Homework, Communication and Culture
Understanding Your Teen
Any time parents of teenagers or preteens are in a room together, the subject of homework and education seems to be on their lips. Most of the time parents worry more about their teen’s schoolwork than the teen does!
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Well, session five is kind of a conglomerate of three chapters, and they’re great chapters. How do you end the homework hassle? Wouldn’t that’d be great. And I actually think we kind of have an easy, maybe not simple, but an easy presentation on that. Communication is so critical as well as becoming students of the culture. What this means is as parents, we’ve got to lean into the life of our kids. I had another job when I had hair and that was that I spoke to teenagers. I actually used to speak to about a quarter of a million of them a year.
And one of the things I always used to say, and I’m not sure they ever got it, but their parents did, is I would say, “That the decisions you make today,” talking to teens, “will determine, oftentimes, the rest of your life,” and there were kids who were making poor decisions or kids who were making good decisions. So really what this chapter is about is as parents, how do we help our kids make good and healthy right decisions, that again, for the same reason every time, so that they would become responsible adults? And I would always add who love God. So lean into learning more about them. Lean into continuing to communicate. It’s not always easy. And even when it comes to the homework thing, you know what? There are some answers to it. And again, like I said, “Not always easy, but it’s simple.”
Okay, we have a homework problem in our house with our teens. One of them don’t need to motivate them. They’re doing it, but they’re doing a little bit too much may be losing some sleep, and then the other one, I can’t really get them to get them to do anything. I can’t motivate them. So I’m just curious about is there anything I can do or for them?
Well, I feel your pain. And the truth is, is that it’s amazing that you could have different kids from the same family and they go at it differently. We had the same exact experience. This was a problem in our family. And I realized that there was probably a problem with homework when I was in grad school. I was in Princeton, New Jersey and I was working with freshmen at Princeton University, and there were two issues for them. There are other issues, but the two dominant issues, one was relationship problems and out of control behavior because you’re a freshman in college and, of course, none of you ever had that experience, but you know, they just kind of went crazy. They needed some help, but a dominant one was schoolwork.
And what we found was that either it was your one teen who these were kids who they had no life because all they did was study, and they went to bed at two o’clock, and they got it done, and they were like, “[inaudible 00:02:47],” and they made it to Princeton. And then it was the other ones who had their parents do their homework for them. Okay. And that wasn’t good either. The parents had bribed done anything to get them to do that.
So the truth is, is that we’ve got to be able to end the homework hassle. People ask questions like Tony all the time. And what’s unique about it is it’s kind of the same answer. Now, I want to give you an answer from really a mentor of mine. His name is John Rosemond. There is a person older than me who does parenting, and so he’s been around for a long time, and he’s incredible. And he has a book called Ending The Homework Hassle, and he has an A, B, C. Now, this is going to be a simplification of it, but here it is. Are you ready? All by myself, your kids, by the time they’re teens need to do their homework all by themselves. Now, I realize I just guilted some of you and really [Kathy 00:03:39] and I always wanted them to do it all by themselves, and there are times when we found ourselves doing that.
And definitely even fifth grade, which was preteen, I did a science project mainly for my daughter one time, and then the science project fell apart and broke. And she was mad at me because it was a horrible deal. And I’m like, “What am I doing this?” But all by myself, they have to learn how to do their homework. Now, the fascinating side of the all by myself is if they don’t, they’re not going to learn how to be responsible. I have a friend who’s the president of a university, got a call from a woman who said, “My son is in a business class, and he wrote a paper and he got a D and it’s an A paper, and I’m really upset.” So I’m thinking, “Wow, this mom cares about the kid’s school at this age and calls the president of the university?”
So the president happens to see the business person, professor and said, “Hey, do you know who so-and-so is?” And he says, “Yeah, yeah.” Said, “He wrote a paper, his mom happened to be talking to me and said it was a D paper what he got for it her but she thought it was an A.” He goes, “Oh, it was an F paper. I was giving him grace.” And so then the president feels awkward, calls the woman back up and said, “Hey, I talked to the professor and said, “It just wasn’t his best work, and so he was going to stick with the D.” she goes, “I have an MBA from Stanford, and I wrote that paper.” So here’s a mom who’s even writing the paper for college. Okay. But again, it starts with adolescents. So all by myself. Now, that’s hard.
