Mentors: What Are They and How Do You Find One?

A mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser.”

How do we come to find mentors? Often we either seek them out or they appear in our lives as someone to whom we feel connected.  Whether it is someone to share in your parenting, career choices, or hobbies, mentors can help you grow.  I just got off the phone with one of my mentors and am reminded by how much my mentors inspire me! My whole life I havesought out people I think are amazing, people that will be straight with me, people I can model, and people that will make me a better person for just having known them. I have a mentor from every stage of my life, and every town I have lived.

I just returned from Amsterdam, where I visited the Van Gough museum. Van Gough was only an artist for a total of 10 years (age 27-37)  and constantly sought to study under people who could do what he wanted better. He painted hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of sunflowers until he had what he thought was the perfect sunflower. He lived a simple life with no money, borrowing from his parents and brother to live. Like many, his work was popular after his suicide at age 37.  His last letter to his brother, who had supported his art career, was about what a failure he was. Wow! That part of the audiotape actually brought tears to my eyes.

Van Gough had many mentors that contributed to the artist he became.  Thinking about this in the context of what my mentors have meant to me, I was reminded of a quote about youth, “The best help we can offer the youth of today is to prepare them for tomorrow.” ― Mark W. Boyer

Webinar_PC RlpsWhile this is about teens specifically, I think it applies to all. We can all benefit from preparation for what we haven’t yet experienced. We can learn so much from the people who have had those experiences, or from those who simply have access to different information or unique perspectives that challenge or add to our own. Through this, we are given an opportunity to see the world through a different pair of glasses. Whether it is a teen in your life or a good friend….don’t let them live their life not knowing the gifts they have to offer the world.  If you have the opportunity to be a mentor to someone, don’t hesitate. If you don’t have a mentor, find one.  You never know the impact those relationships will have on your life.

Tips for Finding a Mentor:

1. Mentors Have Something You Want: Mentors are credible sources for learning whatever it is you wish to learn. They offer support and guidance in a particular area. This doesn’t mean having all the answers. In fact, often mentors rely on their own thoughts, interpretations and experiences.

2. Mentors Nourish the Relationship: Mentors have qualities you respect. They  ask open questions and get to know you personally. They show genuine interest in your hopes, dreams, challenges, and interests. Then, they use this information to provide opportunities for you to grow.

3. Mentors Share Insights and Experiences: Mentors share their experiences, but in a neutral way. The idea is that you are left with information and ideas so that you can make a decision for yourself. Mentors offer ideas, encouragement, and an “open door policy” to discuss  the challenges you may face. Challenges are not road block, but opportunities to grow through.

4.  Mentors Listen Well: Mentors are a great sounding board. A mentor is someone you can say anything to; you can feel free to express your excitement and your fears. They will offer direct advice, but only when asked. Often through their fresh perspective and honest listening, you will solve your own problems.

5. Mentors Provide Encouragement: Mentors will give you those upbeat words of encouragement that help you to see what you can not see for yourself. We are often our own worst critic. Like Van Gough, we may see ourselves as failures from time-to-time. Mentors can remind you of your strengths and accomplishments, while giving you the hope to keep pushing when you really just want to give up.

Help You Teen Find Mentors

As their parent, you can certainly be a mentor to your teen. However, you can also play an active role in helping them find other mentors. They already benefit from your love, wisdom and experience. Trusted mentors will not take away from that relationship. It will give your teen access to another person that cares about his or her well-being  Research shows that teens benefit greatly from having someone, outside of their parents, to bounce things off of.  While you may want your teen to talk to you, don’t take it personally if they find someone with whom they connect. Rather than competing, become part of that relationship by talking to them about what they are learning.

Nourish these relationships; they are life-changing.

Happy parenting!

Shelly

Advertisements

The Pressure of Being a Teenager

Teenagers know what pressure is!

Just try it, it will be fun.  Are you really going to wear that? Hey, did you hear that Joe’s parents are out of town Saturday. OMG! We have to do that again! Do it, or I’ll tell everyone what a poser you are!  You can’t say things like that if you are going to hang out with us.

Does any of this sound familiar? We were all teenagers at one time and have heard some variation of the statements above.  When you really look, you may see that you still succumb to peer pressure at times.  Ever show up to a formal party in casual dress? Ever say something and everyone silently stares at you like you are from Mars?  Ever have someone ask you to do something that you really didn’t want to do?

