Parents, Don’t Do Your Kids’ Homework!

The other day I took my daughter to the museum to see an exhibit on Africa.  We sat down to do an African inspired craft activity where I witnessed a loving mother helping her daughter design and decorate her artwork.  I use the word “help” very loosely, because in fact she was basically doing the whole thing for her.  Soon the child’s father joined them.  What ensued was a disagreement between the child’s father and mother over what design strategy to use and what colours worked best.  What was supposed to be an activity for the child, became a chance for the parents to let their child sit aimlessly while her parents took over.

This is a common syndrome when it comes to homework.  Parents often end up doing their child’s homework.  Whilst I understand that they do this out of love as well as to diffuse some of their child’s anxiety over the complexity of the set task, I strongly urge parents to desist from this practice.  Even though in the short-term the child is grateful that the homework can now be submitted without too much heartache, in the long-term they have neither demonstrated capability in successfully mastering the task nor have they managed to calmly work through a challenge.  I accept that parents use homework as a chance to spend some quality time with their kids on a weeknight (where time with the kids is often at a premium), but there are better ways to show your children that you love them and support them.

Whilst there are some strong arguments for abolishing homework (which I will cover at a later date), I’d instead like to focus on what homework should be and how parents can help without feeling a need to take over:

  1. Homework should be revision.  It should not introduce a new concept or skill.  It should simply be a vehicle for students to demonstrate how well they understood what was covered in class that week.  If the child is bringing home work that was not introduced in class, I advise you to see the teacher.
  2. Most teachers give a few days to complete the homework.  I strongly urge my students to use night one to read over the homework and circle any question that they don’t understand.  Then, instead of approaching their parents, come see me the next day.  Of course, I am not restricting the parents from helping their kids, I am merely offering my help as the first option.  In my opinion, parents have already spent most of their youth completing homework, they have paid their debt to education and should now be allowed to enjoy a homework-free life.
  3. When the student approaches the teacher early on about difficulties in the homework, they are showing a great deal of responsibility and assertiveness.  This isn’t lost on the teacher.  So if the students maintains this sort of dialogue with their teacher, extensions are likely to be given should they struggle to meet the deadline.
  4. The best help you can give your children, when assisting them through a homework task is patience and perspective.  Offer your services by all means, but ensure that unlike the girl at the craft table, they end up having ownership of their work.  Kids are not proud of their parents homework, they are proud of their own achievements.  Whilst instilling independence and confidence in children may sometimes feel like an overwhelming proposition, the payoff is huge.  I would rather my students hand in a piece of homework that they took ownership of that was full of mistakes than a brilliant piece ultimately done by mum or dad.

We can easily look at parents who are doing their children’s homework in a judgmental light, whilst calling them enablers and accusing them of spoiling their children.  This is not the right approach.  These parents are often loving parents that don’t know how best to act in a complex situation.

Hopefully the above tips are of some assistance.

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3 Responses to “Parents, Don’t Do Your Kids’ Homework!”

  1. hakea Says:

    I’m looking forward to your post on why homework should be abolished. It causes no end of misery at my place. The kids just want to play with each other and run around the backyard with the dogs being wild things. Honestly, I don’t think they learn anything from the homework they receive, except how to whinge loudly. It would be different if they had to conduct some kind of home-based experiment or survey, or hold a debate amongst family. Can I write to their teachers and tell them that my kids are not going to do homework because it’s a waste of everyone’s time?

  2. Joshua D'Cruze Says:

    if kids don’t have at least 3 assignments/ month there not learning!!!
    but it should not be more than 3 assignments/ week!!!

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