Lite 98 Parent Talk
Liz Pearce, Director of Parent Engagement
Children’s Museum of Richmond
School is starting in less than three weeks (September 3rd) and you’ve got a middle schooler or teen that hasn’t finished their summer reading … or even started – Yikes! What’s a parent to do? First of all, don’t panic. Your child has approximately 320 hours of non-sleeping time left. Or ….
You could go ahead and acknowledge that your teen may have a tendency to procrastinate. Many teens procrastinate – stemming from early adolescence when it’s entirely normal to push back against demands from grown-ups. Your child’s response “In a minute!!” may turn into several minutes, or hours.
So now you have an opportunity to guide your kiddo to overcoming procrastination, by showing him or her the steps to getting a task done, just like adults have to do in the “real world”.
1. If you are worried about how to start, feel free to let the teens know that you recently realized that you aren’t doing them any favors by not preparing them for the real world. They will have real responsibilities very soon, and you want them to be independent, considerate and successful adults. The key to this will be an even-tempered delivery of your message, consistency in your actions, and genuine respect for your teen’s effort.
2. Set up a meeting with your middle schooler or teen, and set aside 20 minutes (at the most) to discuss the situation, and find solutions. This is not the time for lecturing, shame or guilt. Refrain from making it personal, and avoid bringing up past mistakes. Instead of “You always leave things to the last minute!” say, “This book needs to be completed by September 3rd. Let’s discuss a plan for getting that done.”
3. Jot down other responsibilities that need to be met before school starts, and record them on the family calendar. Having a visual reminder of the days and weeks ahead is a necessity for most of us, and required for the distracted teen brain.
4. Determine what will be more motivating for your teen – earning a special privilege for completing responsible behavior OR losing a privilege for not completing responsible behavior.For example, if your teen demonstrates he or she can finish summer work independently, perhaps it’s time to allow more privileges. On the other hand, if he or she can’t finish summer work independently, perhaps it’s time to restrict cell phone usage or screen time.
5. Write up a “contract” with the expected behavior, the desired outcome, and the agreed upon reward or consequence. You may post it if you like, or put it somewhere for safekeeping. The act of writing something down can often improve commitment to a goal.
6. Encourage your teen, without berating or nagging. Your goal here, dear parent, is to guide them, without forcing them to complete the assignment. If the summer reading is not completed, your student will suffer the consequences at school (hopefully) and learn an important lesson in procrastination. Should that happen, empathize with them, and realize they are gaining valuable knowledge, when the price is low. Learning the lessons of procrastination later could result in the loss of a job, or other adult privileges.
If you need more ideas, call the Commonwealth Parenting tip line at 545-1928 for free, confidential advice.