Why won’t my child ask for help in class?

Tactics parents should avoid, and 3 powerful strategies to turn your child into a confident learner.

“My child won’t raise her hand in class! If she just asked her teacher for help, she wouldn’t be so frustrated with her homework.” If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Asking for help is not easy for many bright, young students, especially in front of peers. The result can be long, disheartening homework sessions at night, or low test scores and a loss of self esteem down the road. The good news is, there are a few strategies which can make a huge difference:

  • Don’t Scold or Interrogate.

    • “Why didn’t you ask for help?” is a perfectly reasonable question, but it doesn’t teach your child the skills she needs to solve the problem.

    • The more uncomfortable or embarrassed a child feels, the less likely she is to have the confidence to ask for help from a parent or teacher when she has a problem.

Try these instead:

  • Role-play with your child to practice approaching a teacher for help.

    • Start by playing the role of the student, with your child playing the role of the teacher, and then switch.

    • Works especially well with young children.

    • Walking through what it’s like to ask for help shows your child that it’s nowhere near as stressful as they thought it would be, and they will start to realize that their teachers are happy to help.

  • Show them how to write an email to a teacher.

    • Model the email yourself first, but involve your child in the process.

    • Many older students already feel secure and familiar with the medium.

    • For hesitant students, avoids a lot of the stress and social pressures of a face-to-face interaction at school.

  • Location can make a big difference.

    • After school study halls aren’t the best environments for learning. With a mob of students asking for help, the child’s needs may not be addressed properly.

    • Try to arrange a teacher meet-up away from peers in a more relaxed environment. Comfort is an enormous factor in learning and problem solving.

Ultimately, one-on-one instruction is ideal. Whether it is with a teacher, a parent, or a tutor, one-on-one education is the best possible learning situation. It provides more opportunity for positive reinforcement and personalized, specific instruction in a relaxed environment. One-on-one instruction is the best, most comfortable way to learn for many students and generally leads to an academic career of confident problem solving and strong report cards. If you can make the time, the benefits can be academically life-changing for a child.

Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed., is the founder of Educational Connections Tutoring in Fairfax and Bethesda. Her award-winning book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, she offers proven solutions to help make homework less of a chore for the whole family. Learn more at ectutoring.com.