There’s a fine line between being a parent who is involved in their kids’ education and being a parent who is over-involved in their kids’ education.
According to John Rosemond, family psychologist and author of 14 books about parenting, for some parents that line runs through their children’s homework assignments. In Rosemond’s recent book, “Parenting by the Book,” he says parents should allow kids to succeed and fail on their own merits, which includes resisting the urge to aid them with their homework.
Rosemond adds, “By and large, today’s parents are enmeshed, entangled and wrapped up in their children’s homework. The result may be better grades in the short run (as long as the parent in question maintains his or her involvement), but the weakening of personal responsibility.” Rosemond continues “Over the past 40 or so years, student achievement has been going down as parental involvement has been going up.”
Over the time that Rosemond has been advocating parental non-involvement, he said he has met many parents who made the effort to detach themselves, and almost all admit that after a period just long enough for their children to realize it wasn’t just a phase, academic performance improved across the board.
Despite Rosemond’s opinion that parental non-involvement is best, opinions among local parents are mixed.
Jen, 41, of Doylestown, mother of 6th grader Bella, says she helps somewhat, but her involvement is becoming less and less as her daughter gets older. However, she does not agree with Rosemond that parents should be “uninvolved,” in their children’s homework because she feels it gives the message that homework is not important, and that perhaps the parent does not care about his/her child’s school work.
“At this point in the game, as soon as she gets home from school, we verbally review what assignments she has for the night and what tests/quizzes/projects are coming up later in the week. At her assigned homework time I remind her it is time to do homework,” says Jen. “If I think she is being distracted by something I suggest she do her homework elsewhere. I no longer check that it is completed or if it is correct because she’s pretty motivated to complete it and she needs to learn to find it within herself to get it done.”
Christine, 30, of Philadelphia agrees with Jen that not helping children with homework shows a lack of interest and gives the message that school and homework are not that important. Her two daughters, Gisella, 7, and Layla, 6, are in first grade and Kindergarten.
“Yes, I always help the kids with their homework and all school projects. At their ages I have to make sure they are completing the work correctly,” she says. “I think it’s very important to show the kids that we are very interested in what they are learning at school and that homework is an important part of learning. My parents did not oversee my homework and it gave me the message that homework was not important to them, which in turn made it become unimportant to me as well. The result was that I did not do well in school.”
Diane, 41, formerly of Harleysville, mother of 6th grader Danielle, says her daughter struggles with schooland she does help with her homework, but worries about the consequences her help might have in the future.
“I think every child is an individual and should be approached with that mindset. My oldest rarely needed assistance in the younger grades and now requires none at all except an occasional proof read for a paper,” says Diane. “I do not judge anyone else for their involvement because before I had children, had someone told me I would sometimes be completing my daughter’s homework at 11 p.m. at night, I would not have believed them. Parents make decisions every day and mine always are thought out and have the best interest of my children in mind.”
Susan, 41, of Roslyn and mother of 9th grader Abby, says her daughter is much more independent and she rarely helps her with her regular homework; however, she does help on larger projects.
“Large projects can easily overwhelm her. She needs help organizing projects that require multiple steps or that take several days to complete. She needs me to help put the assignment into various steps so she can tackle one piece at a time,” says Susan. “I think there’s a difference between helping/guiding your child through homework assignments and telling them what to do. If you tell them exactly how to complete an assignment, you take the thought process totally away from the child.”
As for Rosemond, he offers three tips to parents who want to stop helping their children so much, but don’t quite know how. First, make sure that the child has his/her own space to do homework to call their own where the parent is not always in sight. Second, be ready to act as a consultant, but set limits.
“You might, for instance, make a rule that you will provide assistance on three occasions per evening and that no such occasion can last longer than five minutes. Suggest to your child that he do all that he can do on his own and then bring the three most vexing homework problems to you,” says Rosemond.
Third, and in Rosemond’s opinion, most important, set time limits. Don’t allow your children to stay up half the night finishing homework because they wasted the evening browsing or playing video games.
“All homework must be put away by a certain time, whether it is finished or not,” he adds. “If nothing else, the lessons in time management taught by this approach will last your child a lifetime.”