5 Tips for Resolving Battles with Teens Over Study and Exams
• Do you have a teen who is reluctant to do any study?
• Has homework, revision and exams become a battle ground for your family?
• Have they already labelled themselves a failure and so don’t see the point?
In this article I’ll share with you some tips and strategies for easing the situation, taking away the stress for both of you and help your teen decide what works best for them.
At the heart of this sits attitude, whilst you are both sat entrenched in your positions on either side of the battleground then nothing will change. It’s going to take a bit of movement from both sides to find common ground where you are both happy to be.
I recently read a book called ‘Fish’ which is all about the attitude of a group of people working at a fish market. To be honest the type of work they did day to day wasn’t great but each person involved in running the stall was encouraged to choose a positive attitude and get the best from each day. By considering this in your home situation if you choose a positive attitude and encourage your teen to do the same you can find a way of moving out of the deadlock together.
1. Leave the ‘I know Best’ attitude behind
Move away from the ‘I know Best’ position and start to be curious about what it might be like to step into the shoes of your teen for a while. You may well know what is best for them as you’ve got a lot of life experience and maybe have aspirations for them, however you may learn something new by seeing the world from their viewpoint for a while. Let them tell you what they think about their studies, exams and future aspirations before you jump in with advice.
2. Stop telling them what to do and listen instead
Listen carefully to the language they are using when they talk to you, the rest of the family and their friends. Maybe they have started to label themselves with things such as:
‘I’m no good at maths’
‘I’m stupid because I can’t remember…’
‘I can’t do this’
‘I always forget the key pieces of information’
Once this starts happening they will begin to look for evidence that they are stupid, not capable etc. Don’t give them an excuse to build on this but whenever you get a chance to talk together use language with them that gently starts to re-frame what they are thinking. For example, when they say they’re stupid, think of a situation where they have been really good at something and remind them of that. Ask them to write down all the occasions where they have succeeded in doing something they have really wanted to do. With practice this will gradually start to alter their thinking patterns and they will begin to notice what is good.
3. Find out what motivates them
We all have different strengths and interests and are motivated in different ways. To help your teen see the point of studying, encourage them to talk about their interests, what they are good at and what they would like to do next in their lives. You may have noticed occasions when their face really lights up and their passion for something is alive. This might not be an area you are keen on or know much about but you can ask a few questions to show you are curious to learn more about this subject. If you can tap into something they love, then you may be able to find ways to discuss how spending a bit of time studying now will help them get what they want in the future.
Motivation comes from the words move and action and it is all about moving into action. What gets each of us taking action can be very different. Some of us love to set goals, create action plans and look forward to the wonderful feeling of success when we have achieved what we want. Others love to problem solve, delve into issues and are motivated into action when things start to become pressing or stressful. This is like having either a carrot or stick dangled in front of you. If your teen is a problem solver who is motivated by pressure they are not going to do anything whilst you are talking about the future and goals. They will also probably sit around for ages doing nothing then cram everything in at the last minute. If this is not your way, then sometimes you have to let go a bit and trust that they will get there in the end.
4. Don’t set rigid rules
Don’t be too rigid in setting studying times with them, let them organise things in a way that works best for them. You may well have studied hard at school, set yourself a revision time table and religiously stuck to it but your teen may learn best in a different way. Encourage them to work out how they learn best, what times of day work best for them and what important personal items they want to keep in their diary, for example football practice, visit to the cinema, social media etc. They can then build study into their day in a way that works for them rather than you.
BUT what if they do nothing I hear you cry?
WELL in this situation, hard though it may be you have to allow them to take responsibility for their decisions whilst making them aware of consequences. If you have been able to tap into what motivates them to take action, it is likely that a gentle reminder of this will set them back on the road of studying.
It is well worth remembering though that there is a fine line between motivation and irritation and if you get the wrong side of this it could flare up into another argument.
5. Call a timeout when things get tough
If things do flare up between you into a row, rather than keep arguing and pushing the hot buttons that will inflame the situation further, take a deep breath and step away saying that you need some space from each other. Neither you nor them will be able to have a rational and meaningful conversation about what is bothering you if angry and frustrated emotions are flying around. It will help you to calm down if you think about something positive in your life or perhaps listen to some calming music as the body can’t help but relax if you are thinking about something you love.
Once things have settled and your teen is ready to talk, be quiet and allow them to express their view point before you jump in with your counter arguments. Let them know why you think differently and then leave them to make the decisions on what to do next. You will be surprised by how many times they will make what you consider is the sensible decision about a situation when given the responsibility to decide for themselves.
Corrine Thomas is an NLP4kids practitioner and certified Career Coach who offers coaching and therapy services to adults and teens who are at a transition point in their lives; often they know what they want to do yet feel stuck, overwhelmed and anxious about taking the steps they need, to go in the direction they want. One area of work Corrine is passionate about is working with parents and teens as they navigate through this challenging yet important stage in their lives.
By Corrine Thomas