Everyone wants to do something well. Everyone wants to succeed, right? Successful people get coaching – CEO’s get coaching regularly. So many executives get coaching on such a regular basis that there is a specific name for it – executive coaching. And, as a parent, you especially want your child to succeed at school because you and I both know that it will lead to more choices and it will open more doors. What you may not know is that even your child, who may be hunched over their screen right now playing the latest
online game, wants to succeed at school. They just may not know how to do it yet and that online game is a fierce competitor for their attention. What your child may not have learned is that enjoyment (hanging with friends or screen time, etc.) isn’t excluded when they learn how to study efficiently. In fact, they will have more time for friends and less stress from teachers and their parents.
How does that work?
Well, in all honesty, there is a learning curve. Like learning anything new, it does take time and concentration at first but once your child figures out what works most efficiently for them, then the time investment goes down considerably. You may have heard of Parkinson’s Law – work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Your child, like most teens who have not connected the dots between work/goals/success, is lost in a time conundrum of ideas vs. experiences about school. For example:
- The idea that to be a good student you have to study all the time.
- The experience that many class assignments are repetitive work and often boring.
- The effort exerted now will pay off later.
- The fear of making wrong choices.
- Only smart people get good grades.
Each child has their own gifts, strengths, and struggles. The experiences and ideas I’ve just pointed out are part of a maturation process. In the back of your child’s mind is the question: How do I find myself in all of this schoolwork and how do I make sense of it? Developmentally, when adolescence arrives, things become much more complex. Not only are there classes, homework, projects, reading, friends, sports, extracurricular activities, hormonal & physical changes, family, deadlines, pressures to grow up either by using drugs, alcohol and sex, or driving, being responsible for siblings – basically, life in general. No wonder they are hunched over the screen!
On to Success
Learning the principle of Parkinson’s Law and how to efficiently and appropriately carry out a strategy for homework is a life-changing skill for your child to learn. Working smarter not harder will allow them the perspective of how much they need to apply themselves to a task and the most efficient way to do it. Once they connect the dots between task completion and more free time to enjoy they’ll be on board.
A natural result of working smarter not harder is the success that comes with it. I’ve worked with students who, when they show up in my office, give the impression that they don’t really care about doing well. However, given the taste of success, I’ve seen these same teenagers actually take charge of tracking their grades and ambitiously plot out what they need to do to get an “A” on their semester grade. This is progress from procrastination or outright avoidance to do homework! The point here is that success will encourage incentive to continue the trend. Like a snowball, this trend will gain momentum with students in many areas. Improved grades will increase motivation, and confidence. In turn, more confidence will show up in the classroom through deeper engagement, better grades, teachers will notice and respond. Although it may not appear to be important, it is – positive responses from parents – either through praise or greater freedoms. This is worth the effort. Why? Because having their parents treat them with respect, and almost like they are an adult suddenly makes them feel almost like an adult. The struggle for independence is what all teenagers strive toward. This simple, yet huge, alteration in their interactions with you is another achievement. To know that you have relaxed your concerns about their abilities and the demonstration of that helps your child to relax.
Let go of the fear
Your child is able and capable. They have to learn in what ways they are capable. It allows them to let go of the fear that they will make a wrong choice and mess up. Nothing is more paralyzing than the fear that whatever you might choose to do, you might make the wrong choice or, worse yet, fail. It is attributed to Winston Churchill to have once said; “Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm.” In realizing they are capable, your child will learn to move forward through successes and failures and on to success.
The last reason is a no-brainer. Better grades open more doors. It is a natural result of doing well in school. You know it and I know it and your child will learn this as they grow and develop greater confidence and capability to move through their life working smarter not harder. If you would like to discuss the next steps for your child, please contact me for a free 20-minute consultation.
Patricia Duncan, MA, LPCC
As an Academic Life Coach and Counselor for adolescents and young adults, Patricia’s mission is to motivate teens and twenty-somethings to build academic and life skills, develop self-confidence and navigate an ever-changing world as successful adults.