The difference between you and your teenager is that you have developed some skills and strategies for navigating pressure.  Your teen is learning and needs your help. Most teens will say that they feel pressure at varying degrees every day. Teens feel pressure to fit in with their peers, please their parents, do well in school, be active, have good manners, be popular, etc.  Tumultuous as it is, it is part of growing up and something we all experience.

Pressure from parents and peers can be completely different beasts. While parents generally love their children unconditionally and truly want what’s best for them, peer groups are often unpredictable, fickle, and take on a personality of their own. At home, teens can feel pressure to perform, have manners, do chores, and generally be “good”.  With friends, teens can feel pressure to be cool and fit in. What is normal behavior in one peer group may be unacceptable in another. Sometimes, these pressures conflict as your teen tries to navigate his/her way through the teen years.

Most people talk about peer pressure as the primary way in which teens influence one another.  This is because the general definition of peer pressure is the influence that a group of peers exert on an individual within the group.  Individual behaviors are an attempt to conform to what is expected of the group as a whole. In other words, teens do what they have to do to fit in.  However, a closer look at the research reveals that there are at least 5 different ways that peers can have a positive or detrimental influence on one another.

5 Types of Peer Influence:

1.  Peer Pressure: Directly and overtly persuading others to engage in a particular behavior.

For Example:  “You can’t be seen with that guy anymore if you are going to hang out with us!”

2.  Modeling: Exhibiting or demonstrating a particular attitude or behavior for others to imitate.

For Example: “All my friends are drinking at this party. Maybe I should try some…”

3.  Opportunity: Being somewhere that provides opportunities for prosocial or antisocial behavior.

For Example: “Looks like we are all alone until your parents get home at 9:00.”

4. Reinforcement: Supporting behaviors that fit within the norms of the group.

For Example: “You look great today. I love your outfit!”

5. Aggression: Using intimidation, force, or bullying to control group norms, and enhance or maintain individual or group status.

For Example: “Give me your lunch or I’ll dunk your head in the toilet!”

As parents, we want to help our teen navigate these kinds of pressures and minimize negative influences.  So, what can you do? 

  • Expand your understanding of peer pressure: Look for ways in which peer influence could be present in your teen’s life. Teens can be exposed to different kinds of influence depending on their interests, activities, hobbies, geographic location, etc.
  • Help your teen understand the range of influences: A teen may or may not be conscious of influence.  However, knowing what it can look like can make it more noticeable when it happens.
  • Teach your teen to be prepared: Help your teen develop strategies that minimize or remove peer influence. For example, carrying a cup around at a party can reduce or remove invitations to drink.  
  • Create escape codes: Practice code words or phrases that your teen can use with you when he/she is in a bind. Make sure your teen knows that you, or another trusted adult, can provide a ride whenever one is needed.   
  • Teach your teen to trust his/her instincts: We’ve all had that pain in our gut when “something is wrong”.  Communicate that this pain is a protective mechanism that should be trusted.
  • Be the final scapegoat:  If all else fails, tell your teen to blame you. “My parents won’t let me” or “We have family plans” work great!
  • Teach your teen to think about IMPACT:  Teens are quite capable of considering the “consequences” of their actions. However, teens usually see consequences as negative, personal, and close to home. For example, a teen may be more worried about being rejected than getting caught. Talking about the “impact” of their decisions creates an open conversation that carries less judgement and more awareness of how their behavior can effect themselves and others.
  • Focus on your relationship: Lines of communication are created when you pay attention and show interest in your teen’s world.  Not only will your teen tell you more about what is going on in their life, they will be more open to your advice. Be aware that advice seeking is not always overt.  Sometimes the best guidance comes from modeling, and sharing personal experiences and stories when opportunities presents themselves.  Remember, your teen is watching and listening to you more than you may think!

Happy Parenting,

Shelly

A Spin on Risk-Taking Behavior as an Expression of Positive Youth Development

More often then not we associate risk-taking behavior in teens as negative or harmful. However, we know that the teen brain is literally wired to take risks. Therein lies the dilemma. We are left with the belief, or fear, that our teens are going to take risks that could have serious consequences.

I would like to offer a different perspective. If we know that our teens are naturally going to engage in experiences that give them an adrenaline rush, why not provide them with opportunities to have that rush in an environment that promotes positive youth development? When you really think about it, don’t we all develop new skills and competencies when we put our selves out there and take a risk? Now, I am not suggesting that you encourage your teen to be dangerous or unsafe. Rather, I am suggesting that you literally set up opportunities for them to take positive risks.

