Assessing the Trend toward Increasing Parent Involvement in Homework

As a teacher and parent, I am well aware of the increased involvement of parents in the completion of their children’s homework. While some parents may claim that the excess of homework that is assigned is causing this phenomenon, I believe that the reality is that we “helicopter” parents, the trendy terms for parents who are overinvolved in every aspect of their child’s life, are afraid to let our kids fail.

What will happen if their homework is late, incomplete, or poorly done? How will this affect…their GPA, chances of being labeled gifted, chances for a scholarship, the teacher’s recommendation letter, and on and on. The tremendous pressure that parents now feel to make sure their child has every advantage in this hyper-competitive world is having detrimental effects on our kids:

Many kids whose parents “help” out too much are:

– lacking self-confidence – Isn’t a parent who does the majority of a project really saying, “Just let me do it for you, because if you do it, it won’t be good enough for an A”? I had a young teen student turn in a gorgeous model of a Spanish monument. I praised him to no end in front of the entire class and talked about how incredibly talented he was. I was mortified when I later found out from the other students that the boy’s mom had actually built the entire thing. Needless to say, the student must have felt a bit worthless and like a fraud as I gushed on and on. I’m sure his overly-involved mom would have been heartbroken and humiliated for him as well.

– lacking persistence and diligence – Getting a project or homework done on time and well takes hard work and it means fighting through the tedium of the work and the temptation of a million more exciting things. Too many kids are not willing to put in the time or effort because they know when crunch time comes, they will be rescued by a concerned parent.

– lacking accountability – Okay, maybe it’s just a little homework, but parents who help too much are setting the stage for a lifetime of struggles with meeting deadlines, working to the standards of superiors, and taking responsibility for their failures. A few messy assignments that come back with low grades for neatness will certainly teach a student that neatness and presentation count. We all know that this is a vital lesson to be learned before entering into college or the workplace.

If the work isn’t done on time, many students with overinvolved parents know they will get the parental excuse note, in which the parent cites the many reasons why the student’s busy schedule did not allow for completion of the assignment.

We parents have to resist the temptation to protect our kids from failure and from making mistakes. Only by taking responsibility for their actions and by learning time management, focus, and persistence will our children be the successful adults that we hope they’ll be.