Collaboration Is Not “Enabling”

By Daniel Franklin, PhD


Parents often confuse support with enabling • In this excerpt from Helping Your Child with Language-Based Learning Disabilities, Dr. Daniel Franklin, an educational therapist with more than 30 years in the field, makes the case that supporting your child as needed is fundamental to his or her successful journey toward independence

I frequently encounter two types of children: children who feel ashamed because they get bad grades and children who feel ashamed because they need a lot of assistance from their parents to complete their homework. Neither needs to be true. Receiving assistance is the basis of a strong, healthy, collaborative relationship between a parent and a child.

Human relationships are based on dependence, which can be healthy or unhealthy. We make dependence healthy by recognizing it for what it is: receiving necessary support.

If you want to help your child become independent, provide him with the help he needs.

Withholding support that’s needed is a sure way to make your child dependent for the rest of his life.

A Kinder, Gentler Approach

Parents are innately attached to their children. It is easy to sublimate this connection when helping with homework because we have been taught that helping is cheating, or that if you help, your child will always be dependent on you. The biggest concern I hear parents raise is: “My child needs to be able to do _____ on her own.” Let me assure you that your child will naturally seek independence when she is ready if you have provided the scaffolding and modeling needed to develop skills and the confidence to try.

When you work closely on schoolwork with your child, and when you provide that support in a positive way, you are being kind. When you help your child feel comfortable with getting support, you’ll see that his struggles are legitimate. You’ll also be in a position to reassure your child by recognizing his gifts and contributions, and letting him know those qualities are great resources now and always.

Most important, by adopting a kinder approach, you will be able to communicate your optimism for your child’s future. No one has ever been disappointed by the optimism he or she has been shown by another. You cannot underestimate the value of optimism, especially for a child who struggles in school.

Collaboration Leads to Success

Working collaboratively will benefit both you and your child. He will find that school-related tasks can be done more quickly and with better learning outcomes. Working with your child will allow you to assess his skill level so you can adjust your support as needed. Providing support that meets your child’s needs will boost his motivation to work hard and learn because it feels good to be successful!

Acclaimed education experts Robert Brooks, Sam Goldstein, and Richard Lavoie have observed that a child’s level of motivation is a more critical factor in determining how and what he learns than almost all other considerations. As we move our instructional approach to one that focuses on collaboration, we are able to foster the positive interpersonal relationships that improve a child’s motivation to learn. When help is provided in this way, it is not enabling.

Slowly as you see your child is ready, you will need to scaffold less and less. Facilitating homework for a child who has language-based learning difficulties will not prevent the child from acquiring skills; in fact, I have always been struck by how naturally a child will integrate new skills once he or she has mastered them. But until then, support is required.

This article is excerpted from Helping Your Child with Language-Based Learning Disabilities (Strategies to Succeed in School and Life with Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, ADHD, and Auditory Processing Disorder), by Daniel Franklin, PhD; published by New Harbinger Publications (2018). Available at Amazon through this link: Helping Your Child with Language-Based Learning Disabilities. Dr. Franklin is a Board Certified Educational Therapist and the founder of Franklin Educational Services.

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