Some of you who are kind of control freaks, that’s a tough one because all by myself might mean that they may not be as good. So B stands for back off. It’s going to be really hard for the controlling type parents, don’t give them constant attention. Don’t sit with them. The amount of parents who have said with their adolescents, when they’ve talked to me, they said, “We sit at the desk, we do the homework together.” Okay, well, really are you going to go to work and do that? Are you going to go to their marriages and do that? So what John Rosemond says, and I wholeheartedly agree with him, “Is back off,” and here’s the deal. Some of you aren’t going to like this, especially if you’re here are with kids at major schools and all that. Guess what? If they fail, it may not be the worst thing.
If they don’t turn in their homework, it may not be the worst thing because kids learn from failure. You learn from failure, okay? Whether it be academics or whether it be other things. So you back off and again, it goes right along with all by myself, back off a bit, and then also have a time to call it quits. Okay. If you’ve got a child who is way overboard on this thing or they’re taking way too long or whatever, there’s a quit time. I have a good friend who actually is very good in the world of education. His kids quit at nine o’clock and if they’re not done, then they can get up early and start working on it again but the quit time is nine o’clock.
Now, again, that’s not a magical number. I’m just simply saying that, “Man, have a quit time,” because if you don’t, they’re going to just kind of mess around and they’re going to move from something on social media to whatever back, and some of them are going to Dilly Dally. I would’ve been that kid, frankly. Okay. And so have a quit time. Okay. I really like that. It’s succinct. It’s simple, but it’s how we kind of can end the homework hassle if you would.
My teenage boy has more or less stop communicating with us. We ask him, “How was school?” And he says, “fine,” or he just grunts. What are some ways that we can improve the communication lines with him?
Yeah. Well, frankly you said two magic words, teenage and boy. So my experience is, and maybe I’m over-generalizing this, but boys somehow go into non-communicative mode when they’re in their teenage years and also just it’s harder to communicate. I mean they’re in a different world. We used to try to get them to go into their room when they were younger and now we try to get them to get out of their room or whatever, and boys, but sometimes girls too, they’ll do the, “It’s fine,” grunt.
Some of you will have other kids who are just going to talk all the time, but the communication issue is a rough issue, and we really try to tackle it in understanding your teen in a much greater detail than what I’m going to say. But I want to give you three principles and these are communication principles, but it kind of blows sometimes parents mind because they’re thinking I’m going to do technique. But the first one is have serious fun with your boys. I’ll tell you an illustration, I have a friend who’s a pastor in a church in Portland, Oregon. And he was telling me that his 15-year-old was grunting. And saying, “Fine,” and actually not being interested in church. Kind of tough when it’s the pastor’s kid.
And the more we talked, the more I realized that the pastor was very busy, and he wasn’t spending a lot of time with his son. And because his son wouldn’t talk, he tended to back off instead of get right in there, and he kind of had a low-level anger at him. So I said to him, “Doesn’t he play basketball?” “Yeah,” and, “didn’t you play basketball?” “Yeah.” “Well, how come you don’t have a basketball hoop?” I was at his house. “Wow. How come you don’t have a basketball hoop?” I go, “You can go to Walmart, Costco, whatever. You could get a basketball hoop for a hundred bucks. Why don’t you start playing basketball with him?” And he actually took my advice and he went, so I cost him a hundred and I think $50, he bought a hoop and he started saying to his, “Son, hey, let’s play.”
So what happened was they started having fun together, and they’re really competitive. This is what was interesting because my friend is competitive too. So they had this competitive basketball thing going on and he brought his son back through fun. I mean, he wanted to lecture his son, he wanted to preach at his son. He want to do all these things, but he just did it through fun. And I just find that having fun with your teenager, you can be mad at a teenager 24/7/365 it’s just the way it is. So playing together, laughing together, doing something he or she enjoys. See it’s not what we enjoy, and going to the kids’ games are great, or going to the dance recital or whatever is great, but that’s not having fun together. I find that when you have fun together, principle number one when you have fun together, they oftentimes will open up my.
