Why you’re really nagging your child about revision
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | RSS
Do you find yourself constantly nagging your children about revision? Do you hate yourself for it? Can you see the damage that the nagging is doing to your relationship with your child, but you just can't seem to find a way through it?
In this article, I'm going to explain why you're nagging and how I can help you get over it.
Why you're nagging your child
You're nagging because of three things:
- You care deeply about helping your child do their very best – ultimately because you love them
- You haven't managed to set expectations, systems and processes in your family that enable your child to do their revision (this sounds very clinical but I'll explain more later)
- You feel guilty, like you're failing as a parent, but there's nothing more that you can see you can do except nag them to do what you think is the right thing
When our children are in primary school we create time and space for them to do their homework. I'm still doing this with my six-year-old son. We need to tell him that it's time to do his reading or spellings and scaffold him to do the project-type tasks that school sets – sitting with him and directing him throughout the task.
As our children get older they take on more independence. My daughter is eight and I'm led to believe that she's quite unusual in her levels of motivation and commitment to her school work. She has now taken on complete responsibility for all of her homework – her choice, not ours. She just takes it off to her bedroom, or asks if she can borrow my computer, and gets it done.
This independent stage will emerge at varying times depending on things like your child's academic abilities, their interest in their school work and their desire to do well.
The problem is that when students get to secondary school there are often up to three years when both teachers and parents kind of let homework routines drift. These are years 7-9. Not much homework is set during this time and the consequences of not doing it aren't that heinous – so the unmotivated do their best to get away with doing as little as possible. At the same time, parents are stepping away from that supervisory role, believing that their children are old enough to take on responsibility for their homework. You're probably keen to get some time back, do your own thing and generally reclaim aspects of your own life that you've lost to parenting since your child was born. This is definitely true in some cases, but not all.
This means that by the time students get to their GCSE years three things may have happened:
- Your child's motivation has drifted away from school work (if they ever had it in the first place) as they're discovering all the joys of teenage life
- You're busy getting on with your own life, believing that your child is old enough to take responsibility and that they really ought to know what they're doing by now
- There are no clear or consistent expectations for homework and revision either from home or from school
The solution – how to stop nagging
In his world-famous self-help book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey has a section on delegation. For some reason, this is the part of his book that has stuck with me the most – maybe because he uses the example of delegating cutting the grass to his teenager as an example.
Covey talks about two types of delegation:
- Gofer delegation – this is highly directive and prescriptive delegation where the person in charge stipulates exactly how and when to do every stage of a process. This is really disempowering for the person who is being delegated to and gives them no ownership over the process. It also means that the person delegating doesn't actually get any freedom – they always have to be there, directing how something is done. This is a bit like me with my six-year-old at the moment.
- Stewardship delegation – this is where you say to someone, ‘I'm handing over responsibility for this job to you. These are the outcomes I want to see, but I'm leaving it up to you how and when you do the work to achieve those outcomes'. You want your son or daughter to be operating under the stewardship model.
How do you get your child to take on stewardship for their school work?
There are three strands to this:
- Their level of motivation
- Their level of responsibility
- The clarity of your expectations
In Covey's book, he talks about sitting his family down for a meeting and discussing who would take responsibility for all the tasks that needed doing in their household. It was clear that Covey himself needed to take charge of paying the mortgage, sorting out insurance and looking after the cars. Then, there were other tasks like feeding the new baby that only his wife was qualified to do (in Covey's words – not mine!)
Working through the list it became apparent that there was about 60 hours worth of tasks every week for Covey and his wife to take care of in the home and this wasn't going to be sustainable.
The children realised that and started taking an interest in some of the jobs. Covey's son volunteered to look after the ‘yard' (garden to us Brits).
Covey knew that if his son was going to do a good enough job of looking after the yard he'd need some training.
First, he set expectations. He pointed at his neighbour's yard and said, “See how our neighbour's yard is green and clean? That's what we're after: green and clean. Now come and look at our yard. See the mixed colours? That's not it; that's not green. Green and clean is what we want. Now how you get it green is up to you. You're free to do it any way you want, except paint it. But I'll tell you how I'd do it if it were up to me.”
Covey then gave some tips to his son about how to keep the yard green and clean. Before they finished Covey said that he'd check how things were going in two weeks time. He made it clear that he would be the judge and that his criteria for success was whether the yard was green and clean. The rest was up to his son.
Unsurprisingly, the job wasn't done to Covey's satisfaction at the two-week check-in. But, he talked to his son about why he hadn't achieved what had been asked of him and gave him another chance and another check-in point.
Eventually, Covey's son fully took on responsibility for the yard – he had stewardship over it – and everyone was happy.
What's this got to do with revision?
Everything really. As a parent, you need to move through the stages of stewardship delegation to make sure that your child:
- Has the motivation to revise
- Understands your expectations as far as revision goes
- Has the tools, skills and methods to be able to carry out those expectations
And, I think it's here that a lot of parents come unstuck. You know that your child should be revising and you've got an idea about how you did it back in the day. But, you can't find a way to get them to the point where they are able to take stewardship for their revision.
This is where I can help.
My signature study skills course, The Exam Success Formula, lives inside The Extraordinaries Club, my online hub for families going through the exam years. The Exam Success Formula is designed to help your child to achieve their grades in the best way for them. I will guide your child through:
- Unlocking their motivation so that they have a clear idea of why they're studying for these exams
- How much they should be studying (that's both homework and revision) outside school so that you have clear expectations in your family about how much and when they're studying and when it's absolutely fine for them not to be
- How to revise in a way that works for them – not your idea of revision based on what worked for you thirty years ago
Basically, I'll guide you and your child through the process so that you, as a parent, can move from the Gofer, nagging style of delegation that drives everyone involved around the bend, to the stewardship style of delegation where you feel relaxed and calm because you've set your expectations and know that your child has the tools and skills to study in a way that works for them.
This is what Sarah said, a mum who did The Exam Success Formula with her son last year:
“My son has just received his GCSE results and he’s absolutely delighted. So much of what he learnt from Lucy has helped and in no small part of what I learnt from Lucy helped me support him (particularly not to nag!). Not too late, he realised that if he put the right effort in, in the right way then he’d maximise his time and get the results. Next steps A levels – the Lucy way!”
We start the next round of The Exam Success Formula in January 2020. Join The Extraordinaries Club to take part, and finally stop nagging.