My child doesn’t want my help with homework

Here's why it hurts so bad.

My child doesn’t want my help with homework

My child doesn’t want my help with homework 1024 768 Looking out Loud

This is 60-second Dadspeak—daily reflections on becoming a dad, while still growing up myself. You can find the full mini-pod audio list here.


December 4, 2021

I recently asked my oldest child if he had any homework. “Yeah, but I got it,”he said, in a very unconvincing voice. I asked if he needed anything, noting that in recent weeks he’d been asking less and less for my help.

“It’s just that, I don’t really like how you explain things,” he told me with his head down. Oh.

Now, just the week before I asked as a joke who he liked better: his math tutor or me. His answer came so fast that I barely recognized his tutor’s name. Ouch.

Now, helping with homework isn’t something I do because I have to. It’s something I really enjoy. I love watching people learn. And I love teaching. I’ve been doing it in some form for the past 20 years on three different continents.

So being rejected as a teacher by my own child really hurt. And after honest reflection, I discovered the root of the pain: my ego. I want to be a good a teacher, and I thought I was okay at it, but apparently I’d bombed.

So I dug in to find out why, and how can I get better.

It turns out that part of it was me over-explaining. The problem was adding fractions, and I slipped over to talking about slices of pizza, and maybe I quick nudge at decimals. Fair enough, I can work on this.

But I found something else. My child saw that he was having trouble understanding something that I thought was really cool. And he didn’t want to me to think that he wasn’t able to do it.

Kids don’t just rely on you for all the knowledge you’ve got. They want you to be proud of them. And they’d rather protect themselves than risk losing you.

So note to myself: stay calm, work on shorter explanations, and be there with nonjudgmental support.

And note to my son: know that I’m proud of you, even if fractions don’t quite make sense yet. They will.

→ I followed up by asking what makes a good teacher? Here’s what my kids said.


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