Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 02 August |
Saint of the Day: St. Peter Julian Eymard
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

The magic words that will encourage your kids to keep trying

Child Doing Homework


Calah Alexander - published on 09/19/17

Try this smart way to break down an overwhelming problem into manageable parts for your child.

In our family, I am not the go-to homework helper. Try as I might, I just can’t ever manage to help a frustrated child work out a problem. Sometimes it’s because the 6th-grade math is beyond me (English major, yo), but most of the time it’s because I struggle to understand what exactly the problem even is.

Student taking Test

Read more:
Standardized testing is scaring our kids and ruining their education

Having a child say over and over, “I can’t get it! I don’t know why I can’t but I just can’t! I don’t understand any of it!” seriously tries my patience. I’ll try to explain how to solve it, but that rarely helps. Then I’ll try and encourage, saying, “You can do it! Keep trying. Don’t give up!” When that strategy inevitably fails, I fall back on the tried-and-true, “Just go to the next one and ask Dad when he gets home.”

This isn’t a great arrangement, since Dad often gets home late and is usually tired. He always helps anyway, but it makes for late nights for him and the kids. So when I read this post by the Military Wife&Mom that promised to tell me the one genius phrase that would inspire my kid to keep trying, I was dying to try it.

When I see kids say “I can’t” or want to give up or fall straight into whining, I love saying “Show me the hard part” because it gives you – the parent or teacher – a lot of useful information. It helps you know right away what part is easy and what part is especially hard for the child. It also helps the child recognize what area is creating their biggest challenge and it breaks it down into a smaller challenge.

I didn’t realize until I read the post that this is exactly what my husband does. He sits down and says some variation of “show me the hard part.” Sometimes it’s “where are you struggling” or “what’s the hard part,” but he intuitively knows to break the problem down and let the kid talk their way through it first. Often they even figure it out as they walk him through it, which I always assumed was some kind of weird Dad magic.

Read more:
12 Tips For Raising Joyful Children

It’s not really magic, though — it’s just a way to break down an overwhelming problem into manageable parts. It’s the same thing I do when I have a problem. In fact, it’s the same strategy I use to accomplish any task, from cleaning the house to balancing the budget. I can’t do the whole thing in one go — no one could. So I break it into parts and go through them systematically, until the parts add up to a completed whole.

I can’t wait to try this at the next opportunity (I’m sure it’s bound to happen again), but I won’t limit it to homework. “Show me the hard part” will come in handy for everything from taking down hurricane shutters to cleaning out the fridge, for both the kids and for me.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
Ignacio María Doñoro
Francisco Veneto
The military chaplain who pretended to be a criminal to rescue a ...
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
Theresa Civantos Barber
The one thing we all should do before this summer ends
Zelda Caldwell
German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s ...
Violeta Tejera
Carlo Acutis’ first stained glass window in jeans and sneak...
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.