“It’s an unfortunate time of year” quoted a parent recently, commenting on the first nine weeks grade reports. While I had to chuckle a little, the parent went on; “there is bound to be some gnashing of teeth at home tonight…..I’m gonna have to break bad.”
While a bit humorous, calls for help are a common occurrence this time of year when I deal with many frustrated parents about how their children are performing, or not performing as it may be, in school. I am quick to remind folks that the majority of kids and adolescents (elementary and middle schoolers) will do just fine in their academic pursuits if they follow a few simple guidelines. Bad interims are usually just the symptom.
First off, make sure that you are providing “book-ends” for their day. Their sleep/wake cycle needs to be consistent. Yes, children really do need regular bedtimes and have a clear time for waking in the morning. When the target for kids is 9-10 hours of sleep a night, just leaving it up to them will never really get the job done. It is a very rare 9 year old that will say “Oh my goodness, do you see what time it is, I really need to get to bed.”
The second key guideline is to develop and follow basic daily routines. A simple example would be that your child’s day should flow as follows; Clear morning routine- School- Homework/Studying- Housework/chores-Free time- Clear evening routine with a bedtime. When you have a very clear cause and effect process in place you greatly limit arguments or the battle of trying to get a child to get homework done at the end of the day.
When Johnny knows he can’t have any free time until he completes schoolwork and chores, there is a natural motivation for these things to get done. The conversation changes from a threat of punishment….to what it takes to gain freedom. Now the burden and power to gain this time of freedom is all on the child.
In response to this guideline I am often asked what about soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, etc. “We can’t do that because Johnny isn’t home until after practice….and then he has to eat….then he doesn’t have time for chores….and the school gives way too much homework….blah, blah, blah.”
The simple truth is that until a child can follow this simple guideline on a regular basis without causing or requiring much commotion in your home, they have no business doing other activities.
The third guideline is probably the most difficult in today’s culture and yet the simplest in nature….limit technology. Whether we want to admit it or not, there is no compelling reason for the typical “kid” to have video games, tablets, or cell phones, etc. Technology is addictive, period. It does not mean that everyone gets addicted, but we all know the draw. I would argue that most anything technology provides in the daily life of a child is either unnecessary or can be provided for in healthier manner. We have confused convenient with healthy, and they are not the same.
A typical question I often ask kids and adults is “when do you not have your cell phone on you?” The overwhelming response is “all of the time except when I am in the shower…..but it’s usually on the bathroom counter.” We have allowed technology to become inherently invasive in our lives….and it regularly gets in the way of healthy parenting and child development.
This type of parasitic relationship is lacking in any qualitative value in the daily life of a child and has changed the nature of childhood from a time of innocence and learning to a time filled with constant monitoring and posting of truly unimportant things. The amount of anxiety that has been infused into the life of the typical “plugged-in” child is beyond anything we have seen in our culture.
Try a simple experiment for a couple months. Follow the above guidelines and see if you don’t begin experiencing a different child. Remember, the earlier in life this process begins the better.
Oh yeah, most of their grades will improve too.
Keith is a Family and Parenting Expert who continues to work with children, families, and individuals in the Roanoke Valley and surrounding areas in hopes of helping to rebuild the American family. Keith is currently hosting a 1-day Parenting Retreat entitled “Raising Sturdy Kids” on October 31st. For more information contact Total Life Counseling, Inc. at (540) 989-1383.