Start by really thinking about what kind of activities best fit your teen. Below are some examples of positive risks that relate to different characteristics in teens:

  • Social risks: For some teens, it is risky to speak out in a group. If you have a quiet or reserved teen, it may be enough to encourage them to take a leadership role in something like student counsel or  a local youth group.
  • Physical risks: Some teens find satisfaction in taking risks on the field. This may be through school or community sponsored sport teams. Not only can sports be good for team building and leadership development, they expose young people to adult role models.
  • Other physical risks: Not all teens like team sports. Some may prefer to take up skateboarding, mountain biking, skiing, rock climbing, white water rafting, or surfing.  Of course, they need to have the right equipment and safety training. These activities develop initiative and personal discipline.
  • Political risks: Some teens are passionate about making a difference in their community. They may like writing their local congressman/woman, voicing their opinion on debate team, or participating in community activist or youth governance groups.
  • Creative Risks: Teens can express their creative juices in a variety of contexts. Some may take an interest in the drama team or the school choir.  Others may like playing guitar, reading poetry,  or reciting  spoken word at the local coffee shop. Either way, this kind of expression can take some serious guts!  Not only do these activities  give young people an opportunity to develop a specific skill, they teach them to be competent in public speaking.
  • Competitive Risks: Give your teen a chance to compete if they are inclined.  They can learn a lot, regardless of whether they  win  or lose.   If your teen does lose, treat it as opportunity to teach that we all lose at some point. Losing a competition does not make him/her a failure. It simply means there was a lack of performance.

We have to do everything we can to keep our teens physically and emotionally safe.  But, we also have to give our  teens a chance to take risks, learn about themselves, and develop skills and competencies that help them accomplish what they want in the world. Experts say that when teens have opportunities to take positive risks, they are more inclined to avoid the negative ones.   Think about our great leaders. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Abraham Lincoln did not have the impact they had on the world by sitting back and being careful all the time. I would like to leave you with some of my favorite quotes from Abraham Lincoln. As you read them, take a moment to consider how you can share these with your teen, or even be the example of how they are expressed in the world.

1. “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
2. “The best way to predict your future is to create it”
3. “Those who look for the bad in people will surely find it.”
4. “Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.”
5. “I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.”
6. “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.”
7. “Live a good life. In the end it is not the years in a life, but the life in the years.”
8. “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.”
9. “Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.”
10. “It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Happy Parenting!

Shelly

5 Steps to Creating the New Year With Your Teen

First of all HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I hope 2012 was filled with exciting moments and lasting memories, and that 2013 brings you happiness and vitality!  People often start their new year by making resolutions, either  individually or as a family. Many think of a resolution as a single goal, or a habit that should be created or dropped. Instead of this approach, try planning all that you would like to accomplish over the next  year.  This is even more fun if you do this with your teen. You may find this experience an eye-opening opportunity to learn about what is important to one another.

Creating with each other is another way to build a strong relationship. Teens feel important when you show an interest in them and empowered when they get to contribute to family plans. The first step in creating together is being individually thoughtful about what you want and then coming together to discuss. Take some time to brainstorm what is important to you personally and what you want for your family.  Then, build a new tradition by sharing what you have come up with over a good cup of tea or your favorite meal.

Plans don’t have to be complex. In fact they should be simple, a true expression of what you want to achieve and your initial thoughts on how you would go about accomplishing your goals. The best plans start out short and very high level. Of course, you can create as many plans as you would like, but make sure they inspire you!

Use the following format and begin creating!

Five Steps to Planning Your Upcoming Year.

1.  Review the Last Year.  Take some time to think about what you have accomplished, and what you have left undone. Some people make lists that they can check at the end of a given year. It is important to remember that this is not a time to be critical of yourself. Don’t assign meaning to what was not accomplished, but instead evaluate if that is still important to you. If it is, include it again this year. If it is not, scrap it and create something new.

2. Identify Your Goals, Where You Are Now, and New Steps Toward Your Goals.  Begin by making a list of your high-level plans and then start filling in the details.  It can take some thought to move you from A to B.  This is where you can benefit from the ideas and support of other family members.  Of course, you can continue to add to this as the year goes on and you learn more and more about what it takes to reach your goals.

