How to Help Your Struggling Student

Educators urge parents to resist entering into the high level of emotion and stress their struggling student is experiencing. Instead, get specific details from your student, talk with the teacher and develop a plan to help.

What to do when your child says †ďI canít do this!Ē

By Judy Molland

For the third time that month, 9-year-old Matt was in tears over his math homework. His mother, Janet Cook, was trying to guide her son through his assignment on decimals, but after five minutes he threw down his paper, and stormed away sobbing.

Janet was practically in tears herself, upset to see her son struggling, but also frustrated that she had put time into helping him on several different occasions and it clearly wasnít working.

Itís almost inevitable that at some point during the school year, your child will throw up her hands in frustration and declare, ďI canít do this!Ē Often itís a matter of calming her down and slowly, patiently helping her through her difficulty. But what if this kind of frustration happens repeatedly? What if your child is feeling incompetent and falling behind?

Whatís a Parent to Do?

ďThe temptation is to enter into the level of high emotion and stress that your child is at, but you need to avoid that,Ē says Polly Skinner, head of school at the K to 8 Villa Academy in Seattle. ďAnd definitely donít get into a power struggle with your child, because no one is going to win that one!Ē

Skinner reminds parents to remember that they are the adults and the role models, and that however much trouble their child is having, the homework is still the childís responsibility. Itís never a good idea for a parent to actually do the childís homework for him in the hopes that eventually the child will understand the subject matter.

Still, while she urges parents to avoid getting overemotional, Skinner says they do need to acknowledge that their child is having a hard time. The heat of the moment isnít the best time to deal with the issue, she adds, since nothing productive will happen when a child is upset and frustrated. Instead, she urges parents of struggling students to:

ē Become a detective.

At a calmer time, Skinner suggests that you move into problem-solving mode and establish a plan. Your first step is to find out whatís really been going on to lead up to this.

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