Most parents have had the experience of walking into a classroom of school projects and noticing that some look like they were made by 3rd graders, and some look like they were made by 3rd-grade moms.
The debate over how much help parents should give their kids with homework is as robust as the debate over whether kids should even have homework. Wherever you fall on the latter debate, the reality is that 80% of kids are assigned homework weekly.
Should Parents Help with Homework?
When it comes to whether parents should support their children with homework, there is a clear answer: absolutely.
There are right and wrong ways to help your child with their homework, and your involvement can either encourage future success or hurt their ability to achieve independently.
In this article, we will discuss the reasons why parents should prioritize involvement in their child’s homework, and provide some practical tips to make the process helpful, effective and enjoyable.
What Do The Experts Say About Parents and Homework?
Experts and research confirm that parental involvement, when properly done, can benefit your child in many important ways. Of course, there are the obvious academic benefits.
A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that parental involvement in homework was linked to higher academic achievement among middle school students (Dettmers, Trautwein, & Lüdtke, 2009).
In addition to academic improvement, helping your child with homework has benefits well beyond academic performance. Being there for your child while they are doing their homework enhances character development and your relationship with your child.
When you help with homework, it gives both you and your little student the opportunity to bond. Even better than that, it helps children start to see their parents as helpful allies and friends during these study sessions.
According to a study published in The Elementary School Journal, when parents engage in joint homework activities, it not only enhances children’s motivation and attitudes toward school but also improves their perception of parental support (Eisenberg et al., 2005).
This is an invaluable opportunity for parents to show their kids that they’re competent, helpful and that they value their education. This will cause kids to see their parents and their education in a more positive light.
Top 5 Reasons Parents Should Help Kids with Homework
Now that we have explored the ongoing debate surrounding parental involvement in homework, let’s delve into the top five reasons why parents should actively assist their children with their homework.
1. Never Pass Up Parent-Child Bonding Time
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As kids age, the moments we have to bond with them seem to dwindle. Engaging in homework activities with your child gives you a natural, unforced opportunity to spend quality time together.
Quality time your child wants to spend with you – win/win!
By sitting down and working on assignments, parents can establish a positive and supportive atmosphere, and strengthen the parent-child bond. This shared experience not only helps with academic growth but also strengthens the emotional connection between parent and child.
This time spent together sends a powerful message that education is important, and you are there to help support and guide them.
Helping your child with homework is also a rare moment for a parent to be the “good cop.” Kids frequently complain about homework, but the good news is – you didn’t assign it!
Usually, it’s assigned by a beloved teacher and you just get to be their supportive bestie, helping them through. Never pass up an opportunity to be the good cop.
2. Enhanced Understanding and Knowledge Retention
Photo by August de Richelieu
Typically your child is in a classroom full of students, each with different abilities and learning styles. You are in the best position to know what your child is capable of and how they learn best. Here is a personal example.
I have a child who struggles with memorization. We spend time together learning how to use mnemonic devices to help them succeed where they might otherwise fail. In general, parents might be able to come up with new, child-specific, ways for their kid to learn.
Parents can reinforce classroom learning and overcome any possible difficulties their child might struggle through.
Parents also are not limited by the resources available in the classroom.
By explaining concepts in a different way, or providing additional examples, parents can deepen their child’s understanding and help them retain information more effectively.
Parents can use online resources, YouTube videos, and the “phone-a-friend” option to get their child a more comprehensive explanation of a difficult topic.
Learning about the Cold War? Chances are there is a relative who lived through it who would love to give your child a more personal history lesson.
3. Habits, Habits, Habits
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Sometimes we feel like a broken record here at My First Nest Egg, but it is worth repeating: habits are established early, and the earlier you establish good habits the easier life’s challenges will be.
There are three main habits you can help your child internalize by helping them with homework:
- Time Management
Studiousness: Developing good and effective study habits will serve your child well past their school days, and into their adult work lives. It’s not easy for anyone to sit down and focus for an extended period of time, especially when the great outdoors or entertaining screen beckons.
Time Management: Guiding your child to develop a routine, plan their work, and prioritize tasks, encourages responsibility and self-discipline.
In my first job interview, I was asked how I would prioritize my work. Because I had spent years doing homework in a guided setting, I was ready with an answer.
By instilling good study habits and time management skills early, parents can equip their children with the tools that will serve them throughout their academic journey, part-time jobs, careers and beyond.
