It seems like one of life’s cruel paradoxes. Right when school work becomes most demanding, and really starts to count toward future plans, teenagers typically begin to resist parental involvement, particularly in their schoolwork. How can a parent encourage adherence to the Thinking Organized strategies with a resistant teen? It’s not easy, but here are a few tips that our parents have found useful:
- Create a system of external rewards. As much as we would all like our children to be intrinsically motivated to organize their backpacks, clean their rooms and study ahead of time for tests, the reality is that there are many other enticing options available. Having a system of rewards works well for many teenagers, as long as the reward is something the teen really wants. Work with your student to establish a list of expectations and incentives, and he will be much more likely to make an effort at meeting the goals.
- Back off a bit. As difficult as it may be, parents need to understand that most teenagers will not allow Mom or Dad to micromanage their schoolwork. Chances are, you’re just not going to be able to help as much as you might think necessary. Set your priorities on a few major items to monitor, and then let your teen do his personal best on all other tasks without interference. Often, your involvement is seen by the teenager as a lack of confidence in his abilities. By stepping back and allowing your child his independence, you are actually reassuring him that you trust him to know what needs to be accomplished.
- Negotiate a deal. For example, as long as you maintain “B’s” or better in your classes, I will not check your assignment notebook or backpack. If you fall below a B in any class, then you have to let me help you organize your materials and study for the next test in that class. All children want to earn high grades, and sometimes giving them this option sounds more helpful than nagging.
Many of the parents with whom I work tell me that managing their children’s school work is damaging their relationship. When this becomes the case, it’s often beneficial to hire the assistance of a third party. A tutor can be more than just someone to assist with academics. An educational mentor can be involved in helping the student maintain organization with paperwork and assignments and manage time effectively. If the resistance becomes too great, involving a therapist can often help the teenager manage some of the difficult issues of the trying years of adolescence.
No one will ever tell you that the teenage years are easy on parents. However, with a sense of humor and a calm demeanor, you can continue to be a good role model and a sound support system for your child during these years.