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2/10/19blog post

should you help your kids with homework?

At the end of a therapy session, a mom told me she had to rush home because “we have lots of homework tonight,” as she glanced at her 11-year-old daughter. The mom then detailed a variety of projects and tests that she had to complete with her daughter in the next few days.

I thought it was odd that mom referred to homework as something that “we have” to do. Should you be helping your kids with their homework?

Despite what you assume to be common sense, it appears that parental involvement in your child’s academic life, with only a very few exceptions has little or no effect on your student’s achievement.

Sociologists Keith Robinson and Angel Harris studied three decades of research, examining 63 different forms of parental engagement. They looked at factors such as volunteering in school, helping with homework, attending meetings at schools, or punishing your child for poor grades.

When it comes to homework, the results are clear. They concluded that “…most parents appear to be ineffective at helping their children with homework….when parents regularly helped with homework, kids usually performed worse.”

Many parents spend hours attending school meetings, talking with teachers, and volunteering. Does it matter?  “…we found that most forms of parental involvement yielded no benefit to children’s test scores or grades, regardless of racial or ethnic background or socioeconomic standing.”

A few things do matter.  Reading to your young child, having high expectations for attending college, discussing school activities at home, and trying to get your child assigned to a particular teacher impact your child’s academic achievement.

This is a comprehensive and complex study, and some results vary by age and ethnic group. For example, while parental assistance in homework was generally ineffective, that did not hold true for Asian parents. Homework assistance with those kids did help their grades, but not their test scores.

The researchers concluded that parents play a key role in their children’s academic performance, but not in the typical ways.  You have your greatest effect by regularly talking with your child about the importance of school, and showing interest in what they are doing. Micromanaging their homework or attending school events doesn’t impact their achievement.

This doesn’t mean that you should stop going to your child’s school plays or bringing in cookies for teacher appreciation day. It’s fun to watch your child perform, or show gratitude to caring and effective teachers. Our kids may also need help occasionally with a homework assignment or completing a school project.

Continue to stay involved in school, just don’t expect that it matters when it comes to your child’s academic achievement.