Common Complaints Parents Have and How They Can Get Over Them to Help Their Tween Learn
Having a middle schooler is a whole new ballgame. There are new rules to parenting, when you have a tween in the house. Your tween comes home, probably drops their backpack in the middle of the doorway, and retreats to their rooms to play video games, text, and Snapchat (?) until they may or may not make an appearance for dinner. Or you have so many extracurricular activities that homework starts to take a backseat. Football practice, karate, girl scouts, the school play…you name it, and it takes top priority over studying for a test! By the time everyone gets home and settled, it’s time to start a new day.
And, with state testing and the competitiveness of school these days, kids are required to do, learn, and achieve more and more. How can you support your tween, providing them the help they need with their academics, all while providing the millions of other things they need on a day to day basis?
After teaching for ten years, I have heard it all as to why your child doesn’t have their homework. Not just from him, but from YOU! Here’s how we can tackle the common complaints parents of tweens seem to have, when it comes to helping with schoolwork and studying.
Help me, Help you.
“I don’t understand this stuff!!!” This is perhaps the most common complaint I hear from parents. Maybe you never learned it or it was so long ago, that you can’t even remember it. Learning has become “facilitated” by the teacher with complex curriculums, rather than that old fashioned direct instruction. What’s a parent to do? First and foremost…don’t give up! This sends a clear message to your child that if you don’t understand something, throwing in the towel is the solution. Is this the example we want to set for our kids? Perhaps the best thing to do would be to email the teacher…ask him or her for extra resources or suggestions. Next…ask your child! What notes do you have and what did you do in class, that could help you get the work done at home? Also, enlist the help of the internet. Math skills can get refined using programs like TenMarks.com, or KhanAcademy (and are free…score!). Trouble with science? New Jersey’s own Center for Teaching and Learning (www.njctl.org) have entire curriculums available to all grade levels and just requires a simple registration. Showing your kids that it’s okay to not know an answer is important, but it’s even more important to show them that giving up is not okay.
Make the Time
“I have so much to do…I work two jobs and we have a new baby in the house.” I know that parents have to do more and more just to provide the life necessities to their families. Gone are the days of June Cleaver, but the lack of parental involvement does have major repercussions. Even if it is only for a half an hour, spend some time with your child. Put your phone down, shut off the TV, and ask what grades they earned on their test (yes, that means actually knowing they had a test!). Just knowing someone at home wants to see them do well is a huge motivator, especially for a kid just entering middle school. Reward them when they do well with some quality time, and let them know you noticed it
“I just don’t know how to help my child study.” This is where the academic tricks come in. Kids aren’t just asked to memorize a list of spelling words by Friday anymore, and this can be a major shock to the system. The most important thing is to not wait until the last minute. Set aside a designated time for homework and studying, and squeeze in review any chance you get, even if it’s just in the car on the way to soccer practice. Create your own study guide, flash cards, or review sheets. Redo homework assignments, to review the types of questions teachers will be asking on tests and quizzes. Have your tween rewrite their notes they took in class. SchoolFamily provides an excellent list of ideas to get started on the studying bandwagon…see what helps and works for you. Being involved helps scaffold their learning, and lets them know you’re there to catch them if they fall. (Bonus: look at all the cool new knowledge you’ll learn too!
“My tween wants nothing to do with me…never mind sitting down to do homework together!” Unfortunately, once kids hit middle school they will start to pull away to test the waters of growing up. This will pose the greatest challenge for parents, when it comes to helping their kids do well in school. But, if you’re involved as much as you can be, sneak in some review in those car rides, things should work themselves out. Parents cannot let a valuable minute get away. Children of all ages just tend to do better when they have someone at home that is invested consistently. Children stumble and fall, and they may fail a test or two, but a consistent presence lets them know how much they’re valued.
Getting a kid through middle school is not easy…it’s probably the worst and hardest possible time for parents. Who is this kid? Where did my baby go? Why don’t they need me anymore? Trust me, they’re still your baby in there, and they still need you. And once you climb the middle school mountain and fight that fight, chances are you’ll have a pretty well rounded kid on your hands, that someday will look back on these days and thank you for always being there and not giving up on them.