With the exam season fast approaching, secondary / sixth-form students sitting their exams will need every bit of encouragement from their loved ones. We just thought of highlighting a number of ways to avoid unknowingly annoying them and dampening their confidence. Unnecessary irritations from parents/carers could negatively impact their chances of exam success.
1. Overly repeating negative statements or phrases. For instance, “How much revision have you done?”, “Why are you not studying?”
Try to find nicer, less ‘nagging’ ways of asking questions. Using a wider variety of words can help reduce pressure and frustrations for the student. Aim to build a stronger relationship by treating them with a balanced tone of respect and positive affirmations and a partnering language. We are in this together. Your success is my success.
2. Persistent criticism and pointing out the student’s mistakes
Without being delicately balanced with praise for good behaviour, consistently blaming condemning and criticising them can have demotivational impact on their performance. The typical ones include:
“You are so lazy; you just care about your phone”
“You are so irresponsible. All you just do is watch TV all day”
“You are hopeless”
“You can’t be bothered”
Repetition makes a fact seem far more true, regardless of whether it is or not. They say if you repeat a lie often enough, it ends up becoming the truth. Psychologists call it the “illusion of truth” effect or the “reiteration effect”. Repeated criticism and negativity have a tendency of making the teenager to start to believe that they are actually ‘useless’, ‘lazy’, ‘slothful’, ‘a slug’, ‘pathetic’ or whatever word you call them.
If possible, aim to speak with a bit of positivity, and showing genuine interest in trying to help them deal with their challenges.
3. Endlessly long lectures
Going OTT (over-the-top) about a point and giving long lectures is seldomly the best way to get your point across to any equally frustrated teenager. Many a times all that ‘blah blah blah’ is rarely taken on board by the annoyed recipient.
So, try avoiding those long lectures telling them how immature, wrong, lazy or playful they are. Usually they end up:
- Walking away
- Feeling zoned out or stop listening (whilst pretending to be listening)
- Tell you what you want to hear, but not meaning it deep down.
Instead, find a convenient platform for a two-way conversation in which you collaboratively exchange viewpoints and brainstorm possible ways to resolve the situation. Proactively suggest win-win situations or fair compromises that works best for either party.
4. Helicopter parenting and micromanaging the teenager
Avoid managing and monitoring every aspect of your teenager’s schedule and activities, from sunrise to sunset. Avoid invading their privacy unless it’s extremely necessary. At their age, they deserve a bit more freedom and independence. Equally, most secondary schoolers, sixth-formers and college students are expected and would love to be treated as being capable of managing their school/college and social responsibilities with minimal adult supervision.
Deci and Ryan’s 2008 Self-Determination Theory highlights three innate needs for healthy human development:
- Basic need for autonomy
- Basic need to be confident in one’s abilities and accomplishments
- Basic need to feel loved and cared for
It feels like micromanaging or helicopter parenting is almost a violation of the teenager’s human rights, harsh as it sounds. We really need to tone down the ‘ninja-dad’ or ‘ninja-mum’ inside us. Schiffrin and Liss’s 2013 research on college students concluded that helicopter parented children had more chances of anxiety, depression and stress; as well as a lower level of confidence and life satisfaction.
We could consider swapping our hovering helicopter tendencies with a more coaching approach, which researchers have found to yield better results and outcomes for the teenager. Support them in making objective, well calculated decisions but not imposing your views on them. The role of the parent is to ‘prepare the teenager for the road, not the road for the teenager’
5. Being an annoying ‘know it all” parent
Annoying tendencies that could easily put teenagers off include:
- Imposing things on them – “Just do it, I know it all, I was once a teenager as well’ Things have changed, being a teenager today is completely different to those good old days. You can’t validly say “when I was your age”. They face a completely different set of challenges those you were faced with growing up. Be open-minded and be willing to listen to their perspective.
- Avoid over-reacting or losing your cool and end up being pushy and giving invalid reactions like ‘Because I said so’ or ‘Stop arguing and talking back to me like that’. Sometimes you may have a valid reason, especially if they are being disrespectful and raising their voice. However you need to have enough self-discipline to take a step back and re-focus. I don’t’ believe we need to have the ‘I owe you know explanation’ mentality. Let them ‘speak their mind’, then use wisdom to channel the energy in a more fruitful conversation. And in the process avoid jumping into conclusions. They may have a valid reason.
- Not admitting its your fault or refusing to apologise – own up to your mistakes. It’s good medicine for healing a broken relationship with your teenager. In addition, avoid breaking promises. No matter how small, stick to it. It enhances their trust in you.
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