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Learning is children's responsibility

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Syndicated column from The Parent Institute

[APRIL 7, 2006]  Q: I have a son in middle school and a daughter in third grade. My children know how much importance I give to their education; however, there are times when I feel absolutely consumed by it. My son is asking me to drive him to the store for poster board for his science project -- right now. My daughter needs me to help her with her spelling homework, or she'll fail the test tomorrow. I am a very involved parent, but I need advice. How much is too much?

A: Congratulations! You are to be commended on your involvement in your children's education. However, your commitment should not mean that their schoolwork is your responsibility. Learning is your children's responsibility. There are ways to make their responsibility for learning clear. For example:

  • When your son tells you to make a trip to the store right now, resist the urge get in the car. Instead, say something like, "I'm sorry. I can't go to the store today. I can do it tomorrow." If your son says, "But I'll get an F," simply and firmly say, "I can do it tomorrow." A couple of things may happen. Your son may rethink the actual urgency of his request. More importantly, he may learn that actions do have consequences -- putting things off until the last minute results in a lowered grade.

  • When your daughter asks, "Mom, how do you spell 'fulfill'?" remember that your daughter's homework needs to reflect what she knows -- not what you know. Be available to help her and guide her, but let her do the homework. Keep in mind that besides teaching facts, homework should teach children how to find facts. So instead of spelling "fulfill" for her, say, "The first three letters are 'f,' 'u' 'l.' Let me help you look it up in the dictionary."

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Until your children accept responsibility for their own learning, success in school will be a struggle. Continue to help by showing interest, but stop short of doing the work for them. That only sends a message to your children that you don't think they can do things for themselves. Let them experience the results of their actions, even if grades occasionally suffer. When your children finally do take responsibility for their own learning, they will do better than they could have if you had helped them every step of the way.

[The Parent Institute]

For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question, go to All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2005, The Parent Institute

"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free, syndicated column from the Parent Institute.

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