How to best support your child with homework

Parental assistance with children’s homework is common in elementary school. It is an opportunity for parents to support the development of their children’s academic skills. What is the best way to help your child with homework tasks? This article provides research-based tips.


 Higher reading achievement with support for autonomy and competence

This study explored how parent-child interactions during a literacy-based homework task were related to children’s reading achievement. Results of the study indicated that higher parental support for children’s autonomy and competence were related with higher reading achievement. So, parents can foster children’s achievement by offering support for autonomy and competence during homework tasks.

 Support for autonomy

Support for autonomy includes the encouragement of children’s independence. For example, parents can guide children’s participation in learning activities by:

  • Encouraging children’s initiative to solve problems
  • Allowing children to be the primary decision maker for the task
  • Using suggestions to support children’s efforts
  • Waiting for children’s request for help before offering it
  • Using questions that let children take an active role


 Support for competence

Parents can support children’s competence by providing strategies and feedback.

  • Helping to plan and organize a task when needed
  • Giving constructive feedback
  • Offering suggestions or hints when needed
  • Helping children to find a helpful strategy when he or she is getting stuck
  • Providing clear and accurate responses to children’s questions



  • If you are doing homework together with your child, try to support his/her autonomy and competence.
  • Support your child’s autonomy by encouraging his or her independence. Try to limit pressure and control. For example, you can ask your child:
    • “What do you think is the best way to solve it?”
    • “Which one do you want to do next?”
    • “How can I help?” (after your child has asked for help)
  • Support your child’s competence by giving feedback and providing strategies. For example:
    • “What do you need to do to get started?”
    • “What do you think you could do next to solve the problem?”
    • “That’s right. You got it.”

 More information

Doctoroff, G. L., & Arnold, D. H. (2017). Doing homework together: The relation between parenting strategies, child engagement, and achievement. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 48, 103-113.

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