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It's Their Homework Not Yours
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TAGS: Boundaries, Homework, Preparation

It's Their Homework Not Yours – How to Help Without Taking Over the Work

Elizabeth Murphy, Ed.D.
ELIZABETH MURPHY, Ed.D., is a psychologist and type expert whose research focuses on verifying the development of normal personality differences according to the theory of psychological type. She works extensively with families and teams of people to improve communication and resolve relationship needs.
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Have you endured the experience of supervising, snoopervising, and actually doing your child’s homework? I believe every parent wants the child to do the work independently but for some that habit does not seem to develop naturally. Some parents monitor every step of their child’s work, and the child learns to manipulate the system until the parent is doing more work than the child.

The best way a parent can help a child with homework is to set the stage, help with needed materials, and help with comprehension. These tasks can be accomplished by asking 3 simple questions.

1. Do you have everything you need to do your work? (supplies)

2. Do you want to get this done? Do you care about this assignment? (motivation)

3. Do you understand the assignment? Do you know what you must do? (comprehension)

Always have a procedure so the child can ask a comprehension question. They come to you. You help with the question. They return to their workspace. Getting them to move away from their workspace will help give a break and a new perspective, and it helps keep the parent from inserting themselves into the homework process longer than is needed.

When you start with those three broad questions, you teach your child how to assess the situation, how to develop potential solutions, and how to implement the most reasonable solution first. Resist any temptation to direct, take over, and lecture. If you start by telling them what they need, your brain is working, not theirs. If you get flak about the stupidity of the assignment, resist the temptation to lecture. They may say, “I don’t care about this; I don’t think I’m even going to bother doing it.” Resist the lecture.

Many parents respond with comments as “How do you think you are going to get through school? Do you think life is always going to be positive? Do you think you’re going to always get to do just what you want to do?” You are not motivating them. You are just lecturing. That won’t help the situation. You can use good listening skills by reflecting what you heard your child say. “This just seems like a silly assignment and you wish you did not have to do it. That seems like a discussion to be held with your teacher. Right now, that’s the assignment. Until it is changed it must be completed.”

When we allow the child to take leadership in getting the materials (supplies), getting on board (motivation), and checking for their understanding or calling a friend for help (comprehension), then the child is in charge of their assignment. This process leads to the greater independent processing skills they will need in the future as they become better at self-management. Sometimes good parenting with homework tasks is knowing how to set the stage and knowing when to step back.

If the child does not do the homework, ask him or her to analyze the situation and determine if he needs additional assistance with supplies, motivation, or comprehension. Failure to complete the work is not an option. Getting help with one of the three specific areas is an option.

If the student has truly been working for an hour and is having trouble, talk with them about taking a break. Some may want to continue but others will welcome a ten-minute break before returning to task.

When there is no homework due you can do a formative evaluation, and ask your child if the process is working for him or would she like to make some additional choices such as studying with friends, having music on while he works, or taking frequent breaks.

A little less snooping can be super!


Related Content

Timing: Type Tip #2

Use backward chaining to help perceiving-preferenced students to gauge when to begin assignments. Ask them to name the last moment they can begin and still get the work done. Consider possible interferences and let them wait to produce. One mom asked, "Wouldn't they be more comfortable if they just did their homework on Friday night? Then they would have the whole weekend worry-free.” They already have the weekend worry-free.

The younger the child the greater the chance they will underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete an assignment, especially if it is a new kind of assignment. Teach them better timing. It is not about irresponsibility. It is about timing.


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Do it for Mom: Type Tip #3

if you are the parent with a judging preference and your child has a perceiving preference, it is still OK to ask them to do their homework on a Friday night but recognize they are doing it for you, not for them. You might say, "My job as your Mom is to check your homework. I cannot relax over the weekend until I get that job off my list of things to do. Please do your homework on Friday so I can enjoy the rest of the weekend." Kids can adjust their behavior to respect the type of the parent, too.


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