How To Help Without Hindering

We consulted with our elementary teachers to help us answer the question:
When do I as a parent stop assisting with my child’s homework and let him/her do their best on their own?


  • Parents should always be available to assist his/her child with their homework.  However, I feel like there is never a time when one should do it for them.
  • It depends on the child. There are many parents who don’t really assist their child with homework other than asking if they are finished. Other parents need to be very involved in making sure their kids get the homework and complete it on time. Some kids need the external motivation and guidance, while others seem to have an internal motivation to get their work done well and on time. It’s important that most students are independent almost completely by 6th grade. We really work to make that happen by the end of 5th grade at CVC. As a parent and a teacher, I think it’s necessary to let a child “sink” a little so they feel the consequence of irresponsible behavior. It’s pretty safe in elementary school to do that because that is where good study skills and work habits are formed and the consequences are minimal. If a parent doesn’t let go a little, the child will always lean on outside help.
  • In my humble opinion, it’s really going to depend somewhat on your child’s nature and learning ability. But, certainly by middle elementary years they should be doing most of their work unaided.  Parents should still be available but it should be the work of the student.

    “If a parent doesn’t let go a little, the child will always lean on outside help.”

  • The quick answer is that it depends on the child and their ability to self motivate and stay on task, as well as their academic abilities.  I think a parent should allow their child to do homework on their own as early as kindergarten if they are equipped in the aforementioned areas.  If not, then a parent needs to assist but only in certain areas when clearly needed, much like the way a teacher in the classroom would.  The time set aside at home for homework should also include a setting that is conducive to study.  For example: a desk or table free of clutter, a quiet environment (as much as possible) and the tools needed to do their work.  This makes it easier on both student and parentsParents should only assist when and where absolutely needed at any age.
  • All children are different.  Some need more support and monitoring than others.  Regarding homework, I think Dr. Betty Osman’s advice is something to consider:
    “Rather than have children attempt an assignment and then ask parents for help when it is not understood or isn’t done, I recommend that a parent start a child on the homework, to ascertain that she understands it. One or two math problems solved together or a composition started is reassuring for a child and should preclude the need to relearn the material and redo the assignment. Once children feel secure, they usually can finish a task independently and gain confidence in the process.”
  • As a parent, be available to your child when they have a question about a homework assignment. Let your child do his/her best. Ask your child if they wish for you to look over their completed homework. Let your child do their work on their own.
  • I think the point and value of homework is that parents see what their child is learning in the classroom and may assist them in it.  As of now, my children do their homework, ask for help where needed, but then I check it over before letting them turn it in.

Looking for the short/sweet version? Quick review:
-be available
-encourage them to stay on task and ask for help if needed
-know and encourage your child’s strengths
-confirm that they understand the topic and they are learning

As parents, you know your child best—use that to your advantage, and consider the advice given above.  Your child may know more than you give them credit for!

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