Literal meaning of each character = uproot,pull/draw out – young plant/seedling – help – grow
The image portrayed by this useful idiom is of someone pulling at a seedling or small plant thinking it will help it grow faster. This of course is ridiculous as it’s only water, sunshine and time that causes a plant to grow. We cannot make a plant grow faster by pulling at it.
Therefore this idiom is useful when describing someone who tries to force something to go faster than it’s natural process. Something take time no matter what you do, there are no short cuts and patience is needed. If you think someone is pushing you too hard you could use this to tell that person to lay off, but only of course if there pressure or encouragement genuinely has no effect on the result. If a teacher is telling you to do your homework or review class material etc then the idiom doesn’t apply because this idiom is only really applicable to situations where the efforts of another genuinely have no effect on the end result, and perhaps can do harm and even hamper the result.
This idiom can also be rendered as 揠苗助长 – ya4miao2zhu4zhang3 – where the only difference is the first character “ya4” which also means “pull”. However I am told that the above version with “ba2” is more common.