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I know, I know. Believe me. You are trying to do your own jobs from home, and now your child is also at home trying to complete his or her online assignments. You want to stay out of the way, but you keep hearing “Mom, can you help?” “Mom, it isn’t working!”  “Oh, that was due yesterday??” or finally, “Dad, can you email the teacher and tell her I forgot to submit my assignment?” You know that you cannot sustain this wonderful family togetherness for another week, much less a semester. So, what do you do? You honestly just want to be the mom or dad again, and you are absolutely exhausted with trying to be the online learning monitor while holding on to your current job. Since this is not what you signed up for, you have to empower your child with tools early in the game… those tools not being Mom or Dad. If you can make a habit of teaching your child to use strategies, you can set him up for a lifetime of organization and success. After teaching K-12 for 28 years, conferencing with thousands of parents, tutoring for 15 years, and raising two sons, allow me to share a few thoughts that just might prevent your household from yet another meltdown. At least for a day or two. So here goes…

  • Do not ever allow yourself to be more concerned with your child’s work than he or she is. That is a significant problem. When you are willing to work harder to get your child’s work completed than your child is willing to work, then the work has officially become your responsibility. You know it and so does your child. This sends a message to your child that he or she is incapable of doing the work, and that you believe you can do it better. Therefore, they get a hall pass and get to check out of all responsibility.
  • All of us who work need a system of rewards and consequences. Usually our rewards come in the form of a paycheck, a sense of accomplishment, a promotion, or just knowing we gave the task all that we had in us to give. Why would we think that our children need anything differently? Don’t rob them of their sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Figure out your child’s currency. What makes him or her happy? What rewards would he or she be willing to work toward? In that same vein, what would they hate to lose if the task isn’t completed? Our consequences are much more serious as adults if we don’t get the work done. We need to teach our children early in life that there is always a positive or negative payoff for the work, and that no one is going to rescue them later in life. Deadlines are deadlines, and not meeting deadlines often has consequences. Teach them this lesson early in life. They will thank you for it later. So will their bosses.
  • Don’t fall for the blame game. “But, my teacher didn’t tell me it was due!” “My teacher just doesn’t like me!” “She never taught us that!” Do you need to listen to your child when he or she complains once in a while? Absolutely, yes. Once in a while, it may just be the truth and children need to be heard. But when you begin to hear one excuse after another on a regular basis, and it is beginning to seem that no teacher ever communicates correctly with your child………then you have to begin to wonder, ”Hmm..what is the one common factor in the same scenario repeating itself over and over, teacher after teacher, year after year?” Could it be your child? Just a thought. Look for patterns. Teach children to adjust and adapt when necessary. That in itself is a powerful tool to have in life, learning to adjust to different personalities and different situations. They are not going to like every teacher that they have, nor will they like every boss that they have later in life. But they have to learn to adjust. Blaming others totally takes away the power that you have as an individual, and creates a victim mentality. No one wants that for their children.
  • Are you exhausted with your children’s lack of organization? Have they actually ever been taught how to organize? You know, the frontal lobe of our brains doesn’t fully develop until our mid-twenties. So, why in the world would you expect your children to just naturally be organized with their studies? Organizational strategies must be taught early. Some of the most brilliant students I ever had the privilege of teaching did poorly at school, not because they didn’t understand the concepts and weren’t capable of learning, but because they weren’t organized enough to follow through with assignments. It was so frustrating and heartbreaking to watch. And on that same note, some students who had average abilities excelled in class, simply because they were organized and well prepared. They knew how to cross the finish line. These organizational strategies must be taught! Think about it……could you function in your daily life without a calendar, alerts, reminders, texts, etc.? I certainly couldn’t! So why do we expect our children to? Here are some strategies that have been tried and absolutely work: (a) Have your child print the schedule, assignments due, etc. and post in his or her study area. (b) Transfer these assignments and due dates to an agenda (you remember those dinosaurs, right?) Planners? Yes, they still work. When students write assignments down, they tend to remember them better. (c) Highlight assignments using color coding, i.e. yellow for pay attention to, red for due, and green for completed or submitted. (d) If your child is old enough to have a device, use the calendar! Show them how to set up due dates and reminders for upcoming assignments or deadlines. Have alerts set up! They are using their technology on a daily basis, so teach them to use it for their benefit! (e) Set up a learning area in your home, somewhere you can monitor as needed, but not hover. Remember, this is your child’s work, not yours. It is fine to supervise the first couple of weeks until they get the routine and expectations down, and to check in on a regular basis. Remember, these are new strategies and have to be reinforced for a couple of weeks or so……. not an entire year. Land the helicopter now. (f) Have your child set the time each day for working. We all want to have some control over our schedules and children are the same way. They know what times work for them! (g) Make sure your child has all that he or she needs in the study area beforehand. Many children enjoy going shopping to set up their areas. It helps create a sense of ownership. (h) Remember to be consistent with rewards and consequences. Many wonderful well-meaning systems have fallen by the wayside because the child knew it had been forgotten, and so was no longer important. 
  • Lastly, remember that you are their moms and dads. You are not the schoolwork monitors. The years you are given as parents fly by so quickly, and one day, when you drop them off at college (yes, you really, really will…), you will wish you had these precious years back and had just been their parents and enjoyed time together. So, my advice to you, from someone who has been there, is to start now. Empower your children to take charge of their learning. They are so capable. They really are. One day, they might just thank you for it.
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