My friend, one day, kind of out of the clear blue, his son said, “Hey, Dad, I really want to get back involved in church. I’m thinking I’ve kind of strayed away.” And as he said, and I loved what he said, he said, “Well, let’s finish this game and then let’s talk about it.” So they finished the game, they sat with two basketballs and he had a great connection with his son, and actually, in a neat way, they prayed together and it was a great thing. But that’s what you do. You find ways to play together. And with guys, especially, you talked about guys, with guys, teenage boy sometimes it’s doing stuff.
I mean, I have a brother who’s ill and I went to see him last week and we watched a football game together. It wasn’t like we talked about his health and all this, we just watched a football game. He goes, “Well, it was kind of fun.” We laughed. We know we kind of talked then here and there, but it wasn’t heavy duty communication. But before the end, we talked about some of his fears about his health, and it was really pretty cool but it happened mainly while we were watching. We were facing this way as he’s talking about it and I was dying because I’m the kind of guy that wanted to go knee to knee, face to face, but I think that’s what we do, have serious fun. So are you having enough fun in your family?
Okay, now, the next principle is a key one and it’s called date regularly. Now, we think of dating with our spouses and oftentimes you’ll hear me talk if I’m speaking on marriage on the nonnegotiable date, but I find in a busy world and we’re all busy and especially with adolescence, oh, are we busy and they are busy. But I find they will stop and have the date. I don’t know that you’re going to call it if you have the son that you’re going to say date regularly. And I don’t even think you say maybe use that term we did.
But do you have a set time that you do something with your adolescent? Not adolescence or all kids, but do you have something with them individually? When they were teenagers, I started doing a date with my girls, usually centered around food, sometimes food that was not on my wife’s healthy agenda list right before dinner and stuff like that but nevertheless. And I was thinking back, I was having a conversation with my daughter, Christie, who’s our oldest, and she said, “I treasured our breakfasts,” and I’d almost kind of forgotten, but we had breakfast once a week for years and this is a kid who would not get up for anything but she’d get up for food.
And I remember, there were times on this date where I would have in my pocket a list, homework, relationships, God, I mean all these things I wanted to talk about, and I tried to do it and we never did. She’d talk about snowboarding or we live by the beach surfing or whatever it was, non-spiritual type things. But what we did was we built this relationship and now I didn’t even know if she liked it. I mean she liked the food. Later on, she goes, “I treasured those times,” so that’s busy and that means that Kathy and like that meant I didn’t help in the morning that morning because I’m off with Christie where Kathy had to get the other two girls to school and things like that. But you know the date side is a great way of communicating. The longer you do that ever swap and they just kind of open up. I have a friend who a sort of a date but he walks the dog with his boys and they walk around the block and the first time that boys don’t really say something. By the second time, the boys might open up.
And then the next one in the last one although I could give you a bazillion of them is volunteer to drive. Oh, my goodness. With adolescence be the driver if you can, the designated driver, and I’m not talking about drinking or drugs, I’m just saying drive and if your kids are younger, you have to drive. But anytime you can drive, drive. The reason is we bought a van with this and we didn’t need a van necessary with the size of our family. We bought a van, it wasn’t a nice van, and it was kind of an ugly van, but, “You need a driver?”
I’d take them because what would happen is the radio would be on, and I kept turning the radio softer and I could hear what was going on. So I was being nosy. And what I found was I learned so much about them and sometimes they would actually even include me in the conversation. So those are ways I think of just practical, simple ways of getting people to communicate with you. Because for me, with my girls anyway, after I would drive, I’d go, “Oh, I really like Jennifer. She’s neat,” sounds like, you know, blah, blah, blah, and we’d have some kind of a conversation. It might take another direction. So those are just some practical ideas on communicating with your teen. But really key, you got to communicate with them differently than you did when they were children.