How do I navigate the balance between "tough love" and "helicopter parenting" when it comes to homework?
This is a dilemma faced by many parents. When do our kids need to fail and when do they need our help to succeed?
We talked with Elizabeth James, M.Ed. a School Counselor at Irving Elementary School in Bozeman, Montana. Here are the things we talked about.
1. Remember that natural consequences are a parent's best friend. If your child has to miss recess because he didn't do his homework, that lesson will stick much longer than you nagging at them to get their homework done. And the younger your student feels these natural consequences, when the stakes are low, the better. So letting your child fail is not necessarily a bad thing. Talk to the teacher to make sure the natural consequences are in place and make sense.
2. Get to know your child and the reason she is not doing the homework. If your child is consistently not doing homework, take a closer look at why. Is the work too hard for your child? Could she need some extra support. (Read about IEP's here) Is she stressed out about something else? Is she overly busy? Does she not give herself enough time? Is she having trouble with motivation? Give your child the kind of support they need instead of bailing them out.
3. Speaking of support, see yourself as the step stool. When your child was little, you probably had a step stool in your bathroom in order for him to wash his hands. You didn't soap them up, but you did provide the support he needed to wash his own hands. It takes longer to help a child with his homework in this way, but in the long run, it's better. For example, if my child is having a hard time with his math homework, we take 10 minutes to watch a math video on Khan Academy (you can easily search by topic). Then, I try to only ask questions instead of making statements. Ask the teacher for help, if you need to.
4. Set up your child up for success. Don’t over-schedule your kids. Get a homework system that works (Homework system article coming soon!), and model and teach time management. Make sure that the reason your child isn't doing their best work isn't out of their control.