Follow this template:

On the top of a blank sheet of paper, write “What I Want

On the bottom of that page, write Where I am now in relation to where I want to be”

In the middle of the page, from the bottom up, write “The steps that will get you to your goal”

3. Share With Your Family and Continue Brainstorming. Share what you have come up with and then write as many new ideas as you can on your sheet of paper.  Be open to what comes up in the discussion. Don’t judge yourself and HAVE FUN! You can make a final product later.

4. Display Your Goals: Find a common place in the house to display everyone’s goals. You can use anything from an inexpensive cork board to a more creative display. This can serve as a daily or weekly reminder of what you are committed to over the next year. It also provides a place to celebrate achievements, or to adapt initial goals as the year goes on.

5. Revisit Your Goals Together. Pick regular intervals to revisit your goals as a family. This may be monthly, quarterly, or whatever time frame works for you. Don’t leave this step out! Peoples’ lives and circumstances change on a regular basis. Revisiting will help you stay present to what is going on in each other’s day-to-day lives.

You will be surprised by what you can accomplish when you are intentional!

Happy Parenting!

Shelly

Connect With Your Teen Through Music

One of the greatest things about teenagers is the wonder, passion, and intensity through which they see the world and live their lives.  They are curious, thoughtful, and dramatic.  For many teens, music becomes a major way to express themselves and feel through their emotions.  The love struck teen makes a playlist of love songs.  The heart-broken teen listens to sad songs to get through loss.  The athletic teen listens to music to get pumped up for an event. The happy teen blasts music and sings along. Teens are not afraid to dance to music in the rain, or play it loudly throughout the house and from the car.

The massive increase in technology certainly presents challenges for parents. However, technology can also help you stay connected to your teen. The important thing is that your teen learns to protect his/her online identity, and that you guide and monitor their use.  YouTube is very popular site among teenagers. With YouTube, teens can listen to any song they want and create playlists of their favorites.  You too can create a YouTube account, and subscribe to your teen’s playlists (as long as your teen has made them public). I personally have a YouTube account, I subscribe to my teens lists, and I mine through their music.  You may or may not like the same kind of music your teen likes.  But, there are a number of reasons to tune in!

1.  You Can Use Their Music To Express Your Feelings For Them.  I came across the following song while looking through one of my son’s YouTube playlists.  It says so much about the relationship I have with both of my children. It also says a lot about who I want to be for them.  One line in particular says, “You can ALWAYS come home”.  I gave both my teens this song and told them it made me think of them.  Sometimes, it is the simple things that say I LOVE YOU!

2.  You Can Learn About Your Teen. The music your teen listens to can reflect his/her interests. Songs communicate a range of experiences, beliefs, and desires. While it can be easy to be concerned by some of the lyrics, don’t get stuck there. Teens often overlook the negativity and stand in the values you have taught them. Depending on your teen’s age, lyrics may even go over their head.  Knowing what your teen is listening to can be the first step in having a conversation about what you think.

3.  Music Creates Relationship Through Commonality: I once heard a dad tell a beautiful story about reconnecting with his son by taking him to a Metallica concert.  He was excited to share that the silence that was present on the way to the concert was non-existent on the way home.  In fact, his son talked his ear off, not only about the concert, but about all kinds of other things that were going on in his world.  The father was proud of himself for being able to sit through the whole concert, even though he preferred classical music.  He told his son that “they were not as bad as he thought they would be”.  But, he left out the part about wearing earplugs the entire time.  The point was never to fall in love with Metallica’s music. It was to spend quality time doing something his son loved.

4.  It Gives Your Teen An Opportunity to Share:  Being a teenager can be like living in an entirely separate society. Our culture even perpetuates this by using terms like “youth culture”.  The concept of a “youth culture” is that teens live by their own set of rules, roles, and responsibilities, which separates them from adults. This separation can as teens feeling like adults are always telling them what to do.  When you show an interest in their music, you are giving them an opportunity to share a little piece of them. They are left feeling like you are interested in them.

5.  It Helps You Understand What They May Be Going Through: If you pay attention, music can cue you into what is going on in your teen’s life.  You can use a song to start a conversation, or to show that you are interested in them or what they are going through.  You can also use song lyrics as a teachable moment.  For example, rather than sitting down at the table to have a conversation about drinking alcohol, use the lyrics from a song to generate a two way dialogue.

