Is it Okay to Help Your Kids with their School-Work?

Category: Moral Question of the Week, Weekly Columns

Parents helping kids with homework

Nowadays, there are projects given our elementary-age and older children that seem a bit big and over-whelming – to mom and dad, that is. Seriously, some of these projects are difficult and in many communities it seems the quality of these completed works are way beyond the capability of the kid that “did it.” Clearly, dad and mom are helping.

What say YOU about parental help with their kid’s school-work? Of course, if it’s help with simple math or reading homework, that seems completely appropriate AS LONG AS mom and dad are NOT doing the work. But, when they have to do a Science Fair project or something artistically out of their ability, is it cool when the parent(s) do it for them?


  • Dozens Bananas

    I don’t help with projects beyond buying the supplies I’m given a list for. The kid has to come up with whatever idea, a supply list, and then actually do the project. Everyone else turns in professional-looking longhouses when my daughter’s is made with tree bark and popsicle sticks, maybe, but my kid should be graded on her merit, not mine.

    • Bruce Sallan

      We agree @dozensbananas:disqus PLUS eventually EVERY kid will have to face things themselves and it’s OUR job to prepare them for that – not to delay it!

  • David Weber

    I would say that, in principle, parents should not help their offspring beyond some very basic kinds of support. An example of that may be having a conversation or two with the youngster that is designed to launch or deepen the young person’s thoughts, plans and vision for the project. This type of conversation would consist of a great many open-ended questions (e.g., “How could you acquire that tool?,” “Whom could you ask for assistance on that?,” “What may be a different way of looking at such-and-such?,” etc.) would you asked by the parent or parents.

    A very big obstacle, though, is: How many parents are competent in that sort of coaching? It is difficult enough to find managers, for example, who can handle themselves as coaches in that fashion, even though they may ostensibly have been trained in problem-solving conversation.

    Another interesting problem with respect to more DIRECTLY — i.e., in a “hands-on” actually-do-the-work-for-the-youngster manner — “helping” one’s offspring or not is precisely the kind of problem that pro athletes cite when they are caught doping, juicing and so on: “Everyone else is doing it, so if I want to remain competitive in my position on the club” — not to mention survive physically in matches in mano-a-mano sports (NFL football, etc.) — “I have to use drugs. I don’t want to, but how can I not use them?”

    Get a bunch of well-educated parents “helping” their offspring complete a class project in a competitive private school, let’s say, and what you may be looking at is a bunch of projects that are completed by parents but with a youngster’s name attached to them.

    I don’t know how to get us as a society out of what is at least something of an ethical violation made routine.

    • Bruce Sallan

      David, it’s a real problem especially in affluent communities!