The life-experiences of some children may have taught them asking for help is a bad idea. They may not have gotten any help. If they did, maybe it was not helpful or it may have been unpleasant for them. “You should already know.” “You would have known this if you had listened and paid attention.” “I am tired of your bothering me.” Also, your youngster may see asking for help as a sign of weakness or failure. This is not unusual for children whose self-esteem is low. Start by asking yourself if you have really helped when your child asked for help.
Too much help also can be a problem. “Will you show me how to work this problem?” “This is a good time to get into the ideas and concepts associated with Math. Let’s start back a few pages to see if you have everything up to this point.” When adults try to help, especially with school work, they often try to give more help and take much more time than the children had in mind. They may want some help but may not want to spend an hour and sit through a lecture to get it.
For some children, the problem is not knowing how and when to ask for help. If they ask, they don’t know how to accept and use the help they get.
Here are some tips that often work. Let him know you are interested. Ask what he is studying, what he did in school today, what he thinks about what he learned in Social Studies. You are interested in him and in what he is studying. Ask him to tell you about what he reads. Get him to show you how to work a Math problem or what the point of an experiment is. Get used to talking about his school work.
If he is having a problem, say, “You are having trouble with that. If you want, I will help you with it some time.” Do not offer to help right then. If he has not asked in a day or two, ask, “Did you figure out how to do the assignment you were talking about?” If he says he has, ask a question or two to be sure. If not, ask what his plan is to learn what he needs to learn.
Only give as much help as he wants and can accept. If he misspells a word and asks for help, tell him how to spell it. Dictionary lessons can come later. He asks how to work a Math problem. Simply work the problem while he watches. Start by giving him the help he wants in the way he wants it. As time goes on, it will get easier. Later, you may first check to see if he wants to look up the word or have you explain how to work the problem.
Another group of youngsters have trouble with this sign. They are the ones who are too into being perfect or are unusually strong-willed. As you work with these children, the problem usually is their negative or angry reactions. Push just a little but a fight is not good. Say, “Your reaction to my trying to help is a problem. I am going to try to help anyway. If you want to react so badly, go for it. Learning to accept a little help is about as important for you as what you need help with.” Just remember your success will come through trying to help and then trying again. Helping your child is a slow process and not a reason to go to war.