“Study for your test.”
“Clean your room.”
These sound like reasonable requests, right? Some of you may have children that complete the request and move on with your day. To other parents, this might be a familiar experience:
Parent: “Go Study”
Kid: “Ok.” Continues to look at phone.
Parent: “Did you hear me?”
Kid: “Hmmm? You mean now?”
Parent: “Yes. Now!”
Kid gets up and strolls to his study space and the parent relaxes.
Three days later the student receives a D on the test.
Parent: “Why did you get a D? You said you studied!
Kid: “I don’t know! I did study!”
Parent: “Clean your room”
Thirty minutes later the kid goes to play basketball and the parent checks on the room.
Later that evening
Parent: Why didn’t you clean your room?!
Kid: I did!
Parent: It’s messier than it was before! The pile of clothes exploded!
Kid: Well, I put my shoes away, but I saw a lot of clothes were too small. So, I pulled them all out to sort for donation. I’ll get to it tomorrow.”
Do either of these situations sound vaguely familiar? You might think your child is trying to drive you insane. However, what if your child did study, but studied the wrong way (study skills)? Or what if your child avoided studying because they felt they would fail (motivation/academic confidence)? What if your child had good intentions in cleaning their room, but lost sight of the immediate goal (goal directed persistence).
As a parent, my initial reaction is frustration. I feel your pain, and trust me I have been there! However, if we choose to react with anger and frustration, our children might choose to react with anger or frustration. As an Academic Coach, I see the teachable moments. If we react with our gut, what is the child learning in the moment? Nothing.
Let’s look at the first scenario. If I ask what studying is, I will probably get several different answers. Your child may not even have a good understanding of the word. I always thought studying was highlighting the entire book and rereading it. BORING!! It is also scientifically proven to be the worst way to learn. I help students find techniques that appeal to them, make studying less time consuming and more effective!
What if the child spent four hours in their room, but only 30 minutes were spent studying? Ahhh procrastination; Everyone’s best friend when it comes time to do anything else. Would you be motivated to study if you thought it would take 4 hours to complete a 1 hour task? What if we worked on procrastination, and suddenly that 4 hours became 20 minutes a day? The student in scenario one needs a clear plan of action to use their time effectively.
Ok, I admit that I drew this from personal experience. My husband suggests we clean the house, and I alphabetize the pantry. The initial goal seems so simple. The goal is to clean. However, that can spin into 50 different visions of what clean is and nothing gets done. So how can the child in scenario 2 be helped?
This child needs to be reminded of the first and primary goal, but we can’t stop there. What would happen if you said, “I need you to clean your room by putting away your shoes. I will check on you in ten minutes to see if you are done.” Ten minutes later the shoes are put away, and you celebrate the child’s success. You can then add, “Excellent, now it would be helpful to hang up your clothes. After that is done you can go outside.” The tasks are small but clear. Eventually, the student acquires the goal directed persistence to break up their own tasks.
I would love to help teens clean their rooms, but I stick to the academics. If this was a school example, the child may say, “I want to go to college.” However, the student is in 10th grade and has a 1.9 GPA. This student may need to refocus from the large picture (going to college), and look at the tiny goals to get there. For instance, I might work with the student to help with organization and time management so they stop getting zeros. College is our ultimate goal, but we need smaller steps to reach it.
In the moment, it may be hard to see that your child is not trying to drive you insane. However, if you take a pause and assess the situation, you may find that there are simple ways to get your communication back on track!