Learning from this observation, the skills I want my two current highschoolers to learn is to:
learn to set study goals,
make decisions in light of those goals and
live out the consequences or rewards of their decisions.
For this to happen I have to stop micromanaging their study time and give them responsibility for their study hours.
With this in mind, I spent some one on one time with each of the kids, talking about their study habits: what they found hard, what they found worked for them, their goals for the next little while and how I could help them achieve those goals.
They set their Goals
As a result we have developed a study planner for each of them. The goal (and it is still a goal, not a habit) is that we set our study goals for the following week on Friday. The idea is by having a week’s work set out in front of them, they have the opportunity to get ahead and reap the benefits of not having to work every day, or they have a consequence if they don’t apply themselves and don’t finish by the end of the week, by having to work Friday afternoon.
I reduce the interruptions
Because it is very important for these older kids to have responsibility, accountability and consequences for the choices they make with their study I have to limit how often they are redirected from their study plans. This means what I considered a life lesson for primary age student may not be a priority for a highschool student. They have different goals in this season of their life, which will affect their lifestyle. I need to respect that.
But there will be times where family life, or life learning opportunities are important, so we have a system where I will sign off their study planner, excusing them from completing that aspect and incurring any consequences. Being responsible and being flexible does not need to be mutually exclusive!
I have been very surprised and impressed with how my kids have risen to this new system. We have been tweaking it for a few weeks, and they still need to remember at times that they have to make decisions, instead of asking me about their study load but they are getting there and I am very pleased we have made this change.
It is their responsibility
Now, when they ask me if they can do something, I simply refer them to their chart; they can make that decision. When they ask me if they can finish early (a bad habit that we have slipped into) I refer them to their chart and they can make that decision. With their decision though comes consequences – and that is the one area that I need to uphold. Nothing happens on Friday unless their chart is completed!
Which reminds me of a parenting principle: A teen makes their choice but a parent holds them accountable to that choice.
The highschool years is more than giving our kids an education that prepares them for a career – it is about fine tuning the habits that will last them a lifetime. Habits that will help them with their further study, with a career, and with any endeavour they pick up.