Thursday, November 10, 2011

If They Knew Then What They Know Now

If they knew then, what they know now, I think my college students would have been so much more open to all that their parents tried to do for them when they were younger. If this sounds like gibberish to you, read the previous two blogs where 60 college freshman shared what they wished their parents had done differently, and then what they were glad their parents had done to bring them to this point in their lives.

"I wished my parents had made me work harder in school." " I'm glad my parents made me do my homework." This comment showed up multiple times in both questions so we can assume that this is an important issue for these kids. Now as college students there are no mommies and daddies standing over them, making sure they study for a quiz, or complete a homework assignment, and for some this is now a daunting task. Make no mistake about it, your teens will not take kindly to your hammering away at them to "get it done!" But it is clear, at least from these 60 college students, that they needed/wanted or were glad that their parents instilled/taught them how to just "get it done." Developing discipline takes time and yes.....discipline. Just ask me! Learning how to make myself sit down every day to write has been a process, but now it is so integrated into my being, that I feel weird when I don't write. And that is the goal of teaching your teen to develop the "discipline" of studying.

This has got to be a team effort. Imposing your idea of the how and when to study will never work.The old "you are not the boss of me" mantra will interfere with your grand plan every time. Routine, ritual, and consistency is the only way to develop discipline. Same time, same place, few distractions, these are the kinds of strategies that will help your teen be successful in developing good study habits. The students in my class who thank their parents are the ones that do just that.

If you have a teen who seems to have a million excuses and avoidance techniques maybe this strategies will get things moving. I know that in the next few weeks, first term grades will be arriving. Always a good time to take stock. If you have a teen whose grades are less than stellar, try this approach before you go to a punishment place. You might start with the following conversation. "I'm wondering what you think about your grades? What do you think might have gotten in the way of being more successful? Here is what I would like to try. For the next week or two, I will leave you alone to do your homework as you see fit. That will be your job. My job will be to observe how you seem to spend your time, so then we can sit down together with some real data to see what and how you can do things differently."

And parents you then become the invisible observer. Keep track in a log, without being intrusive or chatty about it, how you see your teen spending their time when they get home from school. In order for this to work, your teens bedroom door must stay open so you can peek in from time to time. You are only to note, not comment on what they are doing, and keep track of it in a log of some sort. After a week, you can then show your teen the findings. Without lecturing about how much time they are wasting, you might be able to point out facts and figures rather than judgements and criticism, which never go over well anyway.  At this juncture you work as a team to come up with a plan using the data as a framework. If the phone and computer are turning 1 hour of homework into 3 hours, use that information to set up a plan for limiting phone and computer time to specific times. Agree on the times, and then as a parent take responsibility for turning off phones or wireless for that period. This is probably the moment your teen will hate you.Deal with it, don't run from it. But read them what these college students thanked their parents for, and maybe they will a few years.

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