What to Do When Your Teen Resists Your Help

By Victoria Scanlan Stefanakos

At a Glance

  • Sometimes teens don’t want their parents’ help with schoolwork.

  • Tutors and educational therapists may be able to help your teen with school.

  • An older teen or young adult, especially one with learning and thinking differences, can be a great resource for your teen.

It’s normal for teens to want to assert their independence. But if your teen is finding his schoolwork frustrating because of learning and thinking differences, he might not be open to your 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 struggling with learning and thinking differences 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.

If your child feels powerless, he may avoid doing homework or asking for help. This could be because refusing gives him a sense of control. He may see it as the only way to gain power over the situation. And he may use anger to try to break away from the people he depends on the most. That means he may not be open to your help right now.

What You Can Do When Your Teen Resists Help

If your teenager seems unmotivated to get your help, keep in mind that he is motivated—motivated to resist you. The more energy you put into arguing with him, the stronger his resistance could grow.

Try to focus on not arguing. Start by taking a step back and asking your child what he thinks. He may have good plans and ideas for his life in and after high school.

You also can try to encourage him to take action. Would he want to draft a contract that lays out goals and responsibilities for the semester? Have him lay out consequences, too: What will happen if he doesn’t stick to the contract? This gives him the independence he craves and may motivate him to work toward the desired outcome.

“Reassure him 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 with him to build his self-advocacy skills. Reassure him that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but of maturity.

If he doesn’t want help from you, offer options for the type of help he can receive, based on how he prefers to learn. Maybe he’d rather work alone on algebra using a software program instead of working with you or someone else. But he may need more intervention with his schoolwork—from outside help.

Getting Outside Help for Your Teen

When your child doesn’t want your help, peers a bit older than your child may be good resources. He’s more likely to listen to suggestions from someone closer to his age. Your child’s school may be able to match him with an older student with learning and thinking differences. Or you might find a mentor through an organization like Eye to Eye.

Tutors can also help your child study and raise his grade in a specific subject. Educational therapists, adults trained to work with kids with learning and thinking differences, could also help. Both groups usually have specialized training to help them teach advanced subjects like precalculus more effectively than the average parent.

Ask your teen to think of a teacher or counselor at his school who can support him. 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 he needs it. But you don’t have to shoulder the responsibility for your teen’s learning all by yourself. Boost your child’s confidence by showing you respect him, and point him toward resources he’s comfortable turning to for help.

Key Takeaways

  • Teenagers want to be independent but may still need help.

  • There are many people who can help your child with his schoolwork and provide emotional support.

  • School counselors, teachers and mentors can be good resources.