It’s that time of year again; the great homework battle and debate begins anew. How much help is too much help? And why is this a problem?
Well, let me explain.
If you do your child’s homework, they do not learn. They do not learn the material that the homework covered. They do not learn to be independent. They do not learn personal responsibility.
Actually, they do learn something.
Your child has now learned that any time something is “too hard,” you will bail him or her out. You will just do that hard thing for her. And that is not the lesson you want your child to learn.
That lesson leads to years of “helping” with homework, calling teachers and professors for grading too rigorously, to creating resumes and getting job interviews for your adult child, and maybe even doing their actual adult job for them. Because they know that if it is too hard, you will help.
Don’t be that parent.
Follow my teacher-created, classroom-tested guide for helping with homework.
Step 1: Move Away from the Child
Seriously, give the kid some space. Let her try that math sheet that looks super tough. Let her struggle a little bit. Encourage her to try it herself. A little struggle never hurt anyone.
When your child is done with the homework, sit down and go over the answers. Make sure they are logical, make sure that the math is done correctly. And ask her to fix it. If she doesn’t fine. Ultimately it is her homework and her grade, not yours.
Step 2: Know When to Call it a Day
So a little struggle is different than a LOT of struggle. Essentially, your child should have a limited amount of homework. A good rule of thumb is to take his grade number (fourth grade =4) and multiply it by 10 (4×10=40). So, in fourth grade, your child should be doing about 40 minutes worth of homework each night.
If your kiddo is over the hour mark in any grade below sixth grade, that homework might be too tough. Immediately email the teacher and explain the situation. Be clear about what your child is struggling with, and how you tried to help. Let the teacher know that the homework will not be completed that night. Ask what you can do at home to help your student over the rough patch.
Step 3: Know When You are Being Played
A child that is unable to complete his homework every single night is one of two things: 1) in serious need of academic interventions STAT; or 2) playing you like a fiddle.
Kids are smart, and they know how to get things they want and to get out of things they hate.
So think about it: if your child is seemingly struggling every single night, but the teacher has no concerns at school with independent work, your child might be using your soft heart to get out of something he finds dull or boring.
Take a good long look deep into your soul and consider if he tries to skate responsibility a lot. If so, knuckle down and be firm. If you think that your child might honestly be having trouble, proceed to step 4.
Step 4: Seek Help
So, you’ve given your kid space and time to complete the homework. You’ve corrected and discussed, but not completed for him, the homework. He is still struggling every night and you are pretty sure that he is not just trying to ditch the work.
Contact the teacher. Ask for a meeting. Discuss your concerns, and hear what she thinks the best next steps might be. Follow her advice. She gets paid to understand how to teach children, and she knows your child pretty well by now.
Teachers ALWAYS know when a parent is doing the homework and not the child. The poster that is just a little too perfect, the writing that is a little too neat, and the math that is very precise (or doesn’t follow the method taught in class). We know. We always know.
If we wanted to know what YOU know, we would be your teacher. We are not. We teach your child. Plus, by doing their work you are robbing them of a valuable learning experience (see above). Don’t rob your child of learning.
Don’t be that parent who does their kid’s homework. Just don’t.