Should you help your children with their homework? Shouldn’t they be responsible for their own work? Shouldn’t you resist the urge to handhold your child? Shouldn’t they learn everything they need to know from their teachers during the school day?

Many parents today are unsure of what their appropriate role is when it comes to assisting their children with their homework assignments. The truth is, although you should not take total control of completing assignments, helping your child with homework and school projects is both good for your child academically, emotionally, and developmentally. In fact, according to the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement, homework is not merely a chance for students to review the day’s lessons, it is an opportunity to cultivate the parent-child relationship, build life skills, establish routine, and foster independence.

In addition to the positive effects on your individual child, helping your kids with their homework keeps you connected with your child’s school, your child’s teacher, and your child’s curriculum. If you are regularly involved in your child’s homework, report cards won’t catch you off guard and parent/teacher conferences can be more productive and in-depth.

What are the best strategies for successfully assisting your child with their homework?

Provide your child with a pleasant, distraction-free homework environment. Whether it is a desk in their bedroom, a kitchen table, or a lap desk in the living room, your children should have a quiet, appropriate place to concentrate on their work. Turn off the television, computer, their phone, and set a regular time each day to complete assignments.
Set a good example. One of the best ways to establish life-long learning skills is to set an example for your children. While your child studies, read a book in the room or complete some work related to your job – but make sure your child knows that it is okay for them to interrupt you with a homework question.
Do a before and after check. At the beginning of a homework session, have your child share what the night’s assignments are. At the end of a session, review their work. After a few weeks, you should know about reoccurring assignments – quizzes on Monday, social studies readings due Friday, etc. Encourage your child to keep a small notebook or calendar of assignments.
Don’t just give your child answers. Don’t complete your child’s assignments for them; ask them to think about how they can solve their problems. Feel free to re-explain concepts that they might have learned recently in school, but also encourage your children to look up information in their textbooks or solve a problem themselves.
Don’t be afraid of going off on a tangent. Helping your child with homework can also give them an opportunity to open up about other aspects of school and life – a bullying situation, a new interest or hobby, or any number of other topics. Don’t insist on keeping the topic on homework, use homework as an occasion to talk to your children generally about their daily lives and concerns.
Encourage healthy, independent study skills. If your child has an upcoming vocabulary quiz, teach them how to make flashcards and test themselves. If they are writing an essay, show them how to make an outline. These study skills will help them become self-learners – and take some pressure off of you in the future!