Parents Should Liberate Themselves from Homework


Helping your children too much with their homework will actually hurt them in the long run.

As recently as 40 years ago, parents were much less involved with homework. When parents did not render regular assistance with homework, children emancipated more successfully and much earlier than is the case today.

And, there is no evidence that achievement is enhanced through parental involvement in homework. After all, achievement has gone down as parental involvement has gone up. Grades improve, yes, but that is because parents make sure homework is returned to school virtually without error.

And they drill their kids on upcoming test material to the saturation point. And then they are known, many of them, to complain if teachers do not give the grades they think their kids deserve. By that point, it is hard to tell whose grades they are.

In the process of all this involvement, kids fail to learn basic study skills, are deprived of the inestimable benefits of trial-and-error, and become increasingly dependent on parental help as parents, now heavily invested, become increasingly anxious about grades and take them as a sign of their own competence. That is called codependency.

Meanwhile, teachers become increasingly dependent on parents to help them teach. I know of no other professional group that expects other people to help them with their job and not be paid for it.

The upshot of all this is that many college students are getting help from their parents over the phone and online, and many college professors have felt the wrath of parents who do not accept the grades they feel they and their children deserve. And employers even tell me that some of today's young people cannot seem to make independent decisions without consulting... guess who.

My recommendation: Parents take interest in their children's homework and make themselves available for limited assistance.

A mother recently told me that on the first day of this school year, her eighth-grade son came home with a note from the math teacher informing parents of their nightly homework responsibilities. Because she has no intention of participating in this group-think, she asked my advice.

Write the teacher back: "My child should be fully capable of doing whatever assignments you give him independently, and I expect him to do his best. If his best is not THE best, so be it. I want him to discover, on his own, his strengths and weaknesses so that he does not go to college and waste time and money discovering that without my help, he is not a good math student. Please know that you will always have my full support if my child's performance or behavior becomes a problem."

Over the years, I have recommended this same response to many parents. From what I am able to gather, their kids seem to do just fine, and in many cases, better.

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