How to help your kids with homework

Young boy with glasses struggling to do homework

The best way to help your kids with their homework, is to let them do it themselves.

While children may sometimes need help doing their homework, it’s important that you allow them to do it themselves.  Working independently on homework and studies not only helps them develop academic skills but also improves their self-esteem. Educational Psychologist Marinda Botha gives parenting tips on when to step in and when to stand back. 

As a parent, it’s natural to want to shield your children from discomfort or inconvenience. Your first instinct may be to give them everything, fight their battles and do their homework.  But this can do more harm than good. Doing their homework can result in children who underperform, do not feel confident, feel we are critical of them, have poor self-esteem, lack problem solving skills and suffer from high anxiety levels. 

For parenting tips on how to help your child become more independent, click here.

How involved should I be in my child’s homework?

When children find success through their own efforts, it gives them a sense of accomplishment and helps them learn. For some, homework time is a breeze. For others, a constant battle

Here are homework Dos and Don’ts to guide your child to independence:

Homework Dos for Parents

  • DO show how that you think homework is important by making sure there is time set out in the day for homework
  • DO make sure the study environment is favourable for your child. Some children study better while moving and can sit on an exercise ball, some need a quiet space, and some need to sit close to the rest of the family.
  • DO make sure they have all the stationery they need.
  • DO know about assignments, their due dates, what your child will need in order to complete them and show interest by discussing topics with your child.
  • DO give them the opportunity to work independently.
  • If your child struggles you can provide guidelines or help. But don’t be tempted to do it for them.
  • DO give regular breaks. Each child will have a different need with regards to this, but a good average is to take a 10 minute break after every 40 minute work cycle. 
  • DO look at teacher feedback on exam papers and assignments and discuss them with your child. 
  • DO make an appointment with the teacher should you not understand feedback or if you are worried about your child’s progress.
  • DO involve your child in the action plan in order to get them to take responsibility for their progress.
  • DO cut back on television or gaming time if this interferes with your child getting through their work. 
  • DO assess your child’s planning and time management in order to identify reasons for them not meeting deadlines.
  • DO help your child get organised and to plan their day/week.
  • Make sure your child knows how to deal with stress. Physical activity is the best natural way of stress release. 
  • Enrol them into a study course if they don’t have the skills and you can’t assist them with this.
  • Have realistic expectations about their marks and praise effort rather than results.

Homework Don’ts for Parents

  • DON’T dismiss homework as unnecessary.
  • DON’T overload your child with extra-mural activities or social obligations, which makes it difficult for them to prioritise homework.
  • DON’T do the research, assignment or homework for your child.
  • DON’T expect your child to approach a piece of work in the same way that you would. Their personality and learning style will determine which approach works best for them.
  • DON’T think that all children works best in an isolated, quiet environment with no movement.
  • DON’T criticise their efforts; rather invite them to reflect on their efforts with self-evaluation.
  • DON’T nag them to do homework. They can get into the habit of not doing anything until they have been nagged, dragged or yelled at. They need to take responsibility for this and they need to face the consequences if they don’t. If this results in them going to school with incomplete homework, so be it. 
  • DON’T pass the blame for homework not completed to the teacher or criticise the assignment. This will take the responsibility away from your child and teach them to blame others for what they didn’t do.

You might want to read about the reasons why you should study with old exam papers.

What homework tips do you have that may help other parents?

Complementary Content