To The Parents Who Do Their Kids' Homework

by Lisa René LeClair
Dragon Images / Shutterstock

Cut the shit. We all know your kid didn’t whittle that ark out of the tree in your front yard, so you can stop pretending. And that poster you paid to have printed for the third-grade government election—really? You do know that your son was supposed to make his own banner using school supplies during class time, right?

It must be difficult for a teacher to grade an assignment when they suspect that the parents did all the work. My guess is that they can tell within three seconds whether or not the child did anything other than sign his or her name. These teachers work with our kids every day, and they are well aware of each one’s individual skill set. So, what would make a person think otherwise?

These parents doing their kids’ homework—I don’t get it. I thought the whole point of sending our kids to school was so they could learn how to become independent thinkers. It is a place for them to flex their intellectual muscles and allow them to thrive in a culture of knowledge. How in the hell are they supposed to accomplish that if you’re doing all the work?

When I was in elementary school, we had to do a science project about the wheel and axle. It was the only time my father offered to help with my homework, and he practically flew to the hardware store to pick up supplies. Then, without pause, he pulled me down to his workshop so we could build it together. As a child, I was delighted to gain any attention my father was willing to dole out, and when he stepped in with a nail gun and took over my classwork assignment, there was no way I was going to stop him. The good news is that I received an A+ on my design, but the only thing I learned that day was how controlling my father was. The fruits of his labor still hang in his workshop today.

It is counterintuitive to support someone by controlling circumstance, because it only makes things worse. Kids are kids; they are going to make mistakes and color outside the lines. They will argue about doing homework and wait until the last possible second before telling you when it’s due, but the bottom line is that it’s their responsibility to get it done right. I understand the desire to help a child succeed, but giving them the answers is not victory—it’s sad.

When you sign those discharge papers at the hospital after giving birth, there is a great amount of pride in that ink. During the first year, almost everything your baby does requires gentle guidance. They need genuine love and support, and you give it to them unconditionally. But as they grow more independent, they will need you less and less, which can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow. It is a parent’s second-nature to want to finish their child’s sentences when they stumble on a word. We over-simplify math problems to get the desired response and cut them off in mid-sentence to correct a misspelled word, but how does that teach them how to do things on their own?

My daughter goes to a wonderful school with extraordinary goals. We chose this program based on their small class environments, global-minded curriculum, and problem-based instructional strategies, and we are honored to be part of their mission. The foundation of our particular culture lies in the hands of our children, which can be disconcerting whenever I see a parent behind the wheel. It makes me want to shake them and tell them it’s time to let go, but frankly, their blindness scares me.

In one of the hallways at the school, there is a mirror wall where teachers can write inspirational words of wisdom. At the beginning of the school year, one of the teachers wrote, “The sky is the limit” in bold, black ink. Scribbled just below was a response from one of the students, “Why do I need a limit?”

When you test the boundaries of a child’s ability, you’ll find that the only limits are the ones you create at home. Perhaps it is time to hire a new roofer.