So here you are, your child is sitting staring at their maths homework and not understanding how to solve a problem. You can see the frustration building and you want to help. The problem is you can’t solve the problem either!

While it is understandable that a parent can feel inadequate in such a situation, it is my belief that this is one of the greatest opportunities for a parent to assist their child to become a good learner. Here are some reasons why:

  • The biggest difference between a successful learner and one who is a poor achiever is attitude. A poor learner will quickly give up when faced with something that seems too hard whereas a good learner will try different strategies and readdress the problem until progress has been made. Schools generally do a poor job of developing skills in resilience and learning strategies. You have the opportunity here to model those skills in a powerful way.
  • Letting your child know that you can’t do the problem either means that you can discuss the shortcomings in your own learning journey and how important it is for them to not make the same mistakes.
  • Assisting your child as they journey towards solving the problem allows you to focus on that journey and its importance. Remember the journey towards the answer is so much more important than arriving at the right answer!

So what do you do when your child is sitting there stressed because they can’t do a piece of homework and you don’t know how to do it yourself? I suggest you say something like this:

“Wow, that looks hard, I don’t know how to do it either. Let’s sit down and see if we can work out how to solve it together…..”

This will start a journey where you are using research and problem solving strategies together with your child. Along the way you will be helping your child to identify barriers that may be holding them back from solving the problem and working out how to get beyond those barriers.

By the end of the exercise you may still not have solved the problem completely, but you will have shown your child that learning this is important and together started on a journey of discovering how to attack something that seems too hard.  It is this journey that helps your child become a good learner!!


I would love to hear your stories and opinions on what to do when the homework is too hard for you too. Please add your comments.

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