6.  It Keeps You Current. Teens like it when adults understand their world. Whether or not you actually like their music, it makes them feel accepted for who they are if you know something about it. Parenting teens is never a popularity contest because we must always be present to protecting, coaching, and disciplining. Knowing their music can, however, up the Cool Factor.

Happy Parenting!

Shelly

Something Has Got To Change! Creating Habits for School Success

It is natural to put a lot of energy into the transition back to school. Don’t forget that it is just as important to develop good habits throughout the entire year. Consider that many of the things that you do on a day-to-day basis are not well thought out decisions, but habits. This is as true for your teen as it is for you, and can have a big impact on how well your teen does in school.

As the newness of the school year wears off, families begin settling into new routines. How are things going so far? Try completing the following sentence, “Now that the school year is underway….”

  1. Everything is going great!
  2. My teen is already behind!
  3. I feel like all I do is nag!
  4. My teen seems stressed out!

New routines or habits are established in the first few weeks, and can impact on how or what your teen does in school.  Don’t forget that it is just as easy to develop good habits, as it is to develop bad ones. Without some consideration, we can even absent-mindedly fall back into old habits. If you notice that certain things are not working, it is time to reprogram that habit!

How are habits formed? Neuroscientists have traced our habit-making behaviors to the basal ganglia, the part of our brain that plays a major role in the development of emotions, memories and pattern recognition. Decisions, however, are made in the prefrontal cortex.  This portion of the brain helps us think through situations with logic.  Once a behavior becomes a habit, it is automatic and the prefrontal cortex goes into a sleep mode of sorts.

When does a behavior become a habit? In the book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business, Charles Duhigg attributes habit formation to what he calls the habit loop.  Even though this book was written for businesses to boost effectiveness, the concepts in the book are easily applied to individuals and families wanting to create habits that increase workability and success.

The habit loop is made up of a cue, a routine, and a reward. Cues trigger the behaviors that we engage in for some kind of reward by kicking our brain into automatic mode. These cues can be internal, such as thoughts or feelings, or external such as time of day or spending time with a particular person. Routines are the behaviors themself. Routines can be physical (having a snack when you get home), cognitive (remembering to do homework), or emotional (feeling anxious). Rewards are the things we like that help are brain remember the habit loop in the future. Our behaviors become automatic when we crave the reward.   Like routines, rewards are also physical (I’m no longer hungry), cognitive (I gained new information), or emotional (I feel more relaxed).

What are your habits? It can be helpful to look at your own habits before you evaluate your teen’s habits.  What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? Do you walk half awake to the kitchen and make coffee…staring at the machine until the coffee comes out? Do you crawl out of bed and get straight into the shower?  Regardless of your answer, it’s not likely this is something you decided to do; it’s a habit.  Now, whether you make coffee or take a shower first probably doesn’t make a real big difference in how your day goes.  However, other things like whether you go for a run when you get home from work, or eat dinner in front of the television can have a bigger impact on how you live your life and your overall health and well being.

What kind of habits can impact your teen’s school performance? While these will differ from family to family, here are some of the big ones are:

  • Staying healthy: Getting good rest, eating healthy, exercising
  • Getting organized: Writing assignments, projects, and tests in a calendar
  • Creating structure around homework: Having a time and place to study
  • Being prepared: Having all necessary materials available
  • Having support systems in place: Asking parents and teachers for help
  • Creating balance: Managing activities, homework, chores, and leisure time
  • Limiting distracting activities: Watching television, gaming, texting or being on Facebook
  • Staying positive: Maintaining a positive attitude about school and learning in general

What are your teen’s habits? You may notice that your teen has missing assignments, texts while doing homework, is late for school, doesn’t get enough rest, or appears completely stressed out. If something isn’t working, consider helping your teen change his/her habits. According to Duhigg, habit change involves keeping the cue and the reward the same, while changing the routine.  To do this, help your teen:

  • Believe that change is possible and within his/her control. This can be challenging when many things are black and white to teens. You may have to help your teen generate options.
  • Identify cues and be on the lookout for them. For example: “I text a friend when I get stressed or frustrated with my homework. Then, I can’t concentrate on homework.” 
  • Notice the rewards. For example: “My stress goes down when I talk to my friends instead of doing homework.”
  • Substitute a behavior that provides a similar reward. For example: “My stress goes down when I take a five minute break and then go back to work.”

