allowed to blame other people, places or things for not meeting expectations or completing tasks….Make no doubt about it: kids who see themselves as victims and are allowed to perpetuate that rationale have a tough time achieving the very difficult milestones that early life development demands.”

I often think that whatever punishment my children receives at school for a missing assignment is actually much harder on me than it is on them.  Because the next day, they will run out the door to catch the bus, excited for a new day…while I have their weepy looks from the night before permanently etched in my brain.

And as a parent, when we see sad, sometimes we think that we’ve failed our kids.

But as we all know, you can’t know good without the bad, rainbows without a little rain…and the glory of an A without the pitfall of an F every once in a while.  Responsibility shouldn’t just be a word our kids have to look up in the dictionary when they’re writing a report.  It should be something that becomes a habit and a way of life.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to hand this in because I know my mom won’t write me a note if I don’t.


Catherine Tidd is a widow, mother, and the author of the upcoming book “Confessions of a Mediocre Widow” (January 2014). She is the founder of, a free peer support website dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other and has a Facebook peer support page under the name Widow Chick.   She has been published in several books about grief and renewal and also writes a blog on anything that pops into her nutty brain called Bud Light Wishes and Cheeto Dreams.

Author: Catherine

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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson March 13, 2013

    Ahhh, homework. There is no more dreaded word in the English vocabulary at our house. We’re not “real world” yet but already in third grade, it is a battle. But a non-negotiable one. Even dropped some activities to stay on top of it and hire a tutor. Dread the real world years for sure.

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