Posted Oct 20, 2006, updated Aug 28, 2012.
For parents who grew up in the United States, homework is a fact of life that is as American as apple pie. Many educators believe that homework is an essential tool for helping children learn. They believe that homework can help children develop important study skills, learn how to manage time, and encourage independence and responsibility.
For children and parents, homework can sometimes seem like a burden that can cause frustration and tears. It may also take time away from families having fun together.
Research by Dr. Harris Cooper at Duke University shows that children who do more homework in high school (up to 90 minutes) tend to do better in school, but there is little evidence for homework affecting learning during the elementary years. Many experts agree that homework can have both positive and negative effects on children’s learning and attitudes towards school.
There are many things that parents can do to help with homework. But more importantly, HOW the help can determine whether the experience is helpful rather than harmful.
What You Can Do
Parents can help children develop good study habits if they:
How You Help Matters!
Homework can be frustrating for students and for parents as well. Researchers have found that how parents help children, especially those who are struggling with schoolwork, can determine whether homework helps or hurts children’s learning and motivation in school. Here are some suggestions on HOW to help with homework.
Let children take the lead - support their independence and self-reliance and be less controlling and intrusive. Dr. Eva Pomerantz at the University of Illinois has found that when parents are controlling, struggling children actually begin to do more poorly in school. Being controlling means:
According to Dr. Pomerantz, controlling parents might actually prevent children from developing important skills. Although parents might feel like they are “helping” they may be unintentionally undermining children’s confidence in their abilities.
Being controlling might be especially detrimental for how girls feel about their abilities in math and science. University of Illinois researchers Ruchi Bhanot and Jasna Jovanovic found that parents who were more intrusive had girls who were less confident about their math abilities. Being intrusive includes:
Stay positive. Dr. Pomerantz has also found that when parents can manage to stay positive while helping with homework that may be frustrating, children are more likely to be persistent and more motivated in school. According to Dr. Pomerantz, “Being able to put frustration aside and focus on what is enjoyable about the work is key to promoting children’s motivation in school. When the work itself is not enjoyable – for example, there is a lot of boring repetition - parents might focus on the positives of working together”.
For More Information
US Department of Education
You can request copies of the following publications by calling 1-877-433-7827 OR 1-800-872-5327.
Register to rate articles and leave comments.
© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
University of Illinois Extension