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Parental Involvement in Homework

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How Much Parents Should Help With Homework

In my last post I gave my thoughts on why homework hurts. Since it seems that homework is here to stay for a while in our culture, the problems it creates for families will be too. I have some advice that might be helpful, and I am sure there will be many more posts on this topic in the weeks and months to come.

Parents want to know "how do I draw the line between being too involved and not involved enough".

I recommend a great litmus test that I heard on a CBC interview addressing the appropriate amount of parental involvement with children’s sports. The guideline they used struck me as one that parents could use for schooling too.  In the interview they suggested "If you find yourself more emotionally invested than your child about their own performance, you are over-invested".

So in sports terms, if your child misses the final goal and the team looses the finals, who feels worse? Are you kicking the boards and screaming? If you care more that your child makes the Junior B’s than they do, you know you are over-invested.  Hang out at a hockey arena for a night if this isn’t ringing true to you.

The same idea for school would be, if you are more upset than your child when they bring home a bad test result or report card, you are over-invested.  Many people say "but my child just does not care at ALL" and what I know to be true from my Adlerian training, is that when people say they don’t care, they in fact care very very much and they don’t want you to know it. These children are very discouraged and they feign "not caring" as a protective mechanism.  Children are social creatures and they want to belong and do what is expected of them. The child who "doesn’t care" about school has tried but in their failure to catch on, they begin to feel that any further attempts they make at their schooling will only further reveal their inadequacies and inabilities. So instead, they decide to keep themselves safe by not revealing their inadequacies and buy a sort of "insurance policy". You see if you don’t try and you fail, you can always blame your failure on you "not trying" which feels better than trying, failing, and confirming your inadequacies.

The goal of parents then is to keep their children encouraged!  This is not only a technique and a skill, but it is a whole attitude and way of being in relationships with other people.  I’ll post more on encouragement soon.

Be excited for your child’s school activities, stay engaged in their lives and what they are up to the same as you would your spouse and the important work he or she is doing. But by the same token, if you wouldn’t rifle through your spouse’s briefcase at the end of the day looking for reports they have to work on in the evening, neither should you rifle through your child’s knapsack!

One way to be involved without robbing ownership is to "ask instead of tell". If you act in this encouraging coach-like manner it would sound like this:

Mom: Hi honey, you’re looking pretty upset – everything okay?

Son: I only got 6 out of 10 on my spelling report!

Mom: You sound pretty disappointed with your score. But this test has come and gone, we can’t change the past. What mark would you like to get next time?

Son: 10 out of 10 of course!

Mom: Okay, well I think you can get whatever mark you want to get. What do you think you would need to do in order to get a 10?

Son: I’d need to have you drill me twice the night before.

Mom: Okay – I’d be willing to do that if you can ask me before 8pm I’d happyily do spelling drill with you.

Son: Thanks!

Here the mother is being receptive and offering herself as a mirror to reflect back to the son so he can work on his own solutions to his own problems, while mom is still being supportive of his ventures.

Try it out and let me know how it goes! Use the comment field to share your stories and thoughts with others.

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

One Response to “Parental Involvement in Homework”

  1. Manuela

    What happens if the child is only 7yrs old how involved should a parent then be?


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