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I know that some kids are relatively self-motivated; I want to be supportive without smothering such a child. I know that some kids have very little motivation; I want to be able to encourage such a child.

How will I know that I'm being too attentive, or not attentive enough?

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Experiment.

Every child is different in this regard.

Some kids need their hands held when they are young (though they should grow out of it as they get older, unless there's a problem afoot).

As a child, I actually performed worse when I had homework "help" -- intellectual boredom from work that was far too easy for me plus motor and RSI issues that impeded writing made doing it alone a lot smoother.

My 8yo son is kind of a middle ground. He has a work table in my office, and we do our work together -- meaning that I sit at the computer and do my own thing until he asks a question.

Have the right attitude.

Whatever your child's learning style and approach to homework, the most important thing is having and teaching the right attitudes to your child:

  • be aware of what is going on at all times so that you can help your child react to problems while they are still small and manageable

  • let your child know that his/her education is a high priority for you, so it will be for him/her

  • instead of taking a "perform or punish" stance, teach your child that everyone has trouble sometimes, and look for solutions as a team

  • if you find your child is having a pattern of school trouble, educate yourself on the possible causes and solutions -- don't count on overworked, underpaid school staff to suss it out

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  • Having the right attitude is for sure the most important thing - particularly finding solutions as a team!
    – Erin
    Sep 9, 2011 at 22:51

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