Parenting teens through exam season.

I know I'm not alone at the moment trying to motivate a teenager into revising when all he really wants to do is sleep and eat. In between playing on electronic devices of course. Generally whilst eating.

(As an aside I have no idea where he puts all the food - he's not 7 stone wringing wet. But he can out-eat me and believe me that's no mean feat!)

For those of you still dealing with nappies and toddler tantrums the stage we are at now is Mock GCSE's, sorting further education choices and preparing for the "real" exams in a couple of months time.

Revise or play? Both.

I am no novice at this - two down five to go -but I swear I find this period particularly stressful. In fact I know from experience that the next two/three years are high in emotional stress as I do my best to coax without nagging, inspire without bribing, encourage without pushing and enable without actually helping.

I've always been a bit of a helicopter parent - you know, hovering over them trying to smooth their path and help them make best choices.

I draw the line at doing their homework (I know parents who do) and I don't believe in out of school tutoring or booster classes. I have found that a child who is motivated to work and wants to work achieves more than a child forced to work. You can take a horse to water etc.

By this I don't mean the incredibly useful optional revision sessions my local secondary school organises. But I had about a million extra maths sessions and still didn't achieve the grade they promised my parents I could. I just turned off to the whole subject. And don't start me on those who want to coach children for primary school SATS....

I want my children to learn independently as much as possible. Otherwise when they move away and go to uni or work where they also might need to study how will they motivate themselves? But this requires a delicate balancing act right now where I need my children to understand that I do expect them to revise/study/work without me telling them exactly how or when or testing them or bullying them into pretending to read their books with headphones jammed in to stop me pestering them to revise.

They are free to self-motivate. I don't care if they study from 4-6pm or 7-9pm or if they prefer to do an hour at a time with an hour's break in between. I don't mind if they study from their tablet computer or read books, take notes or complete on-line quizzes, whatever works for them. However if I feel they aren't doing enough generally I will start to withdraw free time perks.

Currently one teen in the house is hoping to spend Saturday daytime with friends - I have told him at the moment I don't feel he has done enough work in the last few days. He can choose - work now and go out on Saturday or lounge around in front of the TV now and forgo his day out in favour of revision.

This kind of deal does rather make me the bad guy - I see their faces as I go off into a rant about how this time could affect the rest of their life and I feel a bit upset because I just want them to make the most of their talents. But that is the role of the parent - if we are doing our job properly our children won't always like us.

I just want them to achieve as much as they are capable of.  Since their first school reports came home I told them that I don't mind what the achievement grade is as long as their effort grades are high.

Oddly we have found that revising in the room with us while we are watching TV is the most effective method for the child currently facing exams. He sits in a chair which doesn't offer a view of TV but he's free to join in the conversation, ask questions about his work and is warm and part of the family.

taking a break
He does have his own space to retreat to if he wants peace and quiet but this system where he works on a lap tray seems to be working well for him.

My older teen liked to be at a desk away from his siblings and my older son preferred to be out of the house altogether in our caravan on the driveway. My older daughter likes to work in the kitchen on our big table often alongside her younger siblings doing their work while I cook dinner. Grumpy does most of his homework (reading, maths and spellings) on my lap!

I joke that I think I find exam season more stressful than the students.It's like Wimbledon in my head. I worry that I haven't pushed hard enough or that I'm too pushy. I worry that my help choosing their options was too hands on or that I should have guided them more. It's a minefield!

When all else fails I do what my mum did for me - I keep them well-fed, make sure they get enough sleep and throw in some occasional treats to break up the work. My two older sons seem happy and are doing well on their chosen paths so I guess the approach works.

Now I must go - my son has spent two hours revising electronics and I think it's time for a hot chocolate. I might make him one too.



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