Families & the Community

Survey Finds More Parents Troubled by Their Children’s Homework

By Karla Scoon Reid — September 19, 2014 2 min read
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A national survey revealed that more than half of parents with children in grades K-8 admit that they aren’t up to the task of helping their children with homework.

The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) survey released Thursday found that 60 percent of parents admitted that their children’s homework was a struggle. That’s up about 10 percent from last year’s survey, which found 49 percent of parents suffered from chronic homework headaches.

NCFL, which is based Louisville, Ky., partnered with Google Consumer Surveys to conduct the poll in August. There were 1,039 online responses.

Either more parents are being truthful about their nightly woes helping their children with homework or perhaps the lessons being sent home by teachers are getting tougher with the national roll out of the Common Core State Standards.

The survey found that roughly a third of parents—33.5 percent—said they didn’t understand the subject matter, which represents a significant decrease from last year when almost 50 percent of parents blamed their lack of subject knowledge. The survey did find, however, that about a quarter of parents, or 25 percent, said they were simply too busy to provide homework help. Last year’s survey found about fifth of parents lacked the time to help.

For some experts in the field, children with busy parents might be better off academically in the long run. In a widely circulated nationally syndicated advice column that ran this month, family psychologist John Rosemond said parents who help their children with their homework are creating needy and helpless children.

“The more their parents help, the more incompetent the child begins to feel, and the more helpless (and in need of help) the child begins to act,” Rosemond wrote in response to a parent’s question about assisting with homework.

He added: “The more responsible the parent, the less responsible the child.”

Ouch. I believe most parents probably need to take one step back when it comes to homework, but it also depends on the type of child you’re facing at the kitchen table. I’ve got one independent worker who rushes through answers without reading the questions. I’ve got another, admittedly needier, son who is easily frustrated if he takes the wrong path and has to redo a whole worksheet.

Author Bruce Feiler took on the homework “squabbles” in a piece for the New York Times this month, asking a variety of experts their thoughts about what has become a necessary evil. Feiler spoke with a couple of university professors, but some of his most profound homework advice came from a parent.

All five of Rose Chavez’s children, who were raised in a three-bedroom home in Albuquerque, N.M., went to Harvard University. Chavez told Feiler that parents shouldn’t be wary of criticizing their children.

“We didn’t give praise where it wasn’t due,” she said. “We pushed them.”

For its part, the NCFL offers its own recipe for homework success, laced with practical advice that includes setting up a homework routine and a good sleep schedule.

Emily Kirkpatrick, vice president of NCFL, also urges parents to think beyond the confines of worksheets.

“Use everyday moments to your advantage, like breakfast or riding in the car, to spark children’s curiosity and create habits that feed their natural hunger for learning,” she said in a news release.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.