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Why Should Parents Let the Kids Handle Their Homework Alone?

Home / Blog / Why Should Parents Let the Kids Handle Their Homework Alone?

 Jack Morgan   August 8, 2022  Homework  0

It is hard to find a kid’s school project that has not received any input from the parents. Be it helping the kids in building a model of the solar system, assisting them with their math homework or even solving the critical problems on their behalf – parents put a lot of efforts to ensure their kids do well with their homework. But the question remains – does their intervention add any value to the kids’ overall learning process?

A recent study led by prof. Jaana Viljaranta from the University of Eastern Finland reveals the children aged between seven and ten are better at homework when left alone. Prof. Viljaranta also adds that parents’ involvement in helping their children in every step actually is more likely to make the children lose interest in schoolwork.

Where do the parents fit into kids’ homework routine?

Parents are often torn between the thoughts whether to let the kids handle their homework alone or to supervise their work and chip in as necessary. Andy Wiggins, the director of teaching and learning at Bedales Prep School (Hampshire) exclaims that parents don’t actually fit in anywhere when it comes to homework.

According to Wiggins, academic homework generally has three major purposes:

  1. Consolidating or extending the education which the students have already received in class
  2. Providing the kids with the opportunity to explore or enhance their freedom
  • Allowing the students to exercise their skills and learn how to manage the workload and deadlines

And ideally, the parents have no part in fulfilling any of these purposes for the students. Wiggins exclaims that there is a fixed limit for homework time, and if a student is struggling to finish his homework then they should stop. An accurate reflection of the student’s effort can allow the teachers to understand if the student needs any special attention or there’s something wrong with the setting of the work.

However, the parents usually don’t share the same perspective as Wiggins. Usually, when a parent finds the kid struggling with his homework, instead of supporting and encouraging the kid, he takes over the work. Now that's counterproductive. It may allow the kids to get away with the task, but spoon-feeding the child won't help during the exams.

How does working alone allow the kids to get better at homework?

The Finnish study, led by prof. Viljaranta, highlights the fact that the children received encouragement for academic independence from their mothers tend to show less dependency later on. In simpler words, when a mother offers her child more opportunities for autonomous work, it allows the child to be more task-persistent.

In this particular study, the academic performance of 365 students from grade 2 and grade 4 is compared with the amount of support they received from their mothers and teachers. According to Prof. Viljaranta, one of the possible reasons why working alone enhances the student’s performance is that the academic freedom makes the child believe in himself, and his skills and capabilities.

However, that’s not the only factor that ensures a kid’s academic success. A number of educators believe that teachers and families need to agree on how much homework support should the parents provide with and ensure the kids know what the teacher expects from them.

What role can the parents play in improving kids’ performance?

A lot of parents have shared that the current techniques and methodologies in solving various academic tasks are quite different than what they have learned in their schools. So taking over the kid's homework is not really a wise option for the parents. The ideal way to support the kids should be encouraging them to finish their homework properly on time. Here's what the parents can do to improve their children's homework performance:

  • Being aware of the amount of the given homework and helping the kids to schedule the tasks ahead. This will allow the parents to teach the kid a thing or two about time management.
  • Motivating the children about the work they are doing. However, there’s a thin line between motivating a kid and putting pressure on the kid. The parents need to ensure the focus of their motivation is on the efforts put by the students, and not on the outcome.
  • Providing assistance only when it’s absolutely necessary. If a parent seldom pays attention to the kid’s homework or ignore his request when the kid is struggling, this may have a negative impact on the child. A parent should structure their support in such a way that the student never feels abandoned gains confidence.
  • Providing subtle nudges or probing innocently for information to the children to get their brains whirring.
  • Staying by their side when the kids are working. It does not interrupt the independent thinking of the children. And besides, a kid can always use an extra pair of hands when he is working on a school project. This kind of works is meant to be done together.

According to Alison Gopnik, a child developmental psychologist and writer, parents should be like gardeners, tending young shoots and providing fertile ground. However, many resemble carpenters, chiseling away at them to create an image of success which has little to do with their child’s wishes, talents or needs.


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