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Don't correct your child's homework

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Resisting the urge to be perfect

Parents have an odd relationship with homework. We like to see our kids learning, hashing out answers and exploring possible outcomes, but we also want them to shine in the classroom.

Some of us are tempted to correct homework before it goes back to school. If you're one of those parents, you may want to hold off on checking those math problems. Turns out, intervening with your child's homework can do him more harm than good.

The role of homework

It's easy to understand how homework can become a thorn in any parent's side. It can be tedious. It eats into family time. It sparks heated arguments. While all of these are true, it is also an excellent barometer of your child's aptitude in the classroom. "If homework is purposeful, it enables the teacher to see whether the student gets the concept and where there are missing pieces -- if there are any," says Julie Freedman Smith, co-founder of Parenting Power, which offers parental and family coaching. Given that fact, why would a parent want to interfere with the process?

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More harm than good

If their homework is always stellar but your child can't back it up with an equally stellar performance in the classroom, he could suffer psychologically from your desire for perfection. "Having consistently superior homework can garner a falsely inflated sense of self and can set them up for a hard fall when quiz and test scores are not comparable to homework grades," says Koh. "This can be dangerously demotivating and devolve into a negative feedback loop that will degrade motivation and confidence over time."

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The urge to correct

Even though a parent understands the role of homework intellectually, there is still an emotional element to consider. We all want our kids to succeed, and sometimes, we view homework as an opportunity to gain points in the classroom, even though that may not actually be the case. "The ability to teach oneself and have epiphanies about academics are the purpose of homework -- not the actual grade itself -- because most teachers do not accord much, if any, points to homework," says Allen Koh, CEO of Cardinal Education, an educational consulting and tutoring company. "Moreover, if parents just give kids the answers without thoroughly explaining things, then they have robbed their children of the learning experience and understanding of the material." Makes you think twice, right?

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A teacher's perspective

Most teachers aren't fooled by parents who correct their student's homework before it returns to school. Homework offers parents an opportunity to partner with the teacher, but when that partnership is based on artificial results, it's the child who suffers. "What parents should do is guide their child and lead him to the correct answers," says teacher Stephanie Moorman, a 14-year veteran of the classroom. "This helps your child to see that you are a partner in his education, not the one who is actually doing the learning. It also gives your child multiple strategies for completing homework -- ones that might not have been taught in class."

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