Should I Help My Kids with Their Homework, or Not?

I’m currently reading Annie Fox’s book, Teaching Kids to be Good People. It’s a delightful anthology of parenting ideas, tips, helpful examples, and scenarios to consider. Annie will be interviewing me for her podcast in a couple of weeks and I wanted to read her book before the interview. I’ve asked her permission to post one of her sections as my Great Dad Tip of The Week this week. Well worth the read in pondering the question, Should I help my kids with their homework or not?

Here are Annie’s thoughts and words below. Thank you, Annie, for sharing.

“Auugh! I don’t get this stupid homework!!!” your seventh grader wails. Devoted parent, you rush in and . . . do what? What kind of help is the right kind? Depends on your endgame, right?

Your basic job description: “Prepare your child to become an independent, fully functioning young adult.” (If you’ve never read that anywhere, look at the bottom of your kid’s birth certificate. It’s there in the fine print.)

So . . . when your daughter groans or your son bellows, your most helpful move should be in the direction of supporting and encouraging them to work things out on their own. If your brand of “help” means you’re doing the heavy lifting, crisis after crisis, year after year, you’re not being all that helpful.

But we are parents and we like helping our kids. Of course, we do. In fact, on a cellular level, we’re programmed to help and coach them, which is how they learn. And if we want them to grow into cooperative, good-hearted people, we start by helping them. That shows them what helping looks like and what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a helpful act.

Well-intentioned as our help may be, the “Let me tie your shoes” variety isn’t supposed to last forever. Each time we help a child, we ought to provide instructions for identifying the problem, thinking through options, and making smart choices. That way, the next time, that child is more likely to resolve the challenge on his own, wisely and with confidence.

But when the only tool in a child’s problem-solving kit is “get Mom/Dad to do it,” it’s harder to develop the skills and self-esteem that comes from being independent and responsible. Seems obvious, right? But less obvious is the fact that when we rush in with solutions, we might also teach kids they aren’t capable of helping themselves or anyone else. Let’s think about that one.

If I’m a kid who routinely turns to Mom/Dad, who is all too happy to “save the day” (again), I may start believing that I’m helpless, hopeless, and useless. I might resist tackling my own problems. (“I never do it right.”) I may also hold myself back from stepping up and helping others. (“Why bother? I’ll just make things worse!”)

To teach kids the value of helping, we need to catch them in the act of following their kinder instincts. Let them know that what they just did for you, their sister, their friend, was very cool and you’re proud of them. When they’re stumped or frustrated, we need to resist the urge to jump in. Instead, we encourage them onward while we step back, little by little. Celebrate their “I did it!” moments and they will eagerly look for other things they can do on their own.

Will kids who are more independent need us less? Well, yeah! From the very beginning, that’s always been the point of this parenting gig. We taught them how to walk and . . . they started walking away from us. It’s true, they won’t always need us, but they will always use what we taught them. And while we’re teaching them self-reliance, we’re also reinforcing our perception that they are the kind of people who care about others. Our perception of them colors their self-perception. We are teaching them that compassion translates into help and being helpful is what we’re all here for.

Quoted by permission from Annie Fox’s book, Teaching Kids to Be Good People.



To order Annie’s ebook, click the image of the book to go to Amazon.



Playful Parenting—Notes on the Seminar

There has been some good feedback to my last two posts about Playful Parenting. So I’ve decided to share the notes I took at a wonderful and practical seminar I attended many years ago by Dr. Lawrence Cohen. The information below is expanded in his book by the same name, Playful Parenting. I’ve used most of these great techniques over the years (and still do) with my three boys, and I’ve found them to be immensely helpful. I recommend them to you here.

What are the purposes of play?

  1.      To connect with your child.
  2.      To develop confidence and mastery for your child.
    We shine light (attention) on them through engaged play.
  3.      To recover from life’s upsets (little and big ones).
  4.      To show themselves. They reveal what’s inside them through their play.