Sounds easy enough, right? But, we all know that change can be hard! How do you help your teen recognize that something isn’t working to the point that they need to change?  Listen for and help your teen see ambivalence. Explain that being unsure, having mixed feelings, and feeling one way and thinking another are all signs of being ambivalent, and usually means that something needs to change.  Also, make sure your teen knows that we all feel ambivalent when we are faced with change.  Using our previous example, a teen may express her ambivalence around texting while doing homework like this: “I want to get my homework done quicker, but I also want to be there for my friends when they need me.”

Next, listen for and ask questions that get them talking about change. Asking questions like the ones below can help draw out the meaning your teen gives a particular change.

  • Desire: Why would you want to make this change?
  • Ability: How would you do it if you decided?
  • Reason: What are the three best reasons?
  • Need: How important is it? and why?
  • Commitment: What do you think you’ll do?

Using our example, a teen may say things like, “I want to finish my homework quicker so that I have more free time!” or “I could tell my friends to text me after 6:00.” Or, you could ask questions like, “How important is it to you to get your homework done quicker?” or “Why do you text your friends while you are doing homework.” Asking these kind of questions can also give you more information about the rewards for certain behaviors.

Having a  conversation about what is not working, and giving your teen a voice in the decision can be empowering. When your teen is empowered, he/she is more likely to cooperate and create workability for you and your teen.  Remember, the more you’re your teen wants to change the more likely it is to stick!

Happy Parenting!

How Do We Help Our Teens Be Achievers in Life?

There is no shortage of information, movies, and opinions about student achievement. Some talk about how to compete in a global economy. Others talk about the increased use of strategies such as cheating or using drugs like Adderall to improve performance.  Still others talk about how to promote achievement in a healthy way. Recently, I read an article summarizing a study referred to as “The Berlin Study”.  During the 1990’s, psychologists from the Universität der Künste examined violinists to determine who the highest achievers were and why. Fascinated by the findings, I read the article, “The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance” that was published in the Psychological Review.

They came up with some very interesting findings. I think these findings are applicable to how we help our teens perform to the best of their ability.

One of the biggest findings challenged the idea that some are innately smart or talented in a certain area.  Now, this is not to say that some teens are not more inclined to like athletics, music, or academics. However, they noted that to be truly gifted at something required practice and dedication. Often times, those that were considered “elite” had been engaged in the activity for at least 10 years. This is consistent with more recent reports that doing well in school has more to do with effort than it does natural ability or intelligence.

The larger group of musicians was divided into “elite” and “average” players.  From this they gained some interesting insight on what separated the two groups.

  • They practiced the same amount of hours. The difference was in how they spent their time.  The elite group spent an average of 3 1/2 hours per day on what they called deliberate practice. This meant that they did uncomfortable, methodical work that stretched their abilities.
  • The elite group also practiced in large chunks of time – once in the morning and once in the evening. The average players spread their work throughout the day.
  • The elite group was significantly more relaxed, less stressed, more rested, and engaged in more leisure activities.

This is not to say that there are not individual differences in a person’s ability to multi-task or manage stress.  However, there are some interesting implications for how we teach our teens to study and build skills.

Let’s look at what all of this means.  First, doing work that pushes you may not be fun at the time, but it provides for a bigger increase in skill. So, the same work is easier the next time.  Seeing improvement leads to increased satisfaction and motivation to keep working.  For our teens, this means being persistent, even in the face of challenge.

It also seems as though doing something for larger blocks of time allowed the students to get into a groove.  You could say that their brain fired faster or they were in a “flow”.  In short, the work they were doing was more effective than work that was constantly interrupted. When work was spaced throughout the day, the students wasted some of their time getting back into the activity. For our teens this means that distraction and interruption can be a huge barrier to being an effective student. Changing music, checking Facebook accounts, or texting friends may mean (1) taking longer to complete the work and (2) getting less out of it in the end.

Finally, spreading work throughout the day can leave a person in a constant state of busyness, stress, and exhaustion.  This results in our teens thinking about what needs to be done when they should be sleeping, or even while they are working on something else. They may not have as much time for leisure activities because they are worried about having time to get everything done.  This means that our teens could benefit from separating their school work, activities, time with friends, and time for television, games, or social media into distinct blocks of time throughout the day.

While we are talking about these strategies as they apply to our teens, you may find that they work for you as well!

Happy Parenting!

Shelly