Dear Mr. Dad: I’m an involved dad and I often help my kids with their homework. Sometimes, in the interests of speeding things along, I give them the answers. Over the past year, both kids (11 and 9) are coming to me more and more often, asking for help even when I know they don’t need it. I tell them to figure it out, they whine, and eventually I give in to the pressure. How can I get them to start doing their work by themselves?
A: It’s great that you’re an involved dad—and it’s great that you’re taking an active role in your kids’ education. But by doing their homework for them (let’s be honest—that’s exactly what happening), you’re undermining their ability to learn good study habits. What’s far worse is that you’re sending them the very clear message that you don’t think they’re smart enough to do their own work. From what you say, they’re starting to believe you, and that’s tragic.
So the question you asked: How can you get the kids to start doing their work by themselves—is the wrong one. The real issue is: How (and when) are you going to stop caving when they ask for help that you acknowledge they don’t really need?
The answer is pretty simple: You need to stop cold turkey and you need to do it now.