Help Your Daughter Ace Her Homework
Watching your child come to grips with a new concept can be deeply rewarding. Here's how to help

August 30, 2011

Shelve the modesty.
Don’t admit that you struggled with a subject when you were in school. This can deflate your child’s confidence in your ability to help and her own ability to learn. Point out that practice makes permanent: The harder she works at something, the more she’ll retain.

Don’t demonstrate.
Instead of showing her how to solve a problem, have her work it through on her own while explaining her answer. If she stalls, set a timer for 10 minutes and promise a break if she keeps at it until the bell rings. This can help her start.

Don’t tell her she’s smart.
If you do this when she’s correct, you set her up to think she’s no longer smart the next time she fails. Say, “Good job. You’ve learned a lot!” Then relate the work to real life. If she understands percentages, she can calculate sales prices at her favorite store, for instance.

Never say “wrong.”
Instead, say, “I see what you’re thinking, but let’s try it like this.” This approach can make your child feel comfortable with her abilities even if she’s struggling. “Wrong” shuts down her thought process and puts you in control.

(Sources: Jo Boaler, Ph.D. and Ann Dolin, M.Ed.; illustration: art: Jesse Lenz)