The Studies Are In: Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework
Yes, that was the headline from a fascinating recently published article in The Atlantic.
“One of the central tenets of raising kids in America is that parents should be actively involved in their children’s education: meeting with teachers, volunteering at school, helping with homework, and doing a hundred other things that few working parents have time for. These obligations are so baked into American values that few parents stop to ask whether they’re worth the effort.
Until this January, few researchers did, either. In the largest-ever study of how parental involvement affects academic achievement, Keith Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and Angel L. Harris, a sociology professor at Duke, mostly found that it doesn’t. The researchers combed through nearly three decades’ worth of longitudinal surveys of American parents and tracked 63 different measures of parental participation in kids’ academic lives, from helping them with homework, to talking with them about college plans, to volunteering at their schools. In an attempt to show whether the kids of more-involved parents improved over time, the researchers indexed these measures to children’s academic performance, including test scores in reading and math.
What they found surprised them. Most measurable forms of parental involvement seem to yield few academic dividends for kids, or even to backfire—regardless of a parent’s race, class, or level of education.” – The Atlantic
Interesting, because I have my own philosophies on parental involvement in the different areas, but I digress.
For now, let’s look at the cold hard research. Drumroll, please…
On Helping Your Child With Homework
Do YOU help your child with their homework nightly? Well, the data states that this won’t help them score higher on standardized tests. In fact the studies show that once kids enter middle school, parental help with homework can actually bring test scores down.
On Meeting Frequently With Teachers
The data shows that students whose parents frequently meet with teachers and principals don’t seem to improve faster than academically comparable peers whose parents are less present at school.
And get this…. Other “useless” parenting interventions according to the research: observing a kid’s class; helping a teenager choose high-school courses, and especially, disciplinary measures such as punishing kids for getting bad grades or instituting strict rules about when and how homework gets done.
Why? The studies showed that this kind of helicopter parenting could wind up leaving children more anxious about school.
What DOES Make a Difference
Reading aloud to young kids and talking with teenagers about college plans.
What also seems to make the difference: Parents who don’t push or prod, or get involved in school in formal ways. But parents who set high expectations, set the bar high, and then stepped back. “These kids made it!” Robinson said in his study. You’d expect they’d have the type of parental involvement everyone in America is trying to promote, but they hardly had any of that.
On Socioeconomic Status
“Robinson and Harris’s findings add to what we know from previous research by the sociologist Annette Lareau, who observed conversations in homes between parents and kids during the 1990s. Lareau found that in poor and working-class households, children were urged to stay quiet and show deference to adult authority figures such as teachers. In middle-class households, kids learned to ask critical questions and to advocate for themselves—behaviors that served them well in the classroom.” – The Atlantic
The One Area Parents SHOULD Intervene
You ready? Robinson and Harris did find that one of the few ways parents can improve their kids’ academic performance—by as much as eight points on a reading or math test: Getting them placed in the classroom of a teacher with a good reputation. The studies revealed that the best teachers have been shown to raise students’ lifetime earnings and to decrease the likelihood of teen pregnancy. Wow, this is no small intervention!
I found this research to be fascinating.
My take as a Life Coach and Global TV‘s Weekly Parenting Correspondent:
I agree that helicopter parenting your children and doing their homework both do them a great disservice. By hovering, we’re not grooming them to be the super-successful person we hope they’ll become. We’re creating a needy, non-independent individual whose wings we are clipping right from underneath them. The studies also show that helicoptered children grow up to be less motivated, less independent, and that is understandable.
I do, however, feel we need to go with the rhythm of our children and intervene when they are truly struggling. The key is to know the difference — when they are truly drowning vs. when they just don’t wanna do the work. Welcome to motherhood, where we walk the fine line on a daily basis! I myself wrestle on the fence with this a mom – when to step in, and when to step back.
And finally, I think that we need to advocate for our children when they are not able to advocate for themselves. And that means speaking out against serious bullying issues (especially when the child is younger), and other. And I do think that parental volunteering makes a difference and is a plus for everyone. A plus for the school, for your child, and for yourself. When our kids see that mom and dad care to show up for us, call this my motherly intuition, I think it’s vital. My take is give what you can: 1 day a year, 1 day a quarter, 1 day a month, 1 day a week. Because you reap what you sew in life. Every time.
But that’s just me.
I’d love your take on these findings.