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Parents: Stop Helping Your Kids with Their Homework

Most kids will tell any adult that listens that homework is the worst. They'll also tell anyone that yes, they've already finished their homework, despite having just left school 15 minutes ago. This is just one factor that leads parents to feel compelled to help their kids with the work. They know the kids hate it, and want to make sure they do it, and thus get good grades and eventually become the president or at the very least, rich. However, a new study says parents who help kids with homework are actually doing the exact opposite.

Keith Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and Angel Harris, a sociology professor at Duke, have found that when parents help kids with their homework, the kid loses. The duo crunched 30 years of surveys of American parents and used over 60 different tools to analyze levels of parental participation — ranging from volunteering in the kids' school to talking about the kids' future to helping them complete homework. Robinson and Harris then put those numbers against measures of kid's academic success, like grades, test scores, and reading comprehension.

In their paper, titled The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education, Robinson and Harris explained that parental involvement didn't help kids. In fact, the more involved the parent, the worse the kid performed academically. Almost every activity parents think helps, doesn't. Robinson and Harris said observing a class, helping a kid choose courses, punishing for poor grades, and creating strict rules about homework all had a negative impact on kids.

This study will certainly be a surprise to many parents, who think helping with homework is a smart thing to do. However, Robinson and Harris say that's the main problem — the parents typically aren't as smart as they think they are. They think they know the material when they don't, and thus end up teaching the kid incorrect things.

It's a lot of bad news for meddlesome parents, especially when you consider another study, conducted in the United Kingdom. Researchers there found that in about one in six families, parents admitted to doing "all or most" of the kids homework. That's despite another report that of 2,000 parents, 25 percent said their children’s homework was too hard for them to figure out. So not only are parents doing more homework, they're knowingly doing it wrong.

Robinson and Harris said that instead of constantly hovering over kids' homework, parents should create a dialogue with them. Ask them for input! Imagine that. If parents seek their kids feedback, they might realize that they're not needed. "Ask them ‘Do you want to see me volunteering more? Going to school social functions? Is it helpful if I help you with homework?'" Robinson explained to The Atlantic. "We think about informing parents and schools what they need to do, but too often we leave the child out of the conversation." Just remember: If you're going to talk to them about homework, be ready for the standard replies. Which, in the end, might be the best replies.

[Image via Flickr - OakleyOriginals]

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