When Teens Say No to Homework Help


Teens desire nothing more than independence from their parents. They crave autonomy, even though they still want parental feedback and approval. Testing parental boundaries and limits is their specialty. In addition, hormonal changes can wreak havoc on teens’ daily moods. One moment they can seem perfectly secure and happy, and the next minute, they snap over an innocuous comment.

Living with teens is challenging in and of itself; trying to assist students who may not want help is even more difficult. Homework and academic expectations add another layer of stress. If there’s a battle waging in your home, try any one of the following strategies.

Put the Ball in Their Court
To parents, teens often appear to have all the freedom they could want. After all, they can drive, have part-time jobs and stay up later in the evening. But sometimes their anger comes from feeling others have all the power, and they have none. Instead of insisting teens accept help with their schoolwork, give them a choice. For example, if the biology or math grade isn’t what it should be, ask about working with a study group, staying after school for teacher help, or working with a tutor. Allow teens to make their own decisions – getting assistance isn’t an option (if they want to continue to have driving privileges), but the way they obtain it is.

Become a Supporter
Be there to offer support and guidance, but resist the urge to correct or provide answers. Marks on students’ papers should be their own. Help interpret directions and review assignments if necessary. Do not criticize wrong answers, or they’ll tune out. Teens often don’t want to work with their parents because they feel judged, whether their perception is true or not. Assignments have to meet teacher expectations and reflect the courses’ guidelines. Striving for perfection can inspire rebellion, especially in adolescents.

Plan Ahead
Arguments over homework often occur at stressful times, especially when deadlines are approaching. Pick one evening every week to preview the upcoming workload. If the week is going to be particularly stressful, determine what extracurricular activities can be skipped. Teens tend to hunker down and resist support when they’re feeling overwhelmed. By planning ahead, everyone will be more at ease.

Stick To It
Parents often ask me how to establish routines when teen have their own schedules, friends and social agendas. The bottom line is that parents still should make the final decisions concerning academics and socializing. Insist schoolwork comes before socializing or screen time, but allow teens to choose their homework schedule. Just as when they were younger, continue to send the message that school is the No. 1 priority, and then enforce the policy consistently instead of haphazardly.

Use Technology
Teenagers these days are extremely tech savvy. Use their interest in everything online or interactive to provide additional support during homework time.

Math – There are many resources online where students can find additional explanations of topics, problems or concepts, as well as supplementary practice to reinforce trouble spots.

Writing – Lots of software programs help students with all aspects of the writing process, from brainstorming to essay organization. These programs also help students overcome the initial hurdle of getting started. Check out Inspiration, Co-Writer and DraftBuilder.

Reading – Consider using books on tape. Many textbooks have audio versions that allow students to listen to chapters while they follow along in their book, providing both visual and auditory input. These are available through the publishers or online. Be sure to purchase the full text, not an abridged version. Kurzweil 3000 is a more expensive option, but it allows students to scan in book pages that are then “read” to them by the computer. It also includes highlighting and note-taking features many students find helpful.

Leave It Alone
It can be difficult to decide how much support to provide teens as they mature, but often, providing lots of help and doing schoolwork for them causes them to fall even harder down the road – especially in that first semester of college. Letting teens become self-sufficient learners may be hard, but it’s the best way for them to learn and internalize new skills.

Ann K. Dolin is the author of “Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework,” which offers solutions to help the six key types of students who struggle with homework. Visit www.anndolin.com or www.ectutoring.com.