How To Get Your Teen To Do Homework

We all know yelling doesn't work. Consider these ideas on how to modify teen behavior.

by Ginger Long • Member { View Profile }
Photograph: iStock

Easy, right?
I started thinking about teens and parents and how the two worlds don’t operate on the same network. Yet, reliance and dependence is still a necessary part of survival. The teens don't like this reality. The parents can't imagine that the teens will ever make it on their own. Those wings are not quite ready to take flight, but the little birds need to start building them up so when they are nudged and/or lovingly pushed, they don’t land flattened on the sidewalk. Splat. A parents biggest fear.

Yelling. Ineffective and detrimental. Not relationship building. Air-traffic controllers can't yell flight orders (although they have been doing other odd things lately). I started thinking, yelling has an impact but what would have a quicker impact with a motivating kicker? Hmmm, back to parents and teens not belonging together but still necessary.

My kids all hit 14 or 15 in a similar manner. It was pretty clear they did not want me publicly embarrassing them. This meant, where I once was allowed to wave at them at a school event, I was now expected to pretend I did not know them. Waving is embarrassing. Having a mother is embarrassing. It reminds them that they have not been permitted to fly out of the nest yet. It reminds them that they are not strong enough to go, just yet. I have a terrible memory that included yelling that followed the response I got when I said hello to a child at a sports event. I saved the yelling for private time, and I believe that was the second mistake. Yelling publicly would not have garnered the hello I foolishly imagined. Waiting until later made it seem like requesting a wave meant I was unbalanced and needy and trying to be a bff. “It wasn’t a big deal,” I thought. Neither was correct; neither was effective.

I am thinking that rather than try hard not to embarrass my children, it might be better to work with that. I am wondering about the parents out there who seem embarrassing for real. Maybe they are onto something. If I shout hello to my son and then start waving and woo-hooing to all his friends, peers, and random schoolmates, I am sure someone would wave hello back. He would need to alter his behavior to diffuse and normalize the situation because the code is strong. If he acts like I am weird, that makes it true, and if I am weird, he might be too. Maybe that will be how I handle low grades. Weirdness pressure.

Parents who dress funny might be a very good approach. I do realize that we all dress a bit funny, but some of us really stand out. I might wear leather chaps, over orange striped leggings and a tube top to the next school function. This could be simply in response to the “I forgot” to clean my room, have the cell phone on, whatever.  "What, I forgot to change out of my work clothes!" I could snicker. 

Participating in public affection, rubbing, tongue lunging, and freewheeling hands in a public, high-traffic setting might be fun. Children love when mothers are multidimensional beings, don’t they?

Just last week, I am sure some teen somewhere approached their mother and said, “Mom, you seem a little sexually repressed, you might want to free yourself up a bit. It’s hard to imagine that you have human feelings of desire or that your body has any functional purpose or responds to touch.” Not on your life! Unless you are an aging celebrity, and that's just weird. This technique can be used for lying or breaking curfew. The mere suggestion would garner a few more nights of high-level homework participation.

 How about it? I might be onto something big.

My daughter has a friend whose father has a wicked sense of humor, (I like to believe.) He would yell at running events to motivate his daughter to move faster. "O.K., I bet you're sorry you ate all that ice cream last summer!" he yelled. There was typically a large bubble of personal space around him, and hushed tones of horror. His daughter just ran past, eyes rolling to the finish line. I miss him. I liked to imagine my daughter was thankful that I just waved occasionally.

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