Should you tutor your own family?

Mark Maclaine

February 26, 2014

Super-tutor Mark Maclaine opens up discussion on the highly debated topic of whether tutoring should happen within the family.

A few years ago I tried tutoring one of my cousins, and to say it was a failure would be a huge understatement. We’d always got on well but this normally well behaved 9-year old turned into a monster, and my usually calm demeanor disappeared into thin air. After two days it became clear that there was little possibility of him doing any work with me so I had to find another tutor. This tutor got on very well with my cousin; so well in fact that they were able to get through double the amount of work that we had in only half the time.


I found myself somewhat deflated and slightly confused. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Seven years later, and in hindsight, I can see why it didn’t work. It is not unusual for people to find tutoring their own families difficult. In fact, this problem is remarkably common. I do know parents who have successfully home-schooled their own children, but I know far more who have failed miserably; even just helping with homework seemed to them like getting blood out of a stone.

I spoke recently with performance coach Gary Leboff. He recounts that in his work “”the biggest mistake you can make as a parent is to care too much. You will end up putting too much pressure on your child.” He goes on to say, “from a coach’s point of view, you do need to care, but from a detached perspective.”

I’ve heard a great number of ideas proposed for why it is so hard to work with your own family. Whatever the reason, I know first-hand how hard it can be. I’d like to open up the discussion on this post. Have you got any experiences of tutoring your own family or close friends? Please include both good and bad experiences, and tell us what has worked particularly well for you.