Kids and homework: Backing off is best

IMG_8237(I promise I was only hovering to take this picture!)

A recent study has been released that says helicopter parenting, especially in schoolwork, might backfire when it comes to promoting student success. You might think the most involved parents have the best students, but it’s not necessarily the case. Kids who never have to create their own task list and prioritize their assignments don’t develop the skills to do so. Kids who aren’t used to being held accountable don’t learn responsibility. Our best intentions in helping our kids stay on track can fall short.

I’ve been teaching for ten years now, and I have a few cases every year of students whose families I am begging to get more involved. The main thing I ask is that they give their children the time and routine to sit down each night and do their homework.

The issue I see far more commonly is parents taking over their kids’ school lives. I’ve had parents drive to school to drop off a paper that was forgotten at home. I’ve had kids whose parents make them flashcards or fill out maps instead of telling their children to do their own work. And worst of all, I’ve had parents berate me for punishing kids who cheated because it was “too harsh” to give them a failing grade on an assignment.

Being a parent and watching your kid struggle is heartbreaking; believe me, I get it. There are so many times I want to step in and somehow fix a situation, but I know that doing so is not helping my children in the long run. I have a special advantage as a teacher of seeing kids at all stages of development and this long view helps me realize that calling another parent to try to get a copy of a workbook page my fifth grader forgot at school is not going to help him pack his homework properly at school tomorrow because there was no consequence today.

These are the suggestions I offer at parent-teacher night (this is advice for kids in middle school and high school, not very young children):

  1. Make sure kids have a time and a place to do homework each day. Even if there’s no written homework, tell your children they will sit down for a few minutes to study new material. The routine is important, just like you need for any good habits in your own life.
  2. Don’t “rescue” them when they screw up. Trust me that forgetting a homework assignment provides a learning opportunity of small consequence that may prevent a much larger mishap later.
  3. If your child has a problem with a teacher, please encourage your child to talk to the teacher. I always tell my students to talk to me directly first. If that doesn’t solve the problem, their parents can talk to me. If it’s still not resolved, they should go to my boss.
  4. If your child is overwhelmed, take out an index card. Tell him to write down everything he has to do. Then number the list from soonest due date to farthest out. If there’s a lot to do at once, alternate between fifteen minutes of a “hard” activity with longer periods of easier work.
  5. Let your child know you love her just as much even when she goofs up. When parents try to prevent their children from making mistakes, it can make them fearful to try anything outside their comfort zone. It stifles creativity and bravery.

I do my best to think like a teacher rather than a mom when it comes to my kids and their homework. That doesn’t mean we never have nights of frustration and tears, but I do hope that keeping professional objectivity will pay off in the long run.

As always, please let me know what you think by commenting, and thank you for reading!



If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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Should you do your kids’ homework with them?

Adriennes blog 22 homework You’ve probably heard the phrase “helicopter parenting” — you know, those moms and dads who hover over their kids and micromanage every move they make, whether it be in academics, sports and activities, or socializing.  Nobody wants to be called a helicopter parent, even if it’s what we do.


I can understand why we hover.  We’re told over and over as parents that we “need to be involved” in our children’s education.  What does that mean, exactly?  I think a lot of helicopter parenting comes from the insecurity that parents feel when they hear that vague directive.


Sometimes we allow our children’s performance to define who we are or how successful we perceive ourselves to be. We forget that our children are not extensions of ourselves, but independent beings who must grow and learn, just as we did.  We want to protect our kids from failure both because we know it hurts and because we’re afraid of looking like bad parents.


We can’t always cushion our children from failure, nor should we try.  I work as a teacher, and I’ve done my best to remove the temptation for parents to get involved in the wrong ways.  I don’t accept papers as “on time” if parents brought a copy to the school office when their children left it on the table at home.  I speak to the child first about late homework or poor performance. We do a lot of writing and projects at school, where I can watch and supervise, but can’t micromanage or “do it for them” as I could at home with my own children.


What are the ways we should get involved?  There’s a difference between needing help on a specific assignment and sitting down every evening with your children to monitor all of their homework.  That just allows kids to become complacent and hurts their chances of becoming self-motivated and independent learners.  I’ve taught kids who are accustomed to having a mom or dad literally sitting with them for every minute of homework and then feeling lost when they are asked to do something independently in school.

In my mind, we should strive to be good role models rather than directly supervising every move our kids make.  One thing I admired about my parents is that they pursued their own passions and talents.  They had four children and spent a lot of time teaching us their values, but they did not live through us.  They did not focus on our successes (or our failures).  Instead they showed us that adults are still learning and changing.  Parents aren’t static people whose identity comes solely through their children.  It took a lot of pressure off of me to know that, and it’s made my life as an adult and a parent more fulfilling.


I tell my children what my goals are and how I’m achieving them or falling short.  I tell them what my dreams are and I ask them about theirs. This to me is what it means to be an involved parent.  What do you to be involved in your children’s lives?


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