It's a Race to the Finish

Some ideas to motivate your child to finish the school year strong, even though beautiful weather and other distractions are great temptations.

I will let you in on a little secret: checking PowerSchool five times a day does not make the numbers go up any more than getting on the scale every hour will make the numbers go down. To lose weight you just have to motivate yourself. To improve grades you have to motivate your kids, which is infinitely more difficult. I will trade places with Bob Harper any day of the week. 

I spent this past week trying to light fires under my students, who seem to think the school year will wait until they finish all their assignments and research papers, while simultaneously talking parents off the ledge. This happens every year at about this time. It’s the pre-finals slump; right after research papers are due and before hardcore studying for finals begins. Throw in all the end of year activities like concerts, sports banquets, art shows, etc., mixed with beautiful weather and you have students who have virtually checked out. So how can you motivate your kid to buckle down for the sprint to the finish line? 

  • Rewards: I call it positive behavior modification, you may call it bribery, but whatever you call it, it works. What does your kid really want to do this weekend? Go to a movie? Play ultimate Frisbee? Go shopping for indiscrete summer clothing? Great, they can go as soon as they are done with their calculus homework and English paper.
  • Positive Reinforcement: This is hard, especially if there isn’t much positive going on. But, if they are working hard, say something like, “You are doing a great job on that PowerPoint!” and stop yourself from adding, “If you did this all the time you would have an A!” Nobody appreciates a back-handed compliment. 
  • Don’t Compare: Comparing your kid to siblings or friends that are spectacular students will make him feel like a spectacular failure, and will not motivate him to do better.
  • No Electronics: Cell phones, Facebook, etc., are a procrastinator’s dream (I played Scramble for an hour before I got down to writing). However, in my opinion, wearing headphones and listening to music while working is okay as long as it’s not of the head-banging variety. It seems to help focus and reduce distractions.
  • Look at the Big Picture: Right now the amount of time left seems endless. Kids need visuals, so get a monthly calendar and put a big star or smiley face on the last day of school or finals. Cross off days, so it is clear how much time is left. If they had a really productive day, put a sticker on it, and don’t think they are too old, everyone loves stickers.

As for parents, keep calm and resist the urge to ground them until they graduate from med school. 

Sue Schaefer is a student advocate, academic coach, and certified teacher. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates. You may email Sue at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com.

You can also follow Sue on twitter: @sueschaefer1

phil macvane May 19, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Good advice, shepparding children through high school is a journey and not a race. It can be a positive experience for all.
Ron Goralski May 19, 2012 at 06:58 PM
I love the information that you provide!
Susan Schaefer May 19, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Thanks Ron, looking forward to seeing you!


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