Helping with Homework: How Much Is Too Much?

One of the most important things parents can do before their children start school is guiding them through early education and development. But once a child reaches school age and starts having homework, how much guidance is too much?

Traditional wisdom says that parents should be as helpful as possible and that they should have a direct influence on how and when a child’s homework is completed. However, recent research on children’s education suggests that instead of intensely helping children with homework, parents should let their kids self-motivate and learn at their own pace.

The Problem of Doing Too Much

When parents or educators at after-school facilities help children with homework through incentives, surveillance, demands, or threats, they may see results in the short term. But these traditional methods of “helping” don’t hold up in the long run. Children who receive too much help are more likely to lose interest in learning and can become overwhelmed quickly.

Additionally, since parents were in school decades before their children, their methods of problem-solving and comprehending information may be outdated, or just plain wrong. The success of their children’s education depends on adhering to current expectations and allowing the children to develop their own methods of learning.

How Parents Can Help

Instead of heavy-handedly assisting children with homework, parents should aim to give them more autonomy when it comes to learning. This can be tricky since even the brightest students can sometimes feel disorganized or unmotivated. One way to do it is to help the child identify a few of their goals—these can involve careers, grades, or personal interests—and explain how doing well in school can help them accomplish their goals.

Another way parents can help is by letting the child know that his or her way of learning is perfectly valid and that mistakes are part of the learning process. When a child feels in control of the learning process, homework takes on a new value and will seem more interesting and important.

While there are many resources available to help parents enrich their children’s education, each child’s experience with learning is different. Keeping an open mind and listening to a child’s concerns go a long way toward lifelong educational success.