MRS. P.! Can you help ME make MYSELF do my schoolwork?

This is a question I get ALL the time.

And, I guess, I am not the wrong person to ask because I made myself do my schoolwork through 3 college degrees, another college program that I took for two semesters, and a whole ton of teacher-related continuing ed crap that was as boring as it could possibly be. So, yeah, I can make ME do MY homework.

Can I make YOU do YOURS?

This is the answer I just sent to a student:

I understand how hard it can be to make yourself do schoolwork. The first thing I want to suggest is that you not make it a black and white situation:

Either schoolwork gets easy and becomes something I want to do NOW, or I will quit this forever!

The second thing I want to say to you is that there is no one on Earth who can say the thing that will make you want to do schoolwork. It has to come to you, from you.

For every human our jobs are always a priority, because we all need money, and with money we get food, shelter, and etc.

School… doing it on our time off from work, it can feel very difficult to motivate ourselves to do that. Some folks will find a way and some folks will not. And that is why many more people begin college than graduate.

My own thoughts on that are that 

to do the things we want to do, we all have to find a reason that is meaningful enough to us so that we will push past the reasons that we do not want to do it. 

In other words, what will happen in your life if you do not pass a class, or even if you do not pursue college? 

Is that better or worse than what will happen if you do pursue it? 

The reward you get from a college degree:

a career instead of “just a job”

a higher pay rate

those things are not things that you get when you finish a homework assignment.

They are future things, and they can seem like dreams that will never be reached because they are farther away.

And yet, so many things are like that in life. 

For example, saving money to buy a house, we can put $50 into a bank account and tell ourselves to leave it there so it can build up to enough money for a house down payment, but saving enough for the house could take years, and spending that money today would make us happy now, so why save it? 

Well, some people do save the money to buy a house, so they are able to find a satisfying answer to the question,

“Why do something hard (painful, difficult, boring, etc.) today that will not bring me any happiness (pleasure, relaxation, reward) for many more months (or days, or years)?

And so that is our question if we try to go to school, save money, exercise, etc.

So why are you doing something hard and boring and tiring today (going to school) that will not bring you any reward for a few years?

Can I (Mrs. P.) make homework easier for you to do?

My best suggestion is to try to approach work for college in two ways:

  1. Set up a time each day that you will spend 20 minutes on college, whether it is doing some homework, or reading assignments, or checking emails. Set an oven timer, and when the 20 minutes is over, you have permission to be done if you feel sick of it.
  2. Offer yourself a reward after the 20 minutes. You can look at your face in the mirror, and tell yourself you are proud of you. You can take your dog for a walk and enjoy the nice fall weather. You can have a snack. You can play a game on your phone.

What a lot of us do when we do not want to do something that is “good for us” is that we just avoid it. 

We play on our phone, but not as a reward, as a way to avoid.

We need to understand that there is a huge difference between:

  1. avoiding college
  2. setting up a time to do a little bit of work at a time, as I just suggested
  3. or simply saying, “I am done; I chose not to go to college.”

If you do as I suggest (2), and spend a little time each day on college with a reward after, you are controlling your life. You are the boss of you.

If you decide (3) college is not for you, and make a decision to stop going, and stop going, you are controlling your life. You are the boss of you.

BUT, if you (1) just avoid it, say “I know I need to do it/I know I should do it, but I don’t want to,” and just avoid taking control, 

either to do the work or stop the work, 

you are not being the boss of you, and it can make you feel like a victim, which can lead to feelings of sadness or being unsatisfied with who you are, thinking of yourself as a loser, when none of that is true.

A friend and I were in college at the same time, and we both worked full-time in “just jobs,” and my friend was a waitress. And she hated doing schoolwork, and she loved waitressing. After two years of school, she decided that she was not going to go to school anymore, and she stayed a waitress, and she is now in her 50s, and still waitressing, and still happy with it, and still my friend. 

There is no problem to know yourself and know that you want something different. 

For me, as I am the only college graduate in my family, knowing I wanted something different meant going to college even while my family was against it. 

I also didn’t like doing homework, but I knew I didn’t want to waitress for my life-career, and it was important enough to me for me to stay up late, work on my days off, and miss out on fun nights out, etc. to do it. 

My friend felt the other way, and that is fine too.

So the best advice I can offer you is to consider yourself, think about who you are, and what you want, and see if you’re willing to begin by setting aside little bites of time, 20 minutes each day, no matter how tired you are, to do something for school. 

If you do it, you have to be fair, and tell yourself that you did a good job, and that you only have to do 20 minutes and then you are off the hook.  

~ (1) And if that 20 minutes isn’t too terrible, and your goal (a better job, home ownership, whatever it may be) is compelling enough, you learn to motivate yourself to keep choosing school.

