Law: Homework is a child’s job, so parents’ role is support

Published 5:18 pm Saturday, September 13, 2014

QUESTION: With school starting, I’m concerned that homework gets done. How much should I help?

ANSWER: The answer depends a lot on the age of your child. Kindergarteners through third graders need a parent to be “around” and to step in, if necessary. For older children, we have to remember that homework belongs to the children-it’s their “job.” However, it’s good to want our kids to do well in school and to be involved. Our role is to provide support. Our help should promote our children’s confidence; we don’t want to take over, which makes kids feel less good about themselves.

Schools and teachers have different policies about homework and parents need to find out what they are. Usually a teacher gives homework to reinforce class lessons. This purpose is defeated when kids turn in homework done mostly by parents. A teacher is better able to evaluate a child’s skills when he can see the mistakes that have been made.

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In many families homework becomes a control issue. Young children especially seem to want help with homework, but at the same time they want to do it themselves. When parents do respond to requests for help, kids may lash out because they feel they’re not in control of their own work. Parents get upset when kids resist their suggestions or criticisms.

While you probably don’t want to ignore sloppy or incorrect work, it is wise to focus more on content than on how the homework looks. Kids stay more motivated when we take a positive approach, making comments such as: “I like the way you described that…” or “That’s a good point you made about…” or “You’re only nine and you’re already able to do equations. I’m impressed.”

When children ask for help, remind yourself that the purpose of homework is to help kids develop good study habits, gather resources and feel confident that they can work on their own. We can help children interpret instructions, get started on the right track and then let them work.

One insightful parent made this comment about children and homework: “My role is similar to that of a flight attendant. I am not flying the plane, but I am a friendly, unflappable, ever-helpful presence – available for general support and consultation on questions, so that the time required to get from Point A to Point B is basically a comfortable experience.”

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out”