What to do when your teen resists your help

By Victoria Scanlan Stefanakos

It’s normal for teens to want to assert their independence. So even when they’re struggling with schoolwork because of learning differences, they might not be open to help. Find out why your teen might resist your help, and what you can do.

Why teens might resist help

By the time kids enter high school, they often want to exercise some new independence. But teens who learn and think differently can feel school frustration in ways other kids don’t. And they may feel torn between wanting to be independent and still needing to rely on others.

A child who feels powerless may avoid doing homework or asking for help. Your child may see refusing as the only way to gain control over the situation. Some kids use anger to try to break away from the people they depend on the most. They may not be open to help from a parent or caregiver.

What you can do when your teen resists help

A teenager who seems unmotivated to get help from a parent is actually motivated — motivated to resist. The more energy you put into arguing with a resistant teen, the more resistance you’ll get back.

Try to focus on not arguing. Start by taking a step back and asking your child, “What do you think?” Some teenagers have good plans and ideas for high school and beyond.

You also can try to encourage your teen to take action. Can you work together to draft a contract that lays out goals and responsibilities for the semester? Have your child lay out consequences, too: What happens if the contract is broken? This approach provides the independence your teen craves. And it may motivate your teen to work toward the desired outcome.

“Reassure your child that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but of maturity.”

If your teen wants to do well but still resists asking for help, you can work together to build self-advocacy skills. Reassure your child that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but of maturity.

Getting outside help for your teen

When your child doesn’t want your help, peers who are a bit older may be good resources. Teens are often more likely to listen to suggestions from someone closer to their own age. Your child may be able to connect with an older student at the same school who also has learning differences.

Tutors can also help your child study and see an improved grade in a specific subject. Fees can vary. Educational therapists, adults trained to work with kids who learn and think differently, could also help. Both groups usually have training to help them teach advanced subjects.

Ask your teen to think of a teacher or counselor from school who can be supportive. Help from counselors and teachers is usually free, though they may not be able to give your child as much time as tutors and educational therapists can.

It’s hard to watch your teen resist help when you know what a difference it would make. But you don’t have to take all the responsibility for your teen’s learning. Kids experience a boost in confidence when parents point them toward resources they can use on their own.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Victoria Scanlan Stefanakos is a writer and editor for many national publications.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions, and co-planning.