Whether your girl has mid-week soccer practice, twice-weekly dance classes, an SAT study group, or babysits every Wednesday night, there’s one thing that always has to fit in the mix: her homework. Depending on your daughter’s grade level and what kind of subjects she’s studying, that homework could take anywhere from fifteen minutes to a few hours. And how well she does on it will likely affect that time range—and her grades, as well.
Since her time is so precious (let’s just get this done, right?!) and her grades will likely be a pretty big factor in getting into college, you may feel the urge to point her in the direction of correct answers or even to jump in and complete part of a take-home project for her. And usually, that’s not a great idea.
“Teachers use homework to measure what your girl has learned and how much she can do on her own after a lesson,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. “If you’ve stepped in and done some of the work yourself, her teacher won’t understand that your daughter needs extra help, and may think it’s appropriate to move forward to more advanced lessons your girl isn’t ready for.” Essentially, teachers can’t fill gaps in your girl’s knowledge unless they know what they are in the first place.
Plus, it’s important for her to learn that she won’t always get things right the first time, and that success comes with persistence and hard work. If you’re swinging in to help, she’s not getting that important lesson either.
And as for trying to fill those gaps by teaching her a thing or two yourself? Dr. Bastiani Archibald says you can actually do your girl a disservice by trying to teach her how to solve a homework problem yourself. “Your daughter’s teacher might teach a different method than the one you learned in school—and showing her a different way to do the work can confuse her or throw her classroom learning off-track.”
That said, if you see her really struggling or absolutely feel the need to work on a concept or two with your daughter, make a note on the homework saying she was having trouble or had parental help and consider calling a meeting with her teacher to discuss whether or not the homework is at your daughter’s level. An initial conversation between you can lay the groundwork for a real partnership and help you understand ways that you can support what your girl is learning in school.
Above all, the best thing you as a parent can do to help your daughter with her homework is to ask about what she’s working on—explaining the project to others can actually enhance her learning process—ensure she has a clean and tidy place to work (if she doesn’t have a desk of her own, the kitchen table will do just fine!) and to be sure she’s not distracted during the time you’ve designated for homework. That means no TV, and no internet in general unless it’s being used for research.
“You don’t have to be super educated yourself to be a great ally in your daughter’s academic success,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald. “Taking interest in her work and giving her the space and time she needs may seem too simple, but really, it’s what every child needs to learn.”
Letting go can be tricky, but giving her the freedom to grow will pay off.