Homework: Help, or hands off?

Q: When, and how much, should I help my child with homework?

Our readers lend some guidance about just how much—if any—help parents should be providing their children with their nightly homework.


A: It depends on each individual’s needs and ability level. I like to prompt my kiddos to answer their own questions, but when they are struggling, I don’t want them to feel like they don’’t have the capacity to complete the work, so I will aid them in locating the answers. I do not believe parents should do the homework or project! -April Rudick

A: My guide is to allow them to do as much as they can on their own. If they ask for assistance because they truly don’t understand and you are able to teach them the concept or frame it differently so that they can understand, great! Otherwise, let them do their best and send a message to the teacher explaining that they did not understand. Chances are, there are other children in the class who also do not understand. I try hard not to do it for them or give them the correct answer, but I do check over their homework and have them re-answer incorrect questions. My oldest is only in third grade though, so I’m sure this will change as they get older. -Jill Schwab Landers

A: Up until third grade unless they ask after that or are not neurotypical. Please let your kids forget to turn in work and fail assignments and learn to handle their own business. (Parent of four and a teacher.) -JD Ouellette

A: If [my son] struggles on something for a long time I try to show him how to work through it by asking him questions and helping him to figure it out on his own, but never do it for him. He has to understand it so he knows it for the tests and quizzes at school. -Laura Bolen Wagner

A: Stay nearby/available during homework time in the primary grades and check it with them when they’re done. In middle school, start to step back some. Maybe twice-weekly check-ins, depending on your students’ needs. In high school, start preparing them for college/adult independence and try to stay hands-off as much as possible. Ask them questions, “Hey, how’s that English project going?” And definitely help when asked. But give them enough freedom to develop their own good habits. -Heidi Dugan

A: I have always tried to make myself available to provide any insight, guidance, problem solving/thought processes (and the occasional joke to lighten the mood). Kids need to learn appropriate study habits and problem solving techniques rather than just getting help with a certain subject matter regarding homework. But full disclosure? Mine are entering 11th and ninth grades and they know more than I do (schoolwork-wise)! I’m useless about 90 percent of the time now. -Krista Coyne Noel

A: Absolutely every day but my child is only in first grade so she needs more constant support. I think every child can use guidance and help to stay focused, complete their tasks, and get feedback to improve. But I never just give the answers or do the homework for my child. There is way too much helicopter parenting these days and kids need independence and room to fail, too. -Kristine Whipple Clay

A: I am a teacher and a parent. It is important for the children to know you are there for them. It is equally important that you ask them to try it themselves first using the resources from school and then you can guide them. I’ve had parents do the homework for the kids in their handwriting. That doesn’t help at all. -Andrea Schreffler Oliver

A: I always help my kids with their homework but I encourage them to try it first [on their own]. Sometimes when they’re getting really frustrated (usually because they’re feeling overwhelmed with the workload) I just sit with them and walk them through the steps they already know. It helps to encourage them and remind them that they might already know the answer, they just needed to relax and focus. -Jen Boyd Cook

A: I prefer to be a guide on the side for my third graders. They ask for clarification when needed and I prompt them with questions that help them problem solve and come up with the answer themselves. -Court L. Henry

A: Every day and however much they need it! I never give up on my kiddos! Education can’t just be taught in the classrooms. -Ruby Estelle

Join the conversation! Look for our Parenting Pro questions on Facebook. Please note: not all responses will appear in the magazine, and responses that do appear may be edited for length and style.

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