Are you too involved in your child's homework?

It’s not uncommon for parents to help their kids with homework, but at what point does this become harmful to their learning? A study by Queensland University of Technology, ‘Overparenting and Homework: The Student’s Task, but Everyone’s Responsibility’, looks into parental involvement in homework tasks and its effect on children’s development.

The study involved 866 parents from three Brisbane-based Catholic and independent schools. It used online questionnaires to place parents on the Locke Parenting Scale (LPS), examining their parenting beliefs and intentions, as well as broader attitudes about their children’s homework. It found that parents with high LSP scores tended to take greater personal responsibility for homework tasks, while also expecting more from their child’s teachers.

It went on to determine that over-involvement — ‘overparenting’ and ‘helicopter parenting’ — can affect a child’s ability to take responsibility for themselves or understand the consequences of their actions. These are issues that apply just as much to the completion of homework as daily life, which can be problematic as children move into adolescence and adulthood.

You can read the full study in QUT’s research archive.

Five tips for healthy homework habits

Try the following tips to help your child develop healthy homework habits:

  1. Create a schedule: You might allocate a couple of hours to homework before dinner, create a block of study time on Saturday mornings or slot in ‘family study time’ if everyone has a bit of work to catch up on.If your child has a homework diary from school, knowing which tasks they need to complete and signing off on them can make the process a little easier.Also consider extracurricular activities and help your child plan their study time based on their priorities. Structure is important too — it helps if your child’s homework sessions occur in the same time at the same place.
     
  2. Develop a homework policy: A homework policy is a good way to keep your child on track. This might mean that homework must be finished before dinner or that there’s no TV watching until you’ve seen their completed work. 
     
  3. Focus on providing guidance: Your best bet is to provide the tools for learning, such as a helpful resource or explanation of a key task. Sitting down with your child and giving them the answers, without letting them problem-solve, takes away from homework being used as a learning tool and won’t benefit them down the track.  
     
  4. Provide motivation: If you have to, why not incentivise homework completion? This doesn’t have to be a monetary award, but might include allowing them to have a friend sleep over (if they’ve completed their homework every day for a fortnight, for example) or, for younger children, stay up a little later on the weekend. Also think about ways you can help your child make homework ‘fun’. This might mean changing up how they do their homework, such as moving from silent study to alternatives like family spelling bees or games of Scrabble.
     
  5. Limit distractions: Ensure your child has a quiet place to study (away from the TV and gaming consoles) and take extra measures if needed, like holding onto their phone while they study. Keep in mind that siblings and dinner preparation can be distracting too. 


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