Is nagging about revision ruining your relationship with your teen? Let’s talk about it…
One of the most horrible things about the GCSE and A-Level years for parents is watching your teen fritter away their time, forcing you into the position where you feel you have to nag them to get on with their revision.
It's so tough because, even though you're doing it because you care, by nagging you're putting yourself on the opposite team to them. It puts you against them and can actually lead to a break down in communication at this vital time in their lives, when you want all communication channels to be wide open.
Let's talk about:
- Why you end up nagging (other than just being exasperated because they're not doing the work)
- What you can do to improve the situation, and hopefully stop nagging altogether
- Problems you might hit along the way
Why you end up nagging in the first place
There are various deeper problems that mean teens aren't willingly doing the work, particularly in the GCSE years, but this can cross over to A-Level for some students too.
Here's a list…
- They have a different perception of time to you
- They've got out of good study routines in years 7-9
- Nobody's made their expectations clear
- They're more interested in other aspects of teenage life
- Your expectations are higher than what they're developmentally able to deliver
What you can do to improve the situation, and hopefully stop nagging altogether
Step 1 – The Reality Check
When your teen is calm you need to have a chat with them about:
- How much time is really available to them until their exams and how it's going to pass
- Your expectations for how they need to be working (essentially, what you need to see to stop nagging them)
- Setting realistic boundaries between their studies and other aspects of their life e.g. gaming time and social media time
- How they can make this happen
This fourth step is really important as it gives them some control, or autonomy, which is much more motivating than just being told what to do.
Step 2 – Make sure they've got the study skills they need to succeed
Too many young people are nagged and cajoled into revising when they don't know how. This makes them feel ashamed because there is this huge expectation from both parents and teachers that they'll be doing this thing, but they don't know how to do it.
The ‘good' teens will make a stab at doing it (which might consist of making some pretty posters or sitting on their bed for hours staring at a text book). Other teens won't even try because they don't have enough confidence or direction to even get started.
It is completely unfair to expect anyone to do anything when they don't know how – and it's particularly unfair to perpetuate a feeling as toxic as shame.
If your child clearly isn't revising in a productive way that's getting them better marks (we talked about this last time) then you know they need to brush up on their study skills.
Step 3 – Check in
The final step is to have check-in points to see how things are going. There are two ways to do this, a right way and a wrong way.
The wrong way
You finish your working day, feeling tired and hungry. The first thing you see is your teen on their games console, and no sign that any revision or homework has been done. Because you're a bit frazzled you say, “Why aren't you revising? Don't you know your exams are happening in 3 months? We've got to confiscate the console.”
You can imagine this inflaming into a raging row within in seconds. Clearly it's not helpful or productive.
The right way
When both your teen and you are feeling calm and well fed (nobody's hangry!), you have a conversation about how their revision is going, whether they have any problems or difficulties with it and what you can do to help them move forward.
You can do this either by agreeing a check-in time in advance, or just seizing the moment on a dog walk or on a lazy Sunday afternoon – whatever works for you.
Problems you might hit along the way
1. Your child isn't developmentally able to take on responsibility for their studies
Young people mature in different ways at different times. There are some fourteen year olds who have been taking charge of their studies for years with very little involvement from their parents, other than to say ‘Well Done' when they get a school report.
However, there are also some young people who just aren't ready to take charge themselves. This might be a developmental thing, in that their executive planning and organisation skills are unpracticed or not ready. Or, it may be because of a neurodiversity.
If your child is in this situation you may have to be a lot more hands on with their studies than you'd ideally like to be.
2. Your child looks like they're doing the work, but it's the wrong kind of work
We talked a lot more about this last time. You just need to be looking for the right signs of success.
Many parents expect to see lots of revision notes being produced, but this isn't actually a great sign of good revision. Instead, they need to be testing themselves. The ultimate sign of revision success is that their marks are improving, or at least holding steady.
3. They're not motivated by school work or revision
There's some much deeper work to do here if they're just not motivated by or engaged with what they're learning about and why they're doing it. My recent podcast interview with motivation expert Sharath Jeevan is a great place to get more insight into this.
The nagging stops here
I hope this article has given you a starting point to stop the nagging. Some parents certainly find it easier to move to a place of trust around revision and homework than others.
If you'd like more help, download my 7 Top Tips to Help Your Child Reach Their Academic Potential here.