Helicopter parenting backfires when it comes to homework

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CC BY 2.0 Oakley Originals

When parents get too involved in their child's schoolwork, it can result in older students becoming disengaged from their education, with higher levels of depression and lack of responsibility.

It is good for parents to help their kids with schoolwork, especially in the early years. Practicing reading, quizzing math questions, and preparing for tests all contribute to a child who is well prepared, more confident, and gets better marks at school. But there comes a point when parental involvement is too much and can start to have a negative effect on the child’s performance and ability to take responsibility.

Many North American parents tend to ‘overparent’ their kids; this is also known as ‘helicopter parenting,’ where they essentially hover over their child constantly, telling them what to do, when and how to do it, making sure homework is completed, choosing their child’s subjects, checking and editing the final results, and badgering the child’s teachers to improve his or her grades.

Ironically, these attempts at creating high achievers can backfire on parents. A new study called “Overparenting and Homework: The Student’s Task, but Everyone’s Responsibility” has found that such involvement creates students who struggle to or are incapable of taking responsibility for themselves.

Judith Locke, a clinical psychologist at Queensland University of Technology and study author, explains:

“We know from recent research that there may be a point where high levels of parental assistance cease to be beneficial, especially as children reach adolescence and young adulthood, and can result in poor resilience, entitlement and reduced sense of responsibility.

“When parents are making these decisions or providing academic pressure it has been found the adult student disengages from their education and often has increased depression and decreased satisfaction with life.”

The study (which has yet to be published in the Australian Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools) assessed 866 parents from three Catholic and independent schools in Brisbane, Australia, by having them fill out a detailed online questionnaire about their parenting beliefs and intentions, as well as their attitudes associated with their child’s homework.

Using a new measurement called the ‘Locke Parenting Scale’ (LPS), the researchers found that parents with the highest LPS score took more responsibility for the completion of the child’s homework and expected teachers to do the same. “However, increased perceived responsibility by parents and teachers was not accompanied by a commensurate reduction in what they perceived was the child’s responsibility.”

Parental involvement should decrease relative to a child’s age, which means that constant meddling in an adolescent’s school assignments is age-inappropriate, and parents would do better leaving their older kids to take the initiative and learn the consequences of not getting things done on time or preparing adequately. It’s counterintuitive, but this study is just a small part of a growing amount of evidence that helicopter parenting does not do kids any long-term favors.

Tags: Education | Kids

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