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New Year, New Habits

I overheard a parent discussing her son’s grades the other day in a waiting room. She was clearly a concerned, involved mom who tracked her child’s progress and seemed quite aware of their capabilities. The teacher was urging her to log into her child’s gradebook and provide incentives and encouragement to keep the work current. She was resisting because she preferred her son to remain in charge of his own destiny rather than creating dependence on her encouragement.

In the author’s own voice…

Kudos to her. Engineering your child’s future using your own drive and motivation and encouragement may create a false sense of success. Is your child making good grades because you have a good memory or because they are doing good work? Who will keep them pumped up when they are on the job as young adults? If we aren’t careful, our solution to the challenge of school success may be worse than the problem we intended to solve.

A new year provides a great incentive for making changes in your personal life. By using the calendar as feedback, you can track the number of days you have completed a new behavior. After about three weeks, your new behavior becomes an established habit. The calendar also provides a good excuse for a new policy around the house. “I will no longer be responsible for your good grades,” you could say. “From now on, those who do good work and keep up with their own assignments will be making good grades on their own power.”

But what if their grades suffer? A dip in the permanent record may be a small price to pay for turning over the reins for self-directed learning. A few bad grades on assignments might turn the head of a child who is accustomed to being constantly reminded to do their work.

The parent in the waiting room wasn’t unresponsive. When the grades slipped, the child’s participation in soccer was forbidden. Bad grades, no time for soccer, she said. Suddenly there was time for homework.

Before your children return to school this year, choose a new reaction to their study habits. Instead of monitoring every assignment, move toward occasionally checking. Instead of accepting full responsibility for their learning, ask a few questions and say, “That’s interesting; I hope it works for you.”

With online monitoring and phone calls from the child’s teacher, involved parenting can feel more like YOU are the one being monitored. Our children need to develop self-monitoring and self-control if they are to thrive in our world.

Why not take this opportunity to transfer the responsibility for learning over to your child? Let him know that you have confidence in his abilities. Ask enough questions to communicate to her that you care. Stay in touch with the teacher in order to understand how things are going in the classroom. Log in from time to time to secretly be aware of his true status.

A new year gives you an opportunity for a new approach. Adjust course in your habits so that your child’s habits can adjust toward a better future.

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