~(2) If the 20 minutes is too terrible and is too much, then you may want to consider your goals, whatever they may be, and ask yourself if there is another way you can achieve them that will suit you better.

I just want to suggest that you choose #1 or # 2, and not simply avoid making a choice, because just avoiding college’s work/homework and waiting to fail or waiting for some other situation that takes the decision out of your hands, this will make you feel like a failure, instead of like an adult making choices about his/her own life. 

And then I went on to talk about some personal issue the student had raised, and the all-important tech-support too.

FOR PARENTS OF K-12 KIDS THE THING I WANT TO SAY TO YOU IS:

Are you teaching your kids to have stamina? If you give your child music lessons, do you expect, demand, require daily practice (5 days a week; we all need weekends) of 15 minutes or more?

Are you teaching your kids delayed gratification? “You want the phone/iPad/Kindle? Well, you can have it when you fold these clothes and put them away nicely.”

Are you, parents, playing through the pain? “She is screaming and I want her to stop! I will just put on the show she wants to see. He is throwing a tantrum! I will just let him stay up until he falls asleep on his own!” 

How many times have I said to my husband, “Our job as a parent is to listen to the screaming/crying/begging, and still say ‘No.'”

YOUR CHILD WILL NOT SUDDENLY BECOME GOOD AT THIS WHEN HE OR SHE GOES TO COLLEGE IF YOU DON’T PLAY THROUGH THE PAIN AND TEACH THEM THAT CERTAIN BORING OR PAINFUL OR LOOOOONG OR SLOW THINGS MUST HAPPEN IN LIFE

AAND THAT THEY WILL HAVE TO HAVE A WAY TO COPE.

You gave them life, in most cases, but that ain’t enough. YOU MUST ALSO GIVE THEM STAMINA AND RESILIENCE AND SELF-CONTROL AND TEACH THEM HOW TO HANG IN THERE AND DO LONG, SLOW, BORING, ETC. THINGS.

If you don’t know how to do those things yourself, you can, I think, blame that on your mom and dad, but blame and then change. You owe this to your children. NOTHING ELSE you can give them will make them as successful in life as stamina, and the ability to be motivated for delayed gratification.

We are all work in progress on this, but every hard thing is easier to learn when we are young. If your kid is putting away his laundry when he is 3, it will be a no-brainer when he is 23. If your kid is going for a daily walk with you when she is 2, it will be a no-brainer when she is 22.

WE DO THINGS EASILY THAT ARE EASY FOR US TO DO.

Things become easy for us to do when we have done them a lot.

It doesn’t happen that kids go to college and magically become good at doing homework.

YOU have to set up the expectation when they are in kindergarten that WITH SCHOOOL comes homework, and EVERY day after school you do some homework, together, whether ii is actual homework, or reading a book together.

If you want your kid to practice her piano or his trumpet, you sit there and you watch them practice, and you smile and act interested, and you do it 5 days a week, for 15 minutes. YOU SIT AND WATCH THEM DO IT each day, for 15 minutes, and you teach them that there are not days off (most of the time) and that you value it (you sit and watch) and that you are proud of them (you offer praise), and that they can live through it.

WE DO THINGS EASILY THAT ARE EASY FOR US TO DO.

Things become easy for us to do when we have done them a lot.

I am trying to give myself the gift of an exercise habit now, in my 50s. If my parents had given it to me when I was in single digits, damn. Can you imagine?

They didn’t, and I still want it, so I am trying to get it now.

And so, as a person in my 50s, the thing I want to say to myself, when I do not exercise in the morning like I “want to” and am “supposed to” is that it is okay to have a day where I fail at my motivation and my goal, as long as I find a way to do it the next day. And if putting on my running clothes and running seems too hard, can I throw a hoodie over my pajamas and ride my bike? Can I put on my running clothes and run for 5 minutes? Can I leash up Oliver and walk? 

Am I making a choice to either exercise or not, or am I avoiding the situation, and waiting for the hands of fate to choose for me?

The important thing is to make a conscious choice.

Your fate is NOT in the hands of fate.

Your fate is in your hands.

If you failed at making your kid do his homework or making your kid practice her instrument today, can you try again tomorrow, can you suffer through the pain of the tantrum, or etc., to give your kid that gift? Can you suffer through your own internal tantrum (talking to myself now!) to give yourself the gift of fitness, or whatever goal you want to accomplish?

Remember, Mrs. P. has no magic wand for making school easy, or making green vegetables taste good, or making exercise like watching Netflix and eating chips. If I did, I’d be too rich to be doing this! 

Good luck out there. Give yourself some love today. 

 

 
 
 

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