This time of year, I often hear things like…
“His school assigned a 300-page novel and he hasn’t even cracked open the book! There are only three weeks left before school starts!”
“My daughter is such a procrastinator. She pushes me away when I even ASK about her Algebra packet.”
Here are a few easy tips to get your child to focus and finish when it comes to completing those summer assignments before the new school year begins.
Tip #1: Open Up the Dialogue
The first step involves opening the lines of communication with your child. Though parents may have the best of intentions, here’s what often occurs:
Parent: “Billy, did you read your book yet? You told me you’d have it done two weeks ago!”
Child: “Yeah mom, don’t worry. I’ll get to it before school starts.”
Instead, try setting up a time to talk in a non-judgemental way.
You may say: “Billy, can we talk about that book that needs to be read? How about after dinner tonight?”
By setting up an “appointment” you have time to gather your thoughts beforehand and sit down with your child at a time when the both of you can problem-solve without other distractions.
Or, here’s another way that might get you a more receptive response:
Parent: “How’s the book coming along? Can you show me where you are in it?”
Child: “I’m right here… chapter 2.”
Parent: “Excellent! Chapter 1 is done. If the book needs to be completed by August 21st, how much do you think you could commit to each day?”
Child: “Well, probably a chapter. And if I do a chapter a day, then I think I can be done by the 21st”
Parent: “I like that approach. Okay, what’s a good time of day to read?”
Putting the ball in the child’s court by asking questions allows for problem-solving, which is one of the most important skills a child can have. In this scenario, the parent didn’t tell the child what to do, she lead him to the solution by asking questions.
For elementary school kids, try tackling summer reading assignments together at a set time each day. You read a page and then have your child read a page.
Tip #2: Tie Privileges to Deadlines
Once your child has come up with a game plan and it’s in writing (older students often find that a digital calendar works best), set up a system of accountability.
Many parents have found that tying short-term privileges to meeting deadlines works well. When the assignment is complete, privileges are granted.
For example, when your child is done with a task, they can watch TV or play video games for 30 minutes or go outside to play with their friends.
But for some kids, it’s simply getting started that is the obstacle, and they really struggle with procrastination.
Tip #3: Get the Whole Family Involved with Quiet Time for All
Although some students have great intentions of focusing and finishing their summer work, for many different reasons, it still doesn’t get done.
One thing that works well for many families is to have “quiet time” for at least 45 minutes each night after dinner. During this time, everything is unplugged – no TV, computers, or cell phones. It’s a time when everyone in the family drops everything and reads or works on school work quietly, no matter how busy.
When kids see their parents modeling this behavior, they’re more likely to see the value in reading. And because it’s a family routine, there’s no nagging about completing that summer reading or assignment.
Tip #4: Study Groups (or Facetime) can Deliver Accountability
Sometimes, students procrastinate because they feel overwhelmed and underprepared. And when this occurs, sitting down with your child and helping them get organized and start is just what it takes. But some kids aren’t too keen on their parents’ help.
That’s where study groups come in! If your child has an assignment, such as an essay or math packet that was assigned to the whole class, encourage her to invite friends over to work on it together. If that’s not possible, FaceTime or hopping on Zoom is a great option.
This “togetherness” approach not only provides accountability but helps to make learning fun.
Tip #5: Call in a Neutral 3rd Party
And finally, if you feel that your child is resistant to your overtures to help no matter what you try, consider hiring outside help. A tutor or executive function coach can effectively break down the material into manageable chunks and teach your child how to do the same while providing necessary content support. Sometimes, it takes an objective third party without an emotional history with your child to help get the work done.