Doing My Child’s Homework

Dear Mr. Dad: When I sit down to help my daughter with her homework, I find myself getting impatient. I cave in to her whining about it being too hard and end up giving her the answers. The problems is that she’s gotten so used to my helping that she says she can’t complete an assignment without my help. How can I get her back to doing her own assignments?

Good question, but I think you’ve got it backwards. Yes, your goal is to get your daughter to be able to complete her own assignments and ask for help only when she really needs it. But the big issue is getting you to let her.

The pattern you started is very destructive and needs to be broken as quickly as possible. By giving your daughter the answers you’re sabotaging her ability to learn good study habits. Even worse, you’re affecting her self-esteem, giving her the message that you don’t think she’s smart enough to do her assignments by herself. If she’s started to believe you, rebuilding her homework independence will be tougher.

What your daughter really needs when she gets stuck isn’t answers and impatience, it’s support and explanations. Start by trying to figure out exactly what she doesn’t understand and why. Help her break her assignments down into more manageable chunks and give her a lot of praise when she get through each one. Ruth Peters, author of Overcoming Underachieving, suggests interspersing easy assignments with harder ones or allowing for a few minutes of fun before moving on to the next task.

If your child has gotten so dependent on you that she balks at doing her homework without your help, you need to get tough. Cut back on play dates or weekend fun until she starts getting back in the groove. As her teacher to help out too, perhaps by keeping your daughter inside during recess until her homework gets done.

This process is probably going to be a little unpleasant for everyone and may involve your daughter screaming at you, either demanding help or accusing you of hating her (otherwise you’d help her, right?). But don’t give in. Helping your daughter rebuild her confidence in herself is one of the best things you can do for her.

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