Parents are often guilty of helping their child a bit too much with their homework. Sometimes the homework battle can be made that little bit easier if you just tell your child what to do, or simply do it for them. At least it’s been done, you think.
Teachers have spoken of parents writing their children’s assignments, taking on the homework responsibility and emailing teachers out of hours, or, as in one case, turning up at a teacher’s home on the weekend to ask about the homework that was set.
But research shows that giving your child too much help could actually hinder their skills development and lead them to feel incompetent.
Help with homework can be filled with tension or create pressure to succeed for the child.
That’s not to say that parents shouldn’t get involved, as research shows this is an important factor in academic success. But parents need to know when it’s appropriate to do this, and when to step back.
Overparenting has been described as delivering appropriate parenting characteristics to a degree where they cease to be beneficial. This approach can result in anxiety, narcissism, poor resilience and an external locus of control in children.
When parents assume responsibility for making their child always happy and successful, they discourage their child from developing age-appropriate autonomy and encourage the child to expect other adults to protect them from facing any challenge.
One study showed children over the age of nine viewed parental help or monitoring of their homework as a sign of their incompetence. It might be useful to offer this kind of support when a child is younger, but parents need to adjust their approach to homework as the child gets older and help only if specifically requested.
For adolescents, parental help with homework has been posited to be developmentally inappropriate. The child should be self-managing their workload, so this kind of help can limit the adolescent’s development of autonomy and sense of responsibility for their schoolwork, leading to poorer homework performance.
By year 12, parents should step back completely. If they don’t, students can rely on the adults in their lives to take a high level of responsibility for them completing their academic work, which may reduce their motivation in school work.
A recent study of parents from Catholic and independent schools found those who endorse overparenting beliefs tend to take more responsibility for their child doing their homework and also expect their child’s teachers to take more responsibility for it, particularly in the middle and senior school years.
This research may explain why some parents continue to be highly involved in their child’s university work and not grant their child autonomy over their own decisions. These parental actions have been associated with higher rates of depression and reduced life satisfaction among university students
Here’s how to provide the appropriate level of support.
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