Self-Regulation: Parental help with homework also encourages children to learn self-regulation.
Research published in the Journal of Research in Childhood Education suggests that parental guidance during homework promotes self-regulation skills, such as time management and task persistence, which are essential for success in school and in all facets of life.
4. Confidence and Motivation
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Some kids breeze through homework seemingly effortlessly, and others struggle with nearly every question and problem. Completing homework can sometimes be challenging and overwhelming for children.
Parental involvement can offer encouragement, support, and praise, which can help build their confidence and motivation.
When parents actively participate and acknowledge their child’s efforts, it reinforces the belief that their work is valuable and appreciated. This positive reinforcement fosters a growth mindset and inspires children to persist and take pride in their accomplishments.
When your child hits an obstacle, there is a parent there to provide guidance and strategies for overcoming it.
Parents can teach children to break down complex tasks into smaller, manageable steps, thus empowering their children to tackle seemingly impossible challenges with confidence.
5. Parents Need to Be in the Loop
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Parents are usually going a mile a minute. Always running one child here, another there, and trying to balance meals and sleep and frequently a demanding job. It’s not easy to be in the loop as far as what’s going on in your child’s classroom.
When the Covid pandemic hit and children came home for school online, a lot of parents got their first glimpse into their child’s classroom.
Now that kids are back in school it’s important to stay engaged in your child’s education, to be informed about your child’s progress, what they are learning, and to connect with their teachers.
By understanding assignments and expectations, parents can communicate more effectively with educators, catch and discuss any concerns, and provide insights into their child’s learning style.
This partnership between parents and teachers creates a supportive network that enhances the educational experience, and ensures a comprehensive understanding of the child’s academic journey.
When parents and teachers collaborate, they can identify areas where the child may need additional support and enrichment, leading to a more tailored and effective education for the child.
5 Practical Tips for Effective Homework Support
Helping your child with homework can be a very difficult task. There can be tears, frustration, anger, and general angst.
Sometimes kids feel like they will never get it. They will never memorize it. They will never get as good a grade as the smarty pants who sits next to them.
All of these feelings are perfectly normal.
Think about this time with your child as your opportunity to give them the tools they need to manage these emotions and insecurities when they arise in other life situations.
Feelings of frustration and insecurity are recurring themes in life, and learning how to overcome them will pay dividends down the line.
We have gathered our 5 best tips for managing this stressful time so that it can have the most positive impact for you and your child.
1. Be Present and Patient
Photo by Annushka Ahuja
This first tip might sound like it was taken from the walls of a yoga studio, but it is our number one tip for effective homework help.
When you are helping your child with the schoolwork, everyone will be much better off if you are in a good headspace to be present and patient.
Practically speaking, this might mean silencing your phone notifications, setting aside other obligations for 30 minutes, and engaging in whatever therapeutic methods you need to be as patient as possible.
Kids pick up on parents’ vibes.
If you are impatient, stressed, or view it as an annoyance, your child will know.
If you are relaxed and patient and have a positive outlook, your child will mirror that attitude.
If your child starts to get frustrated along the way, encourage them to take a break. Encouragement and patience will show them that you are confident in their ability to do the work on their own.
Helping your child with homework isn’t about always knowing the correct answer.
Often, you may be unfamiliar with the content, or with the methods each specific teacher uses, especially as your child ages. Don’t sweat it!
The most important thing is that your child feels that you are there to support them, and they will understand that you may not be able to assist them with every assignment.
If some concept or problem stumps both you and your child, try directing your little student to online resources like Khan Academy, which has video lessons and practice problems to guide self-study.
2. Routine is Key
Photo by Julia M Cameron
Routines aren’t always easy or possible in a busy home, but they are important to successful evenings of homework. Establish a regular ritual for homework to help your child develop a sense of structure and responsibility.
The first step is to establish expectations for homework. If your child understands that they won’t get screen time or another privilege until their homework is finished, that will help them get it done earlier rather than later.
Secondly, create a communal space within your home for schoolwork where your child or children can work and where the parents can be nearby to offer support if needed.
Then, have a conversation with your child about what needs to get done for the night or week, and have them talk you through their plan for getting everything done.
If it’s helpful, you can even make a “To-Do” list together. This is a great time to ask them if they need anything, whether it’s supplies or help from you.
