Straight from the lab: The better way to help children with homework

Helping children with Homework

There are many ways to help children who are struggling in school with their homework, but which is the best?

Three researchers from Tufts University in Maryland decided to find out. Dr. Melissa Orkin, Ms. Sidney May and Dr. Maryanne Wolf, followed 36 families of struggling readers aged 6 to 12 and measured the ways their parents helped them with their homework.

Analyzing the data, they found out that parents generally fell into three patterns:

1.  Mistake Finders – Some parents chose to correct their kids when they made mistakes, and turned those moments into teaching examples, such as  “That is wrong, Johnny. This word is pronounced…

2.   Doers – Some parents did the homework, or part of the homework, instead of their children, while explaining to the child how to do it, as in “Here, let me read this for you out loud.

3.   Encouragers – Some parents chose to encourage their children to persevere with the task and provided emotional support, as in  “You can do it, Johnny!

Which type of homework helper do you think you are? And – which type of help worked best?

Parents who frequently interrupted their children with corrections signaled to their children that mistakes are not to be tolerated, and that there is not enough time for their child to struggle by herself. Parents who did the work for their children ended up communicating that they have no belief in the child’s abilities. Those two types of helping parents ended up making their children feel helpless and give up. Only the third type of parenting, those who encouraged while allowing mistake and not taking over, allowed their children to learn at his own pace and feel proud of her success.

So, the next time your child struggles, let the tutor do the teaching, and grab the cheerleader pompoms.
For some extra reading on building a child’s self-esteem:
Five simple ways to improve your child’s self-esteem
Guest post: Let kids lead the way to learning
You’re the most amazing kid ever, and other mistakes

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