Should Parents Help Children With Homework?

14/08/2014 16:56 | Updated 22 May 2015

Young student doing homework.

Sometimes I feel like the meanest mum on the planet. I don't starve or beat my children, but I do point blank refuse to help with their homework.

"But mum," they implore me. I ignore their pleas and tell them to find out for themselves, even if it means a cursory trawl of the internet. "Google is your friend," I smile.

I've adopted my zero tolerance attitude to telling them the answers to their homework since they were first given tasks from school. Now that they are 15 and having to cope with vast amounts of work, tests and even early GCSEs, I feel it's a tactic that has paid off.

They have learned somehow, in our rather chaotic household, to order their time, plan ahead and settle down to finish the job in hand, not like their mum who could often be found making up the most ridiculous excuses for not handing in her work on time, or, on a good day, finishing off writing it up at the back of a school bus.

Not for my girls, the shame of being caught out copying someone else's answers in maths and being sent to detention, as I was or being given a severe talking to about 'letting themselves down.'

Perhaps it's my own maverick attitude to homework that has helped shape an opposite approach for my daughters.

It hasn't always been easy. So often I have looked them in the beseeching eyes and really, really wanted to help and ease their workload in ones so young. And I'm well aware that plenty of parents give their children an extra little push when it comes to homework, improving their marks as they go.

But I'd far rather see my girls get a lower mark for their own efforts than a higher grade thanks to their mum.

My friend Nicky is a mum of one and a secondary school teacher. She says that there have been plenty of occasions over the years when it has been obvious that pupils have had a helping hand with their English assignments.

She says: "I really don't understand why parents help to the extent they do. Ultimately they are cheating nobody but their own children. They won't be there with them when they sit their final exam and they can't be looking over their shoulder and prompting them when they are in the classroom."

I'm happy to see I'm not alone in my tactics.

Blogger and mum Nicki Cawood says: "I must be meaner than most as I don't give my son much help at all. I always think homework should challenge him and unless he is truly stuck I let him go for it and see what he can do."

My friend Elaine has a more measured approach when it comes to her boys, aged 11 and 13. She feels it has been important to support them to settle down and do their homework in the first place, creating a good atmosphere and motivating them to do their best when they would rather be doing something else.

But she points out an unavoidable fact relevant to any parent weighing up whether to help with their youngster's homework.

"To be honest with you, I don't think I could help much these days anyway. I don't understand a word of what's needed."

Do you help your children or simply encourage them to get on with homework?

The Homework Blues

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