Homework struggles? How to coach your teen

With Spring Break in the rearview mirror and summer vacation around the corner, this time of year marks the home stretch for academics. Yet it can also spell challenges for your teen. It is easy to lose momentum, and your teen may be feeling discouraged.

Has homework become a daily struggle at your home? Our tips for coaching your teen:

1.) Approach homework as a team sport.

Although you and your teen may be at odds when it comes to getting homework done, remember that success is a team sport. You are not rivals, but teammates. Butting heads will happen occasionally, but an attitude of teamwork can work wonders. Remind your teen that you are on their side and that you are ready to work together to make a game plan for success.

2.) Talk openly to pinpoint struggles.

Choose a time when both you and your teen are calm and not distracted. Ask specific questions to identify the specific struggles your student faces. For example, if your teen says, “Math is too hard,” dig deeper. What aspects of class are most challenging? Is the subject matter confusing? Could your teen need tutoring? Or perhaps your teen feels insecure about low grades compared to peers. When you get to the core of the problem, you and your teen can create a solution.

3.) Understand what kind of student your teen is.

To be a good coach, it can help to identify what kind of student your teen is. At Shelterwood, we have found that most students fall into one of four kinds of students:

  • The Motivated Student: This student is driven to achieve and independently pursues excellence in school. The Motivated Student is passionate about academic success.
  • The Motivated, Accommodated Student: This student wants to do well academically, but may struggle in one or more classes. This teen receives help in school and, even with limitations, still strives for success.
  • The Procrastinating Student: This student waits until the last minute to complete homework. It can be difficult to tell that the Procrastinating Student is falling behind until progress reports are sent home. The student may not struggle with the material, but with the timeline. This struggle may be confusing for parents and frustrating for the family.
  • The Combative and Resisting Student: This student becomes agitated and upset by simply mentioning homework. There may be many reasons that a student is combative, including struggles with the subject matter, frustration over lack of study skills, power struggles, undiagnosed learning disabilities or emotional struggles.

4.) Encourage your teen in a way that connects best.

As with any good team, it helps to understand what motivates your teammates. Understanding how your teen approaches homework can reveal big clues in how to encourage them and draw out their best performance. Support your teen based on what motivates them:

  • The Motivated Student: Support this student by providing the time and space to make decisions. This student can often be critical, so be a constant cheerleader. Regular encouragement can help this student maximize full potential.
  • The Motivated, Accommodated Student: When this student falls into the trap of simply looking at the day-to-day successes and failures, frustration can set in. Coach your teen with frequent reminders of the full arc of his or her improvements. It is important not to do this in an empty, vague way, but to truly celebrate success with specific affirmations. Tutoring and peer study groups can also be valuable.
  • The Procrastinating Student: Issues arise when parents are unaware that their student has been procrastinating, and this can erode trust. It can help to ask this student homework-related questions daily, communicate with teachers and support your teen in scheduling. At the same time, be cautious of taking on too much. Rather than allowing your teen to defer responsibility to you, start the conversation about what lies beneath the procrastination. Maybe fear and self-doubt, not laziness, is paralyzing progress.
  • The Combative and Resisting Student: Instead of engaging in the battle, empathy and loving engagement are how you can best coach your teen. Set aside the homework and focus on your teen as a person. This can help get to the bottom of things and uncover the right solution. Consider professional therapy to diagnose and treat underlying issues. Resistant teens can sometimes push parents into expressing their own anger. Rather than taking your teen’s opposition personally, recognize that this teen is in a critical place and in serious need of help.

Homework doesn’t have to be a battle, and parents can come alongside their teen as a coach by knowing their student’s strengths and weaknesses. Are homework struggles becoming a daily problem for you and your teen? Is your student stumbling academically because of anxiety, depression or other concerns? Shelterwood offers real hope and real restoration for struggling teens. Contact us to see if Shelterwood is right for your teen. We are here to help.