Kids and Homework – How Much Helping is Too Much?

Just about everyone agrees that kids these days are being given a lot of homework, sometimes starting as early as kindergarten. It’s a parent’s natural impulse to want to help, both to offer assistance in learning and to free up more time you can spend as a family. It’s important for parents to let children know that they think homework matters. When parents are involved in monitoring their homework, children are more likely to finish their assignments. But parents must set limits on the amount of time and effort they’re putting in on school work that kids should be doing. The most important lesson for parents to learn about helping kids with homework is this: make sure you’re not the one doing it!

Kids and Homework – When to Step In

Helping kids with homework is a good way for parents to find out what their children are learning in school. It can also be good “quality time” between parents and children. You can help your kids with homework by setting up a regular time and place at home for the work to get done. Establish a routine and let your child know in no uncertain terms that homework is a priority. (No TV, computer games, phone calls or texting during homework time!) If your child asks for help with homework, clarify right away the kind of help they’re seeking. If, for example, it’s a math problem, and your child says, “I don’t know the answer,” don’t just give the solution. Find out where the difficulty lies and gently steer the child through the process, offering encouragement when they head in the right direction. If children don’t understand a question or concept, have them read it to you and ask leading questions that will help them figure out what they need to know to find the answer. If you break a difficult homework project into a series of smaller parts, this might be more manageable and will help your child complete the entire assignment. Be supportive and offer advice and suggestions, but remember that a parent should never actually do a child’s homework. This will foster bad work habits and attitudes that can follow children throughout life and will also deny them the satisfaction and developing confidence of successfully completing a challenging task.

Kids and Homework – When to Step Back

Don’t assume right away that your child needs help with homework. When children sit down to do that day’s assignment, they should work on their own, and encourage their solo efforts. If you and your child have just discussed some difficult homework, step back and let him or her work on the problem alone for a while, then check to see that your help has had an impact. Offer constructive criticism if they’re still on the wrong track, but don’t take an active role in finishing the work. If you’ve been helping out a lot with homework, your child might expect you to take a major part in doing other assignments. If you see that your son or daughter is becoming dependent on your input, it’s definitely time to step back. You can supervise to make sure he or she is getting the work done, but make it clear that you’re just there to see that the work gets finished. Reinforce independent study habits and look at the homework after it’s been completed. You might also want to do some work of your own or read a book in the same room while your child is doing homework, to create a shared learning environment.

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