Should You Help Your Kids with Their Homework? The Results from a New Study May Surprise You

If your kids have homework most days after school, you’ll want to keep reading.

By: Amanda Mushro

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Photo by: Maskot

Maskot

For most parents, helping their kids with homework is a normal after-school routine, especially for kids in elementary school. However, helping our kids with reading and math homework is one of those parenting duties that can stress us out and our kids too. If your kids are able to tackle their homework alone, new research says it’s time for parents to put down the pencils and let their kids do the work.

"There is no statistically significant association between parental help with homework in elementary school and children’s achievement, period," says the study’s lead author Katerina Bodovski.

According to the study, it did not matter if the parent had a high school diploma or a graduate degree, helping kids with their homework was not helping kids learn. In fact, your help may be doing the opposite of learning. "If the purpose of homework is for the child to practice some skills or knowledge they learned in school, that is lost if the parent is doing the work," Bodovski said.

For the study, researchers looked at two pieces of national data that followed kids through elementary school and they found that kids who had help with their homework did not show a greater understanding or greater achievement in their work. Researchers said kids who had help actually showed cognitive loss — not remembering what they learned at school, adverse effects on home emotional climate — fighting with parents to complete homework, and deferred responsibility — not doing their work because they know mom or dad will do it for them.

The researchers also noted that part of learning is struggling and making mistakes. If a parent helps, that won’t happen for the student. "The kids don’t get to experience struggling," Bodovski continued. "Elementary school is about the growth in knowledge, but even more so in a child's skills and habits."

What can parents do to support their kids with their homework? Instead of "helping," create a quiet place where kids can work. Have all the supplies on hand that kids might need while working — pencils, crayons, paper, etc. — and set a designated time every day for kids to complete their work. If you have the space in your home, a homework nook is a great option.

While you don’t want to complete the work for kids or rush them through the homework, you can help them build healthy study skills that will help them in the future.

Also for younger kids, reading with them every night is a fantastic way to connect with your kids and help them be more successful in school. Even when kids can read on their own, it’s still helpful to hear someone else read for building fluency and vocabulary.

So, this study may get you off the hook for homework, but there are still plenty of ways you can help your young student every day.

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