I am a teacher, dad, and former fifth grader. Each of these parts of my identity has a different view of homework. My fifth grade self hated it. He hated having to work all day at school and then work at least another hour at home every night. The teacher side of me has a more nuanced view. I know my students may not love when I assign it, but I only give homework when I believe it will make them smarter, more skilled people. The dad side of me is back to hating it again. I watch my kids come home from school tired, but then I have to require that they sit at the dinner table and keep that engine running.
This is where temptation creeps in. I can sit down next to my kids and help them skip a step on a math problem. I can suggest certain letters to help them breeze through their spelling worksheet. I can even do their homework. It is extremely tempting to relieve my kids of pressure, lighten their load, and improve their grade by just doing their homework for them.
However, the teacher, dad, and maybe even a part of my fifth grade self knows that this is not beneficial in the end. As tempting as it may be, I have to let my children do their own homework. I don’t necessarily always want to make them do it. Yet, I know there is often value to at-home practice. I can help them with it as needed and be a part of their learning, but I cannot be in control of it. Here are my top reasons why parents need to stop doing their kid’s homework and let them fail and succeed on their own.
Your kid needs to have those moments of struggle.
I don’t want my kids’ lives to be stress free. Instead, I want them to know how to manage the inevitable stress they will experience throughout life. If, as a parent, I am constantly mitigating my children’s stress and mowing down any obstacle that they experience, I am depriving them of opportunities to develop this essential skill. Teachers see it every day. When parents don’t let go, students struggle in the classroom. The helicopter parents and lawnmower parents are depriving students of developing problem-solving abilities and the chance to overcome challenges.
Our children might require us to guide them through difficulties at times, but we shouldn’t remove obstacles for them. This is why parents have to resist the temptation to help make that art project look prettier for them. It’s why asking questions like, “Do you feel like this is your best effort?” is better than saying, “You need to add another paragraph to this essay.” Kids need to work through challenges and tension if want them to be strong and resilient people.
Your kid needs to practice to get better.
Good homework, the kind that isn’t just busy work but is assigned by the teacher with purpose, can actually benefit your child. Deep learning doesn’t happen in a single moment; it takes practice. So when parents complete the work for their kids, they are robbing them of potential learning and growth. Ghostwriting that essay or putting together that project may speed things up for your child, but it is not helping them get better. And isn’t that the reason why we send them to school?
Teachers need to know how to help your kid.
Aside from practice, homework serves as an indicator for your child’s growth and development. A teacher who uses it well is assessing your child’s learning and taking that information to create activities that will help them improve. When parents do their child’s homework, the teacher is working with compromised information. The homework may indicate the student understands the material when they really do not. It would be better for the student to submit incorrect work than to pretend that they understand it and are ready to move on.
At the end of the day, your kid’s teacher probably knows you were involved.
Here’s a little inside knowledge from a teacher: We know when parents do their kid’s homework. Remember, we spend hours with them in school and regularly read, observe, and grade their work. If your child is a “developing” writer on in-class assignments, but then writes like John Steinbeck on their homework, it’s pretty obvious someone else did it. This nullifies the purpose of the work, and it goes back to hurting your child’s overall development. Your child isn’t getting practice, and teachers aren’t learning about your child’s abilities and growth.
As a teacher, dad, and former fifth grader, I still don’t love the idea of homework. I don’t love that children, who work hard all day, are asked to do more work when they get home. However, I also see the value of it when it is done well. So when parents do the work instead, the work becomes pointless. Kids lose their sense of responsibility while also missing out on learning opportunities.
Keep encouraging your kids to tackle their homework. You can even ask them questions or help them study, as needed. Maybe even see if you can solve that math problem when your child isn’t looking—don’t feel bad if you can’t! But as tempting as it may be, for your child’s sake, stop doing their homework.