The Best Way to Help My Kids With Homework Is to Not Help Them at All

I will do anything for my children, and whatever it is, I do my very best to fulfill their needs. But one thing that I routinely refuse to do is their homework. Now, if they ask for help, I don't deny them assistance, but I rarely give them direct answers, choosing instead to provide guidance.

It may sound harsh, but it's a decision I've put a lot of thought into. I'm the child of hard-working parents who didn't have a lot of time follow my educational activities. They let me complete my assignments on my own and rewarded me when I got good grades. In elementary and high school I was completely responsible and accountable for the outcomes of my hard work — or lack thereof. And I think it helped shape me into the adult I am today.

I know that sometimes teachers don't even have a choice as to what homework a child gets. Those decisions may be made by the school district or curriculum created by administration. Nonetheless, I would like to believe that my children's teachers appreciate the authenticity of their assignments. I can only imagine the frustration of getting back work without any errors or mistakes that was clearly not completed by a child. I think that perfect work is a missed opportunity to correct and improve a child's understanding. I want my children to mess things up while they can, while they can learn how to learn.

There is also value in not being correct all of the time. Children who get things wrong and have to work to improve learn how to maturely deal with and learn from their mistakes. Sometimes homework blunders can actually be funny for my child and myself. We find moments to have fun and be playful so that all mistakes don't automatically evoke negative feelings. Also, if my child is struggling with a particular subject, I take the situation seriously by acknowledging their feelings and offering help in a way that fosters problem-solving, stress reduction, and focus. I also have no problem involving the teacher to help us create an action plan to help improve my child's understanding.

There isn't a one-size-fits-all parenting style. Some parents are very happy to give their children answers to homework under certain circumstances. I'm just not that parent. I don't give my children answers to homework questions, nor do I create their projects for them. I'll provide all of the supplies and maybe assist in any potentially dangerous scissor use for my smaller children, but that's where my assistance ends.

But enough about what I don't do for my children.

What I do is encourage positive habits, like designating a space where they can work without distractions. I encourage them to use it as a study space, but I don't force them to make use of it because I think that learning what works for them will foster good habits into adulthood. I don't want to create a forced environment that they will potentially rebel against later in life. I also encourage and reward their completion of the work, and their attempts to complete the task well, rather than just checking a box. If their work is incorrect, I see it as an opportunity for them to learn how to do it right. That skill will serve them well when I'm not sitting next to them in the future.