Specific tools:

  1. Playful wrestling with kids really connects for them (especially boys).
  2. Reversing the roles in play (you be the child, they the parent).
    This brings conflicts and problems into a play zone and helps you work through them.
  3. Lose your dignity to find your child. Be incompetent (for a change), fall over, lose, fail, etc.
  4. Follow your child’s lead in play. They get to be in charge.
    One-on-one time is so important in this.
  5. Invite the behavior you hate.
    “Let’s all do some whining for five minutes.”
    “Could you kids start a fight right now. You usually do it when I’m out of the room or busy, but I’m here now with nothing to do.”
    “I’m sure we’re going to have a melt down some time later this afternoon, so let’s just do it now and get it out of the way.”
  6. Join in (enthusiastically) on games you don’t really enjoy.
    If we resist, it gets worse. If we join, we can actually introduce other elements and themes (friendship, loyalty, rescue) to the play we don’t like (war, guns, etc.).
  7. Use play to repair a damaged relationship. Thumb-wrestling can work well: seems like battle, but you are holding hands, close, laughing together.

The importance for children of exposing their emotions openly and freely:

  1. Bad feelings feel so bad we want to bury them, but that keeps them inside. They need to come up in order to come out.
  2. Kids sometimes choose a “little” thing to get upset about because the real thing is too painful (seems too big to them and scary). Then, once the crying or upset starts, they can pour out their real feelings (though they may still be directing those feelings at that small thing). As a parent, don’t be fooled by this. The thing they seem upset over may not be the real or deeper issue.

A light-hearted approach to some of the very difficult challenges of parenting:

We parents can be so hard on ourselves. We are often quite self-critical (sometimes even condemning). Give your kids focused time one-on-one. Give 100% of your energy in blocks of time rather than giving 80% all day long. Then, by the end of the day, you are exhausted and the kids still feel like they didn’t get enough of you or all of you.



A Father First: How (Dwyane Wade’s) Life Became Bigger Than Basketball

Dwyane Wade bookI recently completed reading Wade’s fantastic and compelling book. Here’s a review for your benefit. I hope you choose to get the book and read it from cover to cover as I did. You will not be disappointed. Read below and decide for yourself. Enjoy.

The Author:  

Dwyane Wade is a three-time NBA Champion with the Miami Heat and a single father to three sons, Zaire and Zion, his own biological sons, and Dahveon (Dada), a nephew who mixes it up with them.

Target Audience:

This book has an intentional wide reach. Though Wade holds Christian beliefs he makes clear in the book, nothing about the book, the story, or the writing appears preachy or exclusive. He intends to reach all dads to inspire them toward more engaged and loving fathering.

What the Book is About:

This book tells three distinct and moving stories woven together to reveal the life, character, and passion of one remarkable man—Dwyane Wade—childhood survivor, basketball superstar, and devoted father.

Keith’s Reflections:

This was a compelling, informative, and inspiring read. I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve seen Wade play basketball but do not know the backstory. Wade survived a terrifying childhood of poverty, violence, drugs, abandonment, and fear, in large measure due to the persistent and sacrificial love and protection of his older sister, Tragil whom he clearly adores and for whom he is beautifully grateful.

The book opens with his very public and sensationalized divorce and custody battle which he eventually won to have his sons returned to him and to come live with him in Miami. Soon after, his nephew Dada joined them.

Woven throughout is Wade’s basketball journey from a very young hoopster on the streets and playgrounds of Chicago, through his formative years as a player and young man in high school, to his big transition to college hoops at Marquette, and eventually to his star-studded career in the NBA.

Throughout, we read of his love for his sons, his commitment to grow as a father, the help he receives along the way from so many, and the many playful, loving, serious, and adventurous moments with his boys that light up the pages and the reader’s heartstrings. Wade shares insights and points of encouragement regarding fathering, especially as a single dad, for dads who live with their kids and those who don’t.

A wonderful collection of stories and a heartfelt piece of encouragement to be a father first, no matter what you do to make a living. Click on the picture of his book above to go to Amazon to order your copy.