There's a fine line between being a parent who's involved in their kids' education and being a parent who is over-involved in their kids' education. According to John Rosemond writing in The Ledger, for some parents that line runs through their children's homework assignments. As students are heading off to the classrooms to begin the next school year, Rosemond advises that parents should allow kids to succeed and fail on their own merits, which includes resisting the urge to "aid" them with their homework.
Rosemond believes that people his age might come from the last generation that did their homework all on their own without parental input. Back when he was growing up, he writes, parental expectation was simply that homework had to be done, and therefore would be done. Even teachers were serious about homework being the work of the student; kids whose assignments bore tell-tale sign of parental involvement had their grades mercilessly cut.
By and large, today's parents are enmeshed, entangled and enmired in their children's homework. The result may be better grades (in the short run, as long as the parent in question maintains his or her involvement), but the weakening of personal responsibility. When, I ask, are administrators, parents and teachers going to get it? Over the past 40 or so years, student achievement has been going down as parental involvement has been going up.
Over the time that Rosemond has been advocating parental non-involvement, he said he's met lots of parents who took the effort to detach themselves, and almost to a one, they admit that after a period just long enough for their children to realize it wasn't just a phase, academic performance improved across the board. One possible reason for this could be that students who know that no help on homework is forthcoming make more of an effort to pay attention and absorb material as it is being taught in class.
For those parents, however, who are itching to cut the cord but don't quite know how, Rosemond offers three simple steps:
The first is to make sure that the child has a study nook he or she can call their own where the parent is not always in sight. It is one of the easiest ways to communicate that homework will now belong to the kid alone and will not be a group effort going forward. Then he recommends a slight role change:
Second, stand at the ready to serve as a consultant, but set a limit. You might, for instance, make a rule that you will provide assistance on three occasions per evening and that no such occasion can last longer than five minutes. Suggest to your child that he do all that he can do on his own and then bring the three most vexing homework problems to you.
Third, and most important, parents should learn to set time limits. No more staying up half the night trying to finish an assignment because the kid wasted the evening browsing or gaming. All homework must be put away by a certain time, whether it is finished or not. If nothing else, the lessons in time management taught by this approach will last your child a lifetime.