Science Says You Should Stop Helping Your Kids Do Their Homework
You may mean well, but it’s not doing your child any favors.
VGstockstudio/shutterstockWe tip our hats to the countless nights you’ve spent sitting beside your child as they finished their homework, or making cookies for that last-minute bake sale, or prepping for tomorrow’s PTA meeting. But it’s time to give yourselves a break, moms and dads.
Not only are you subtly spoiling your kids without even knowing it, but it’s also not doing their grades much good, either. A massive study has found that parental involvement hardly affects children’s academic achievement at all.
Surprised? So were the researchers. They tracked over 60 different measures of parental participation—such as homework help, conversations about college, and volunteering—in almost thirty years’ worth of longitudinal surveys of American parents. But when the researchers compared those measures to the children’s performance in school, they found that most aspects of parental involvement appeared to have little to no effect on achievement, regardless of race, class, or level of education.
In fact, helping your kids study for tests might actually lower their scores once they enter middle school, the data showed. And meeting with teachers and principles yielded few academic rewards for children. Observing a kid’s class, helping a teenager choose high-school courses, and disciplinary measures such as punishments for bad grades failed to improve performance, too. (These are 52 of the worst parents tips parents get.)
So what’s a well-meaning parent to do? Thankfully, the research did reveal one positive parental habit for improving school performance: campaigning to place your children with good teachers. Reading aloud to young kids and talking to teenagers about college plans could make a difference, too. What’s more, simply listening to feedback from your child can go a long way.
“Ask them ‘Do you want to see me volunteering more? Going to school social functions? Is it helpful if I help you with homework?’” Keith Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the study’s authors, told The Atlantic. “We think about informing parents and schools what they need to do, but too often we leave the child out of the conversation.”