They’re doing it… again. How do I get them to refocus without starting World War Three?
If you’re the parent of a teenager who is easily distracted or tends to procrastinate when they should focus on their schoolwork, it’s probably not the first time you’ve asked yourself this question.
A lot of parents feel like they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place — it’s not something they should or want to walk past, but all the same, it’s going to cause some temper flares and conflict.
Your child’s procrastination is a very real concern, especially when your child’s distractions come from their use of phones or laptops. But you’re not the only one kept awake at night because of it. The use of technology and devices at home can bring a real strain on family relationships. It’s confirmed by a 2021 report by the University of South Wales, where 65% of parents admit that digital device negotiations cause conflicts at home.
You might think getting rid of all the phones and laptops is the quickest, easiest fix. However, banning technology is NOT the solution. With so many technologies made available to kids, there are many tools for them to maximise and boost their productivity. When we ban technology in their lives, we strip them of opportunities to build lifelong potential and self-regulate in a world where digital devices are here to stay.
So, what else can parents like you do to address your child’s procrastination and deal with their distractions?
Tips for Parents: Dealing with Distraction
Many parents we’ve worked with find it – fraught or ‘complicated’— dealing with their child’s procrastination and distractions. We get it. You just want them to stop leaving things the night before or simply put down their phones and give YouTube a rest.
If you’ve been thinking the same thing and struggle with having a conversation with your child about their distractions, here are five tips from our education strategists based on best practices that have worked on clients.
View technology as a productivity tool.
We cannot stress this enough: there’s no need to ban technology. In fact, it actually robs your child of important opportunities to self-regulate and create focalising boundaries which help them reset whenever they get off-track. There’s so much potential for technology to help children do more work with less effort and the right guidance.
Instead, identify what specifically distracts your child while on the phone or laptop and why. Do they spend hours just scrolling through TikTok? Do they keep multiple tabs open when they study — most of which are unrelated to their assignment? Do they need to soothe themselves by watching a complete one-hour episode on Netflix because they’re struggling with cognitive fatigue from too much reading? There must be an underlying reason why they choose to spend so much time on these apps and websites, and parents need to identify that.
Master self-control together.
Guide your child to establish self-owned guidelines on how and when to use their devices. Decide where the line should be when it comes to technology use together. Involving them in the process helps to ensure that their devices serve as tools rather than distractions and that your child is the first to recognise when they should put it down.
Teenagers and their pre-frontal cortex are also wired to get very good at whatever they do. They’ll want to do more of it because it makes them feel good. So, instilling the habit of self-control can also manage the risks of addiction and the negative emotional responses that come with it.
The thing is, you can also apply this to other things like regulating emotions, coming home on time, and doing homework so the effects trickle down your child’s life. Having effective discipline is not just good for study; it can help your child maintain a healthy mental well-being.
Connect before correcting.
Correcting your child as they make a mistake is an instinct for parents. But when it comes to talking about your child’s procrastination and shortcomings, it’s better to connect with them first before giving them corrections. It’s so tempting to instinctively react to them, but take a moment to keep your own emotions in check and make sure you’re responding to what their words and behaviour are actually telling you.
One way to do this is to ask open-ended questions and listen to the responses your child is giving. Asking how or what makes your child retreat to their phones when they have a mountain of assignments to work on is a good start. This keeps the conversation clear of judgement, which your teenager will negatively react to. Keeping an open and clear mind when asking your child about their insights on effective self-regulation strategies also makes the difference.
Be truthful and transparent to your child.
As a parent, you also need to put your foot down and acknowledge that there’s a challenge you and your child face. It’s important to give your child the truth and transparency they need to make a change in their habits. You may have been experiencing distance between you and your child, which they don’t notice but affects you all the same. You might have noticed their quality of sleep — or lack thereof —because they’ve been having multiple late nights. These are some things that you can be open about to your child.
If you have a decent and open relationship with your child, they’ll see your sincerity and open up with honesty about the problems and struggles they’re encountering. Once they do, it’ll be easier to identify the problems and create solutions to make their learning experience better.
Strategise based on your child’s learning needs.
Your child is built differently and experiences learning uniquely. Traditional fixes for procrastination or declining student performance will simply not cut it.
Our team at Kalibrate-Ed specialise in helping students focus and work productively around distractions (including technology) and can work with you to create a tailored strategy moulded to your child’s learning profile so they work consistently and undistracted on the activities that will bring them better exam results. Working with an education coach can further help them overcome procrastination and distraction, boosting their chances for better academic results and overall well-being. We can help you and your child establish clear rules and strategic tools to get your kid back on track and monitor their progress.
Connor was a Year 10 student with ADHD and anxiety who wasn’t really interested in schoolwork and struggled to complete assignments on time. He’d often start the term determined but quickly become overwhelmed by the workload, put things off and then run out of time to complete tasks and assignments properly.
When Connor’s mum reached out to us, all she wanted was to help her son get the marks she and his teachers knew he was fully capable of.
We worked with Connor to identify the main obstacles preventing him from studying effectively and getting tasks done. We evaluated Connor’s learning style and identified the major drains and inefficiencies in his study habits that led him to become fatigued. We also found a disconnect between how Connor liked to learn and the way some of his teachers were presenting the information.
We put in a program to help him focus on the simple core activities we knew he could complete and would see a fast improvement from, and as soon as he could see his quick progress, Connor’s attitude and his marks completely changed.
Being in control of his present study actions and connecting them to the future made all the difference for his motivation, and this enabled us to work on the bigger pieces like consistency — especially on subjects he really didn’t like (like English!)
For the first time, Connor was self-motivated and so proactively structured with his time that he was able to seek early feedback from teachers, and that helped him jump 1-2 Marking Bands in across his first lot of hand-in assignments after working with us.
If you’d like your child to have better marks and achieve better academic outcomes but have no idea what step to take, Kalibrate-Ed is here to help them get clarity and take those steps. Our education strategists live and breathe personalised learning strategies and get to know each student to create the best approach to overcoming procrastination and achieving better results. To start your child’s learning transformation, you can reach out to us here: https://calendly.com/kalibrate-ed/lets-chat.
Better yet, join us this January and learn more insights and key strategies on how to help your child start 2024 on the right note. We’re hosting a FREE live session, and you’re personally invited. Click this link to reserve your seat: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/school-year-kick-off-2024-tickets-760195604517?aff=oddtdtcreator.