The time is here. Summer is over, covid fears have calmed, and the buses are warming up for school. If you believe that success in school usually leads to a better life for kids (and most parents do!), then it’s time to get a more precise strategy for managing daily routines.
Too often those critical daily routines, that produce the ‘Habits of Success’ for children, are left up to chance. Certainly, most of us do our best, but that ‘best’ is based upon our own experiences and often involves little attention to the science of how we can create and sustain healthy, disciplined habits over time.
Good Habits vs Bad Habits
And please be clear: this is the magic! Bad habits overwhelming create obstacle after obstacle for your kids. Good habits tend to open doors, create readiness for the opportunity and bring your children to class prepared and ready to thrive.
Thus, it’s important to look at this year differently. Rather than thinking of how to get through each day with the homework done, think about how to create good habits. This key distinction will begin to change your focus.
Daily battles, arguments, struggles, and negotiations are exhausting and a pointer to a future of misery. We must avoid that, by creating a more systematized approach. Here are the key starting points:
1. Set the expectations now.
Put yourself in a great state of mind; not anxious or worried. Just a good, positive state. Then, chat with the kids in a matter-of-fact manner that there are going to change. Let them know the days of nagging and arguing are over. Let them know that you will be setting up a system that will make life easier. It begins with…
2. Homework first, then play… every day! (Utilize the power of leverage)
Think of this as the one rule to master, for creating the Habit of Success. It’s simple and sounds like this: “Kids, you do homework and chores first, then you play.”
When your children get home from school or sports practice, they get a five or 10-minute break. Or perhaps it’s dinnertime. Either way, after that, it’s time for homework, chores, violin practice, or whatever responsibilities are on the list for the day.
The key point to master: Don’t force homework. Instead, control the goodies. So, during the ‘work time’ there’s no iPhone, no video or open access to the Internet, no toys, friends, or outside play. Nothing, until their work is done. (This is where you get leverage. Never give this up.)
It’s important for you to keep your focus on what you can control: the goodies. Make them unavailable until the work is done. In these times, you often must be cautious about the phone and the computer. The secret here, for the child who is inclined to seek immediate rewards, is to master control of the phone and computer with software, not with your words.
Note for the more oppositional or defiant child: If they refuse to do their work, let it be. But strictly maintain that there’s no play in any form until work is done. Yes, you are giving them an opportunity to fail for a few days. But you’ve stacked the deck in your favor. If they choose not to do their homework, they will be bored to tears.
It may take several days, but they will choose homework over utter boredom. Just be patient. This can be a trying couple of days, depending upon your situation and the age of your child, but be strong. Next…
3. Stop the exhausting nagging and arguing over homework.
Nagging and pushing and prodding only leads to more nagging and pushing and prodding. As you step back, just notice how things deteriorate as the months go by.
Many parents find this difficult to do. It FEELS like you are doing something when you try to PUSH the kids along their daily routines. You end up working harder at their daily routine than they are…and this is a very bad habit. Please stop. Instead, trust the leverage you have in place, and now be patient and…
4. Require their best effort every day.
They will do their work if you maintain control of the goodies. However, their work quality may be poor. So, it is essential to hold them accountable for their best work.
Yes, many kids will deceive you, lie about their work and make up a plethora of stories to avoid real effort. We must hold them accountable for the real effort. How?
Only believe the work is done after you see it and inspect it. Hold them accountable for doing their best, but without lectures or repeated messages about doing their best. Instead, inspect the work, and either approve it because they clearly put their best effort forward or disapprove because they didn’t. This is how you hold them accountable for doing their best. And of course, …
5. Habits take time. Be patient.
Good study habits are like any other habit – they must be learned. It’s natural for them to try to cheat the system and find ways to make their job easier. Let them! Just don’t be upset. Instead, stick to the system and allow for learning. It doesn’t happen overnight but will evolve in a matter of weeks if you stick to the game plan. Patient and persistence, a good parenting system, will create habits that serve your children and make you peaceful and loving.