You can help a kid with their homework but there are ways to do it; too much help is a detriment to their development of persistence and self-reliance.
University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyväskylä researchers in the longitudinal First Steps Study found that the more opportunities for autonomous work the mother offered the child, the more task-persistent the child’s behaviour.
It’s a feedback loop, as the children showed persistence with their homework it encouraged the parent to offer more and more opportunities for autonomous work.
However, if too much help was given the child became less persistent which led the parent to give more assistance. These associations between different types of maternal homework assistance and the child's task-persistent behaviour remained even after the child's skill level was controlled for.
"One possible explanation is that when the mother gives her child an opportunity to do homework autonomously, the mother also sends out a message that she believes in the child's skills and capabilities. This, in turn, makes the child believe in him- or herself, and in his or her skills and capabilities," Associate Professor Jaana Viljaranta from the University of Eastern Finland explains.
"It is important for parents to take the child's needs into consideration when offering homework assistance. Of course, parents should offer concrete help when their child clearly needs it. However, concrete help is not something that should be made automatically available in every situation – only when needed," Viljaranta says.
The First Steps Study is an extensive longitudinal study carried out by the University of Jyväskylä, the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Turku. The study examines student learning and motivation among approximately 2,000 children from kindergarten onwards. Children currently participating in the study are in secondary education.
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