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Helping Your Child With Homework

Posted by Karla Belzer - Parenting

Growing up, I struggled with math. Bringing math homework home became a dreaded task. My dad faithfully and dutifully helped me with my math assignments…..but, because it wasn't my strongest subject, and he excelled at it, our homework sessions often ended with both of us frustrated with the content and with each other.

Now, with school-age children of my own, helping with homework has become a daily ritual in my own home. While doing my best to help my child with his assignments, there has been a time (or two!) where we both lost it.  On those days, I wonder if I will survive the third grade!

While homework teaches important study skills including time management and lifelong skills of independence and responsibility, it can also impact family life and put a stress on child-parent relationships. As homework has both positive and negative effects on a child's attitude toward school, how a parent approaches the task of helping with homework is important.

Connecting with Kids offers timeless guidance to parents on providing helpful assistance with homework. Past research at the University of Illinois found that how parents help children can determine whether homework helps or hurts children's learning and motivation in school. Suggestions on HOW to help with homework include:

Let children take the lead in their learning and homework. Parents should aim to support the child's independence and self-reliance by being less controlling. Research has shown that when parents are controlling, children who struggle with schoolwork actually begin to do more poorly in school. Additionally, the child's sense of competence and confidence is undermined. Avoid controlling learning by letting the child complete the assigned work on their own and in their own way. Try not to "take over" and tell the child what to do or how to do it and be sure to avoid punishment when it comes to homework completion.

Stay positive while helping with assignments. Even though difficult assignments can bring about frustration, research has shown that when parents manage to stay positive, children are more likely to be persistent and more motivated in school. By putting the frustration aside and focusing on what is enjoyable about the work can help build motivation for school. Feelings of frustration can also be reduced by concentrating on the positives of working together.

Additional ways that parents can help children develop good study habits:

  • Take an active interest in your child's homework by finding out what assignments are, talking about the assignments, and looking over completed work.
  • Set aside a regular homework time that works for your child and your family. Help your children manage their time and get organized so that homework isn't done just before bed or at the last minute.
  • Reduce distractions by turning off the TV, computer, tablets, and phones. This could be a "quiet time" for others in your household and a time when adults can set an example by reading or working on "quiet time activities" like balancing the checkbook or paying bills.
  • Find out about teachers' homework policy and talk with the teacher if you are concerned or if you want to give them feedback.
  • Provide support and encouragement to your child, especially when they are frustrated.

Homework time doesn't have to mean tears and arguments. Assisting your child with homework can add many positives to your relationship as well as assist your child in developing a life-long love of learning. With patience, loving guidance, and good communication, you and your child will survive and make the grade!

Source: "Connecting with Kids." RSS. University of Illinois Extension, Fall 2006. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

Additional Resources:

US Department of Education

Helping Your Child With Homework

National Education Association

Helping Your Child Succeed in School

Helping Your Grade-schooler with Homework

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