Isn't life already hard enough? Especially for a pubescent teenager who does not yet have a fully developed brain? Having to navigate the minefield of social circles, extracurricular activities, and the opposite sex? This is, unfortunately, the norm, not the exception to any rule. And as the adults in the room, we honestly can't help all that much. We went through this process 15, 25, 30 years ago. Before the advent of the Internet. Cell phones with cameras. Social media. And we haven't even gotten to school yet!
Successful students, or more correctly, successful teenagers have to balance all these plates, spinning wildly above their heads. The thing about spinning plates though is that they always fall, and never when you expect it. Successful students cannot possibly balance everything. This is where a successful parent comes in.
The successful student falls. The successful student fails. The successful student is not perfect. This is why your student may already feel defeated. They are expected to have perfect grades, have perfect relationships, play sports perfectly, and have the perfect amount of self-esteem. Could you do that?
How about learning to change thought patterns between classes like English Language Arts and Mathematics, where only critical thinking is truly valued in one and only linear, process-oriented thinking in the other?
Maybe you can start to remember your own experiences in school in a different, not so rose-colored light.
So what can you do? How can you help? Why is this so hard? And why are there dirty clothes and dishes all over the place?
Successful students need a little thing called structure. And yes, I know, this isn’t rocket surgery or Earth shattering news. Like every skill, sometimes a little refining is needed.
No, students do not need every moment of their lives scheduled. They do need to sit and get lost in their own heads from time to time. Thirty minutes here, thirty minutes there. They also need to sleep. A whole lot. Like an infant, a lot. Their brains and bodies are undergoing massive physical and chemical changes. It is hard work being a teenager and that is only the part that includes staying alive!
This is what I mean by structure. A regular, loose calendar of the activities of the day. Monday through Friday are the easy ones. Wake up at the same time every day. Take a shower (yes, they will have to be told to do it). Dress appropriately. No, those sweatpants or yoga pants are not school appropriate. Eat. The brain needs fuel. Go to school. Take notes. No, you really cannot remember everything the teacher said. No, you are not like Sheldon Cooper. Come home after school. Take a nap. Wake up and do your chores. Work on your homework. If you don’t understand something, come to me. I may not know either, but I have access to resources that you may not know exist. Go to bed at the same time every night. No, leave your phone out here. Tablet, too.
This is structure. It’s not really about times, dates, goals, achievements, or anything like that. It’s about a process. A repeatable process. A process with choices. And if things are missed, so be it. But there are consequences. Go to bed late, get up tired. Don’t take a shower, your friends will say you smell. Don’t dress appropriately, you will probably miss out on class. Don’t eat, lose focus in class. Don’t take notes, something your teacher said will probably be on the test at the end of next week. Don’t do your chores, do them during the weekend. Don’t do your homework, your grades will suffer and you will make it up over the weekend. And by the way, straight A’s only mean one of two things. A) The classes are too easy or B) Other plates are falling. Rarely can or should a student maintain a 4.0 GPA. And that’s ok. If you focus on raising a well-rounded person who can follow processes and can self-impose structure, the rest takes care of itself.
The mindset of a successful student is one where they don’t have to worry about getting it all done.