When it comes to helping children complete the homework set by teachers, many parents are guilty of providing too much help as it can be a battle just trying to get their child to sit down and get the task completed. In some cases, parents will complete the tasks for their children, as it is easier than trying to get their child to complete it.
Providing a child with assistance to complete their homework can create a lot of tension and pressure on the child to succeed. The research however shows that providing too much help cam hinder the child’s development and make them feel incompetent. It is important to remember that parents should still get involved though as research also highlights that parent involvement is an important factor in academic success.
The important thing to keep in mind is finding the right balance and knowing when it is appropriate to do provide help and when to step back.
Over-parenting has been described as delivering appropriate parenting characteristics to a degree where they cease to be beneficial. This approach can result in anxiety, narcissism, poor resilience and an external locus of control in children. When parents assume responsibility for making their child always happy and successful, they discourage their child from developing age-appropriate autonomy and encourage the child to expect other adults to protect them from facing any challenge.
A study has shown that children over the age of nine viewed assistance with homework from parents as a sign of their incompetence. This kind of support may be useful when a child is younger, however parents need to adjust their approach to homework as children gets older and help only when children request their help.
For adolescents, parental help with homework has been posited to be developmentally inappropriate. The child should be self-managing their workload, so this kind of help can limit the adolescent’s development of autonomy and sense of responsibility for their schoolwork, leading to poorer homework performance.
By the time students are in year 12, their parents should step back completely, otherwise students may become reliant on the adults in their lives to take responsibility for their academic work, which may lead them to be less self-motivated.
A recent study of parents from Catholic and independent schools found those who endorse over-parenting beliefs tend to take more responsibility for their child doing their homework and also expect their child’s teachers to take more responsibility for it, particularly in the middle and senior school years. This research may explain why some parents continue to be highly involved in their child’s university work and not grant their child autonomy over their own decisions. These parental actions have been associated with higher rates of depression and reduced life satisfaction among university students.
The way to provide children with the appropriate amount of help is to show an interest in your child’s schooling but to avoid showing greater interest in their schoolwork than they are, so that you do not risk making the task “your thing” and not “their thing”.
Determine rules about where and when homework should be done from an early age to set a routine in place. Wait for your child to approach you for help rather than offering too early, to help them become confident and independent at completing their own schoolwork. Ensure that you are coaching and not doing the homework for them, and do not act like an editor by fixing every mistake for them, as sometimes mistakes are essential for learning.
Encourage older children to ask specific questions in regards to getting assistance. For example rather than asking, “What is wrong with this assignment” get them instead to ask questions like “Is my conclusion clear?” Setting a routine for children to get homework done before doing enjoyable activities is also important. Then just provide prompts rather than reminders by asking, “What needs to be done before you watch TV?”
Every year, reassess what you do for your child and whether your actions stop them developing important skills, such as responsibility and autonomy. For example, you should start to withdraw your reminders for homework early in their schooling, including gentle reminders such as, “Do you have much homework?
The child will then accept responsibility for their own homework and teacher-delivered consequences in cases where they forget to do homework or bring their work to school. Remember these remain a reflection of your child’s current organisation and motivation, not your parenting.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that as a parent your role and actions should not be primarily about helping them become successful now, but instead should be about building their life skills to enable them to be successful in the future independently.