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Should Parents Help Kids With Their Homework?

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.

Should parents help kids with their homework?

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.

My Thoughts/Reactions

  • 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.

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  • I think your last sentence says it all. You can’t just leave it up to kids, because they don’t have the wisdom yet to know what’s best for them long-term. But for the short term, I’m all for kids being given responsibility (step-by step: I think a parent needs to teach a first grader how to approach homework).

  • In theory, yes, this is spot-on for me as a parent and an educator. In practice, it is a little hard to implement. The “hands-off” approach – I think parents must be aware of what is expected and what their child is doing. I can’t just completely turn away from what is going on. We know that involved, interested parents are definitely a positive force in education. I really liked the “I know you can figure it out” — having confidence in your kid and speaking it to them is powerful!!

    I think natural consequences (especially those that are meaningful to the student) can lead to internal motivation — which is essential for any avenue to success. External motivation can only go so far.

  • I agree that the students should be given responsibility, but I think the parents should help with homework as long as they don’t do it, just help. I think this is completely OK if the parents help, not if they do it, though.

  • I have sit down and do the math with my son. Sometimes I’ll do two or three problems talking it out and showing and then step away from the table to finish dinner. This gives him the space to do it on his own. If he has a question he has to explain it to me. It gets frustrating, but in the end he understands his work. I felt guilty about doing a few problems for him, but when I got the phone call of how well he was doing in that area of the class where most kids are struggling it made it worth it even though I was ready to spoon out my eyeballs. He is in 2nd grade and I feel like they need the extra one in one to learn the basic foundations of learning. He’s also been diagnosed ADHD and does have issues focusing. The extra one on one help at home gives him a different way of Learning. Each kid has their own way of Learning. Not every classroom setting and teacher can help the child blossom into what way works best for them. As a parent we need to be there helping the child learn in different ways to give them that experience of what works best for them. Responsibility is taught in more ways than one. The kids have 40 minutes to get up make their bed, tidy their room, shower and brush teeth, get dressed, take vitamins and eat breakfast before having to be out the door. When they get home they have chores and responsibilities as well. There are natural consequences, but mom and dad made ones too.

  • I feel doing homework with your child is important because its important as a parent to have a pulse of what your child is learning in school. Also it keeps you involved with your child.

  • I think it should be the teacher and the student doing it. Not parent and student. The teacher has already shone these children how to do all of their homework. Maybe if the kid had paid attention to the teacher, he or she wouldn’t need help. they would know it already. So I am 110% stay out of the child’s homework. If you don’t teach them that it’s their responsibility now, It never will be. Mom’s to easy to come running to help.

  • I’m a Tutor and as per my experienced. Yes, Parents Should Help Kids With Their Homework, but should be like this:-

    1. Encourage him to express his opinion, talk about his feelings, and make choices.
    2. Show enthusiasm for your child’s interests and encourage her to explore subjects that fascinate her.
    3. Provide him with play opportunities that support different kinds of learning styles — from listening and visual learning to sorting and sequencing.
    4. Point out the new things you learn with enthusiasm.
    5. Help your child organize her school papers and assignments so she feels in control of her work.

    Your kids will start doing homework automatically and you need to keep eyes on their homework only. Thanks

  • Hi Evelyn W. Minnick

    I agree with you, but your one suggestion can be hurt child mind. Yes, I’m asking about ‘Ask about what he’s learning in school, not about his grades or test scores.’ Exactly. Rest other motivation way very good. Also, I have written a blog for helping kids and it’s related to this article. “Best Ways to Get Your Kids to Do Homework Without All the Drama” To read this article visit at http://universityhomeworkhelp.com/best-ways-to-get-your-kids-to-do-homework-without-all-the-drama/

    I hope my answer will help more readers of this article.

    Nancie L Beckett

  • Hey there,

    I’m new to this blog and am really liking it. Thanks for the great tips.

    On the question of whether parents should help: The problem here is that we are treating a complicated question as though it were simple enough to answer with a mere yes or no. The question in my mind is not whether parents should ever help their children with homework, but WHEN they should help their children.

    An ideal approach would be to train parents how to help kids and to show them when it might be needed. Teach them the types of questions they should ask.

    For example, I can’t see how it would be bad If a parent has time to give their children mini lessons about their common mistakes before sending them back to the drawing board or making them redo sloppy work. If we had more parental involvement of this kind, our students would have wind beneath their wings.

  • i do’t know i feel like kids should do their homeworks by their own that is the correct way if get through their way it might hurt them in school ok its fine parents help kids with their homework at home but what about a test parents are not going to be with them on the test so that is why if a kid is really having a bad time on that subject than they have to talk to the teacher and maybe attend extra help that will work i know is tempting for parents to help their kids but first think about it 🙂

  • I completely agree that kids should do their own homework IF the workload and multitude of websites and apps for homework were actually in line with their age and maturity level. They are not. Today’s kid has to wade through complicated technology just to get their homework assignment done. It is very overwhelming for kids and because of this, they need help from their parents. I personally wish schools would focus more on actual subject matter and less on technology.

  • Hello! I just would like to give a huge thumb up for the great info you have here on this post. Thanks for sharing.

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