BLOG: 'If she doesn't do her homework, she deserves to fail.'

Bern Morley. Mamamia’s parenting blogger.


The anticipation was KILLING me. I mean it wasn’t her first school Easter Hat parade but it was certainly the first one at this school. And it was an absolute disaster.

Earlier that morning, I’d dropped off a super excited  6 year old, clutching some pink cardboard, a bag of miniature chickens and a few other Easter inspired crafty type items. My instructions from the school had been pretty clear, provide the foundations, they’ll make it in class and then they will proudly model it for you in their end of Term Easter Hat parade. Sweet.

Making my way to a seat up the front of the assembly, I got ready to take in the spectacle. Maddie’s year level started to filter out and I’m pretty sure had you been sitting across the quadrangle from me, you would have seen my jaw actually drop. These kids weren’t wearing year 1 art on their heads, they were wearing freaking masterpieces! It was like they’d raided some Disney movie set. They had cute ribbons tying their perfectly cut bonnets under their perfect cut chins.

And that’s when I looked up and saw my daughter emerge. Emerge with a bright pink cylinder on her head. As in, literally, a piece of pink cardboard, fashioned into a cylinder shape, a good metre off her head, unceremoniously pushed down to fit the shape of her tiny little skull. There appeared to be what looked like a nylon chicken massacre on one side and some kind of bedazzler incident on the other.

Warning: FRAGILE.

I watched her as she kept her eyes firmly planted to the ground and shuffled in the circle, knowing full well she was gaining unwanted attention and momentum. I heard a woman next to me say “Jesus, check out cylinder head!” My first instinct was to tell mollface to shut the hell up, but I didn’t. I simply grabbed my handbag and searched for the teacher.

Clearly, I hadn’t gone ahead and “laid the foundations” in quite the same way that her classmates parents’ had.

No, see, all the other mums weren’t of the “whatever they make will look adorable” school of thought like I was. No, they were more “Let’s make the most kick arse Easter Hat and outdo every other mother and child in this gin joint”.

I pulled the teacher aside and she assured me that yes, it was meant to be a creative project, made by the children, but it had “taken on quite the life of its own over the last couple of years!”


Taken on a life of its’ own indeed. The hat of course is nothing in the scheme of things. All it did was elevate the winner to most popular for a day and earn her a Cadbuy Egg larger than her head.

But the point is, it was unfair. It wasn’t an even playing field. As I’m finding out though, it never will be, not as long as parents are hell bent on making their children be the very best. And they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure this happens.

Parents are no longer letting their children fail. They are no longer simply letting them understand that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And this really bothers me.

I have a friend that told me her mother would complete all of her brother’s assignments throughout High School because he was “smart and capable but just lazy”. And you know what, when he left school and had to get a job he struggled. When he decided to return to University because work was “too hard”, he relied on his new wife to help him. This also didn’t work. He simply, although smart enough, lacked the discipline, motivation and common sense to realise that he needed to understand what it was to work, and work hard before he could succeed in life.

It’s best described in this article by Jessica Lahey:

I read a study out of Queensland University of Technology, by Judith Locke, et. al., a self-described “examination by parenting professionals of the concept of over parenting.”

This was the piece published in The Atlantic.

Overparenting is characterized in the study as parents’ “misguided attempt to improve their child’s current and future personal and academic success.”

These are the parents who worry me the most — parents who won’t let their child learn. You see, teachers don’t just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. We teach responsibility, organization, manners, restraint, and foresight. These skills may not get assessed on standardized testing, but as children plot their journey into adulthood, they are, by far, the most important life skills I teach.


No honey, you won’t fail. Ever.

It is our job as parents to support and guide and sure, I’m the first one to put my hand up and say I’ve given my children incentives to make certain grades. Would you go into the office every day and not expect to get paid? But I also draw the line at flat out doing the school work for them myself.  Especially when she comes to me the night before a book report is due, lamenting that she’ll fail if it’s not handed in tomorrow. This is AFTER she’d had an entire month to get it done. If she cannot get herself organised, she deserves to be failed for it. And she was. And she has never done it again.

I’m not saying it’s a perfect method, but I do believe you are doing your child more harm than good doing their work for them.  By all means, encourage, help, guide and support them but most importantly, let them work it out and do it themselves.  They’ll thank you for it in the long run.

Bern is a Gen X, child of the 80′s. Kept busy being a working mother of 3 children, one with Aspergers, renovating the original money pit and drinking too many coffees in the space of 24 hours. One day she’ll remember to leave the meat out for tea but until then she writes beautiful and amusing posts on her blog which you can find here .

Do you let your kids fails? Or do you think it’s better to protect them in these situations in order to build their confidence?

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