See below for an excerpt from clinical psychologist Dr. Ronni Cohen-Sandler’s newsletter.
For parents who value education, one of the greatest challenges is raising kids who just aren’t all that interested in school. It’s exceedingly frustrating to watch teens and tweens procrastinate, do the minimum work to get by, and shrug off lackluster grades. Mothers and fathers who see it as their parental responsibility to help kids achieve their potential often step in, doing everything they can to boost their children’s motivation and improve their scholastic performance.
Paging the Homework Police
Mothers and fathers I see in my practice often double-check assignments that teachers post online, sit down with their middle school students to monitor nightly homework, quiz their kids before tests, and supervise each and every step of long-term projects. Parents email their high school students’ teachers for weekly progress updates, pay their kids to take advanced classes, and offer rewards in return for desired results. Most recently, I witnessed parents promise a 14-year-old an iBook and a 15-year-old a brand-new car if they earned specific grades. The question is, do teens and tweens benefit from these interventions and incentives?
In my experience, when parents devote their evenings to supervising their kids’ assignments and test preparation, grades sometimes improve–at least temporarily. But lasting change is rare. Worse, these efforts are often completely ineffective. Just this week, two teens I see in therapy happened to describe their reactions to their parents’ reminders and “lectures” about school. Amanda, a high school freshman, said, “My mother’s nagging me about my homework isn’t going to make me more motivated.” Lloyd, a sophomore, expressed that his parents’ efforts, however well-intentioned, often backfire: “Every time my mother tells me to do something for school, it just makes me want to do it less, even if I had been intending to do it.”
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