Should parents help kids with their homework? It’s a very interesting question – one I thought I knew the answer to. But now I’m not so sure.
I wrote last month about an awesome podcast for parents called Have a New Kid by Friday, and today I want to ask your opinion about some of the ideas Dr. Leman’s gives about how parents can help their children be successful students. (You can check out the original series here.)
His ideas are a bit unconventional (they’re certainly not the status quo in most households), but they have such a ring of truth to them – and a lot of common sense.
This series about school, however, left me somewhat conflicted. Some of the ideas really ring true, but others I’m not as sure about. So I want to ask your opinion – and get a conversation going as well. Because I do think that the status quo isn’t really working that well. And maybe it’s time we found some better solutions.
Let me sum up a few of the points he made that relate particularly to us teachers and then I’ll share some of my thoughts and ask a few questions.
To Help Kids Be Successful at School, Dr. Leman Suggests…..
- Keep the ball in the child’s court. School is the child’s responsibility, so let it be their responsibility. Parents should have an honest conversation about how their transcript will affect their future life but leave the ball in their court. They can ask, “What do you need to do to get those grades up? What do you need us to do to help you?” Then, don’t hassle them about grades. If a bad report card comes home then give natural consequences. (e.g. “It looks like you haven’t had enough time to study, so you aren’t going to be able to go to _____ for awhile.”)
- Parents shouldn’t do homework with their kids. Since it’s the kid’s homework, let it be the kid’s homework. Dr. Leman recommends that parents stay out of it as much as possible. When kids try to rope the parents in to figuring it out for them, he recommends they say something like “I’m sure you can handle it” and walk away.
- Natural consequences should be the teacher. Dr. Leman recommends that parents leave the consequences for late or missing work up to the teacher. That means teachers need to be giving real consequences for late or missing work.
- I like the idea of the ball being in the kid’s court. It is their homework and we’ve all seen how counterproductive it is when the parent ends up doing the work for the child. And the more students learn to take responsibility for themselves, the better.
- I’m not so sure parents shouldn’t help their kids with school. I really bristled at this at first because I have always believed that parents are ultimately responsible for their child’s education and thus should help them learn if needed. But the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to see Dr. Leman’s point. It can be really easy for the parents to help too much. Meaning, the student doesn’t have to do any thinking for themselves. Or the child ends up relying on the parent to the point that they don’t know what to do without them. So maybe it’s better for parents to err on the side of less help versus too much help.
- Teachers should give consequences, but it’s not always that simple. It makes sense that we as teachers should give consequences for late or missing work. The problem I see, however, is a lot of parents DON’T want us to do that. And a lot of admins don’t either. Maybe it’s time to change the conversation. Maybe it’s time for us all to get on the same page about what’s really best for the kids. It does them a huge misservice when there are no consequences for failing to complete a task – that’s not preparing them for life. It’s just teaching them that they don’t need to be responsible.
- I’m not sure what the best message is for parents. I used to tell parents to help their kids as much as possible. To check their planner to make sure they had their homework done. To be on top of them if need be. But now I’m wondering if that’s the best approach. If the big goal is to teach a child to be responsible, then don’t they actually need to be given responsibility? So is it better to let natural consequences be the teacher? Maybe something in between? Perhaps it’s best to give the student just enough rope to make mistakes but not enough to hang himself. To let him fail but to quickly be there with natural consequences so that he learns from his mistake and chooses responsibility in the future.
There’s a lot to think about and a lot to discuss. I’m not really exactly sure where I’m coming out on all this, but I do know that this is a topic that is well worth discussing. Because too many kids aren’t learning responsibility, and it’s up to us parents & teachers to help them learn it.
So what do you think? Please share your thoughts with a comment below.