Your child comes home from school with a note from the teacher listing 6 missing assignments. This is the first you’ve heard of the missing homework, so your parenting brain probably decides: “This is a great time for a lecture!”
You sit your child down at the table and engage them in an hour long talk including the following key points:
- “When I was your age…”
- “How are you expecting to get into college…”
- “Didn’t I raise you better than this…”
- “Your sister never had missing assignments…”
- “You’re going to get to work right now and finish all of these assignments tonight”
- “And, you’re grounded for 2 weeks!”
Unfortunately, all of your effort probably fell on deaf ears. More than likely, your child tuned you out after the first 30 seconds. What you meant to be helpful, productive and motivating turned out to be discouraging, shaming and damaging to the relationship.
Instead of following the “typical” lecture format, I encourage you to master the “10-second lecture.”
It’s actually not a lecture at all. It’s a respectful way of communicating with your child that encourages problem-solving, critical thinking, and relationship building.
I call it a “10-second” lecture because you should only be talking for about 10-seconds. The rest of the talking should come from your child.
Master the 10-Second Lecture in 4 Easy Steps
Step One: Identify the problem.
More than likely, your child is already aware of the issue. There’s no need to hash over the problem. State it as simply as possible, “So, 6 missing assignments, huh?”
Step Two: Ask an open-ended question.
Rather than providing all of the answers in a lecture, give your child an opportunity to think through their actions and ask for help, if needed. Phrases may include: “How can I help?” “Would you like me to just listen, or would you like my advice?” “When did things get off-track?”
Step Three: Encourage your child to brainstorm solutions.
Yes, the answer may be extremely obvious to you, but in order to help your child learn, it is best to let them take the time to think of ways to solve the problem. You can say: “What are your plans for solving this problem?” “How are you going to make amends?” “What else could help you stay on track?”
Step Four: Talk about the future.
Children are in-the-moment, that’s how their brains are wired. However, it is good practice to encourage them to explore different outcomes or create a plan to accomplish their solution. “When should we check-in again?” “Who else needs to know about this plan?” “What would you do differently next time?”
Some parents have a natural tendency towards lecturing. Not lecturing seems like letting their child “off the hook” or feels like the child will “never learn.”
It’s understandable. As parents, we want our children to make good choices; we want to impose all of our hard-earned knowledge to them, so they don’t have to go through the challenges we had to endure.
- There is a time for instilling values and morals: Don’t stuff all of this good information into a lecture! Instead, talk about it when you’re going through your daily life, incorporate it into your conversations about school, TV, work or friends.
- There is a time for teaching: The best way to prepare your child for what lies ahead is by working together, teaching them skills ahead of time, if possible. Again, teaching is not a lecture, it is a conversation or activity done together.
- It’s ok to let your child fail: Learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving all come with some risk. Your child’s plan may fail the first time (few times!). Instead of rescuing, help them re-calculate and give it another try.
- You don’t always need a consequence: Creating a punishment or instilling a consequence doesn’t always lead to changed behavior. Completing the homework and getting more organized, in this case, may be a more productive end result.
Want to build an atmosphere of respect and love in your home?
Good News! My Communication for Imperfect Families eCourse is coming soon. You’ll learn how to get your kids to listen without yelling or repeating yourself 1,000 times, how to stop the backtalk and arguments, and confidently handle meltdowns and disagreements.
Interested? Click here to learn more!
Comments have been turned off to retain the privacy of all families. If you have a question or comment on the topic, you're always welcome to contact me.