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Helping vs Doing: Striking a Balance in Supporting Your Child with Homework

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As parents or guardians, one of the key responsibilities is to support your child in their educational journey. An integral aspect of this is helping with homework, but it’s essential to recognize the difference between lending a helping hand and doing the work for them. So, what is the difference between helping your child with homework and doing it for them? In this article, we will explore the distinction, how to strike a balance, and the importance of encouraging independence while providing proper support.

Helping Your Child with Their Homework

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When it comes to helping your child with homework, you play a crucial role in providing them with guidance and support. This includes:

  • Create an appropriate environment for them to work on their assignments
  • Help them establish a routine and manage their time effectively
  • Make sure they have access to the necessary resources and materials
  • Offer motivation and encouragement
  • Help them understand the concepts or clarify unclear instructions
  • Review their work and provide feedback

It’s important to focus on guiding and supporting your child while allowing them to take responsibility for their learning. Resisting the urge to give them the answers outright not only fosters academic integrity but also helps them develop critical thinking skills and resilience in the face of challenges.

Doing Your Child’s Homework for Them

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On the flip side, doing your child’s homework for them can have a detrimental impact on their learning and development. Examples of this behavior include:

  • Solving problems or answering questions without giving your child the opportunity to think and answer themselves
  • Writing or editing their assignments to the extent that it reflects your abilities rather than theirs
  • Dictating how they should approach a task without allowing them to explore different strategies
  • Telling them what they should do in a project instead of letting them think and choose how they want to do it

While it may seem appealing to complete their homework and alleviate their stress in the short term, it deprives them of the opportunity to learn, practice, and develop essential problem-solving skills. Additionally, it can undermine their confidence in their abilities and cultivate a dependence on external assistance.

The Harm Caused by Doing The Work For Your Child

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It is not uncommon for parents to feel the urge to assist their children with their homework and projects, particularly if these assignments carry significant weight and have the potential to impact their report card. Despite this instinct to help, there are several disadvantages to doing the work for your child.

First and foremost, your child’s learning experience will suffer if you provide them with direct answers. Genuine learning necessitates active thinking and decision-making from your child. The trial-and-error process and grappling with challenging questions are invaluable experiences that foster growth and development in young minds. By overcoming obstacles and learning from their failures, children will better understand what works and what doesn’t.

Another downside of doing the work for your child is that you are giving your child a sense of dependency on your help. If your child is frequently aided in difficult tasks, it can lead to an unhealthy expectation of constant support. This reliance can be detrimental to their future development, as independence is crucial for success in various aspects of life.

Lastly, by intervening in your child’s assignments, you may inadvertently communicate that you don’t trust your child’s ability to complete the task independently. Over time, your child may internalize this implicit message and develop low self-confidence in their abilities.

When I was teaching students, I found it crucial to resist providing straightforward answers to my students when I believed they were capable of solving the problem themselves. Instead of offering a solution, I would create opportunities for my students to attempt the question independently while providing hints and guidance rather than answers. Actively listening to their thought process allowed me to offer feedback based on their ideas, ultimately fostering a sense of independence and self-confidence within them. While giving direct answers may be an easy solution in the moment, it does little to support the long-term development of your child’s self-reliance and self-assurance.

Striking the Right Balance

To find the optimal balance between helping and doing, consider the following:

  • Practice active listening and ask open-ended questions to encourage your child to think critically and articulate their understanding of the task
  • Allow them to make mistakes and learn from them, viewing setbacks as learning opportunities rather than failures
  • Break down complex tasks or concepts into smaller, manageable steps, guiding your child through the process without providing the solution directly
  • Encourage autonomy by discussing different strategies or approaches, then letting them decide which one to use
  • Be okay with your child failing. Don’t expect your child to get the right answer or take the right approach every time. Remember that the process of learning is far more important than getting the right answer.

By adopting these strategies, you can effectively help your child without doing their homework for them. This not only supports their academic performance but also nurtures their self-confidence and independence in the learning process.

Supporting Your Child: Some Research-backed Insights

Studies show that parental involvement in a child’s education has a significant impact on their academic success. A synthesis of research on parental involvement by the Center for Public Education revealed that students with involved parents, regardless of their family income or background, were more likely to:

  • Earn higher grades and test scores
  • Enroll in higher-level curriculums
  • Attend school regularly
  • Have better social skills and behavior
  • Graduate and continue to postsecondary education

On the other hand, research published in the Developmental Psychology indicated that when parents directly helped with homework, the children’s achievement scores tended to decline. This highlights the importance of providing support and guidance without taking over the task and emphasizes the need for you to let your child take primary responsibility in doing his or her own work.


In conclusion, the difference between helping your child with their homework and doing it for them is significant. By fostering support, guidance, and encouragement instead of delivering answers and completing assignments, you empower your child to take ownership of their learning and develop the skills necessary for academic and lifelong success. Strike a balance between supporting and cultivating independence, and you’ll create an environment where your child thrives both academically and as an individual.

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