Homework has been around since the early 20th century. Since then, there have been debates about its benefits, how much is too much, and what types of homework are best.  But one thing is clear – research shows children are more likely to succeed when their parents assist with homework.

Stress the importance

Children pick up on more things from their parents than you can probably imagine.  Attitudes about homework are one of the many things on that list.

“The feelings you express are likely to be the feelings your child acquires regarding homework,” saidDr. Alicia Plummer from SSM Health Dean Medical Group.  “If you tell your son or daughter how important it is and set a good example, they are more likely to complete assignments and turn them in on time.”

There are many ways to show your child that their education is a high priority.

  • Set a regular time for homework
  • Designate a specific place for homework to be done
  • Remove distractions
  • Provide supplies and resources

Your involvement matters

You also need to show interest in what your child is doing. Talking about school and learning more about their day goes a long way in showing them how much you care. If your child doesn’t have much to say, try different approaches. You can be more specific, like asking what they discussed in science class today, have them show you a completed assignment, or simply ask them to read to you.

“It’s also important to become involved in your child’s school activities,” said Dr. Plummer.  “Most parents are overwhelmed these days with the opportunities, but make sure to find time for things like parent-teacher conferences, open houses, and sports events.”

Keep in mind that while involvement can have an extremely positive impact, it also has the potential for negative effects.  In some cases, involvement can interfere with learning.  For example, parents can confuse children if the teaching techniques they use are different from those used at school. Involvement can also be detrimental if parents are doing too much, so work to find a good balance.

Provide guidance, not answers

Always try to remember homework doesn’t belong to you, it is your child’s responsibility.  Some parents tend to take the lead on assignments, which will only hurt their son or daughter in the long run.

“That will not help your child learn the lesson or gain confidence in themselves,” said Dr. Plummer.  “Too much help actually teaches your child that when they’re confused, someone else can swoop in and complete the work for them.” 

Here are tips for being a guide, rather than a parent who takes over a child’s homework:

  • Help with organization – provide necessary materials like folders, book bags and a calendar for scheduling homework time.
  • Encourage good study habits – help your child get started on bigger projects, give practice tests, don’t let them rely on last-minute cramming, and talk to them about how to take a test.
  • Ask questions about assignments – this will benefit your child if he or she is having trouble with homework.  You will be there with advice to break it down into smaller, manageable parts.
  • Oversee the entire process – if you see frustration, let them take a break.  If you see success, reward them with praise and recognition.

Teachers should not be strangers

Staying informed and talking with your child’s teacher will support the overall effort.  That way, you’ll know the purpose of homework and what your role should be.  Cooperation also sends a clear signal to your child.

“It essentially shows them that everyone is in this together,” says Dr. Plummer.  “Home and school won’t be separate entities, which is bound to help a child’s learning experience.”

A close relationship with a teacher also helps troubleshoot problems.  It will be much easier to approach your child’s teacher if you have concerns about what your son or daughter is accomplishing.  Teachers want the best for kids just like you do.  If you communicate with them effectively, problem solving becomes more manageable, and your child can get back on the path to a bright future.