Practicing this will help to alleviate those last-minute trips to the craft store for a poster board due the next day that your child “forgot to tell you about.”
Next, ask your child how long they think it will take them to do the tasks on their list. Challenge them to set a timer for that amount of time and work uninterrupted on their own before they ask you questions or move on to any other tasks (Harvard Graduate School of Education).
The main thing you want to avoid is your child having to start their homework right when you say that it’s time for bed. Sleep is so important, and they will either sacrifice it to get the homework done or stress about it and not get a good night’s sleep.
Creating a schedule and structure with your child for how they get their homework done will make them feel less alone with their workload and give them a clear understanding of your expectations for their work.
This simple step will help your child get their homework done on time, efficiently, and to a higher standard.
3. Provide Guidance, Not Answers
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Critical thinking skills are much more important than the answer to any particular question.
Encourage your child to think critically and problem-solve on their own. Instead of giving them answers outright, ask guiding questions that help them arrive at the solution independently.
This approach will stimulate their critical thinking abilities, promote independence, and make them feel good about themselves.
There are so many resources available to kids now it could seem overwhelming.
Consider encouraging your child to take a more analog approach to finding answers. Keep helpful study aids at their homework desk. Dictionaries and kids’ encyclopedias and reference books are great ways for kids to learn how to research without expecting everything to “pop-up” when they enter a search term into a computer.
We need a generation that can come up with original ideas and problem-solve, not simply ask the internet for answers.
While the web provides many useful tools, kids need to learn how to find trustworthy sources, consult several references, and think critically.
If you can help your child develop these skills, they will be ready to tackle whatever problems the future throws their way with confidence and creativity.
4. Encourage Independence
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We are all working towards the same goal – helping our kids grow into independent, successful adults.
While it is essential to support your children in academic endeavors, it is equally important to encourage them to take ownership of their homework.
While high-quality parental involvement in homework is linked to higher academic performance, too much parental involvement can be detrimental to academic performance (Dettmers, Trautwein, & Lüdtke, 2009).
Micromanaging your child’s homework is the last thing you want to do.
If you take one thing away from this article, let it be that you should focus on being responsive to your child’s questions as opposed to attempting to control what they do or how they go about completing their homework.
Give your child room to grow and make mistakes and you will be blown away by the results!
Besides helping them with the occasional difficult assignment, you should be encouraging good study habits. This means that they have an agenda, write down due dates, take notes to study for tests, prioritize tasks, and manage their time.
These might feel overwhelming at first, but by the end of the 4th grade, they are all very achievable. Then they have plenty of time to work on mastery before high school.
5. Celebrate Achievements
Photo by Julia M Cameron
These are absolutely critical years when parents get to help their kids grow their self-esteem.
Celebrate every homework achievement, whether it’s getting it done on time, getting a good grade on an assignment, or acing a test after having adequately prepared.
This is actual work kids are putting in on the job, and you cannot over-praise their efforts by recognizing their achievements.
Avoid saying that they got that grade because they’re so smart. Instead, point out that they worked hard for it and deserved it.
This will associate a rigorous work ethic with success and happiness that will serve them well in life.
Progress is the name of this game. Kids don’t have to be perfect to celebrate wins. Going from a D to a C is a win. Going from 10 missing assignments to 2 is a win.
Everything is easier in bite-sized pieces, so make sure to give every bit of incremental success its proper praise.
I have one child who needs more help with homework than the others. It is one of my sons.
We have experienced it all together – the tears and the triumph.
I asked him what he thinks of my homework involvement and he said:
“I like it. It’s one-on-one time, just the two of us. And I like that you know me so well so you can help me better than anyone else. You explain it in a way I can understand.”
Those are very powerful words of endorsement from a 10-year-old boy.
No one has ever wished they spent less time with their children. Parental involvement in homework is a valuable investment in your child’s education, development, and in your relationship with them.
By actively participating in homework activities, parents can nurture a positive learning environment, enhance understanding, instill good study habits, boost self-esteem and confidence, and foster effective communication with teachers.
Parents will go from authority figures to partners, and children will see them as someone who has their back and is willing to take the time to invest in their success.
Remember that helping your child with homework isn’t about doing it for them. It is about instilling the necessary skills to make them successful academically and in life.
By prioritizing homework involvement, parents help pave the way for their bright futures and a lasting healthy familial relationship.