How to avoid the parental elephant trap of "Shouldn't you be revising?"

272/365 Outdoor RevisionIt’s exam time again. Once again, there is potential for sky-high stress levels in teenagers’ homes.

I don’t pretend to have any certain answers, but after a bit of exam parenting experience, there are some themes which appear sensible:

1. The parental role is to provide a comfortable and secure home environment. Focus on providing nice food and lots of reassurance.

2. Teenagers should be given a reasonable amount of leeway to find their own niche or niches in life. It’s important that they start to find a way of life which makes them happy. That probably won’t fit pre-conceived expectations you may have as a parent. Did you know what you would do for a career or careers at seventeen years old? Exams are part of them finding their own level in life, their own areas of interest.

3. Don’t nag. Don’t remind. Your teenager has the exam dates in their head like a large neon light.

Most of all, avoid the “Shouldn’t you be revising?” elephant trap. It starts a row, usually, and makes the whole revising thing negative. About an hour’s revision a day is about right. More or less. That means that teenagers will spend the overwhelming majority of their time not revising. So saying “Shouldn’t you be revising?” ruins the time the teenager has to….er… a teenager and recover body and mind.

Instead, try to make revision a positive experience. Teachers usually provide goals in hours. 15 hours per subject between January and exam time – was the goal given to us by our teenager’s teachers for GCSEs.

We got our daughter to write a revision plan. It was basically half a sheet of paper with the subjects written in a column down one side. Then a row for each subject. We stuck it up on the mirror in our lounge. Each time she did an hour’s revision, I marked it up. I did the occasional tot up and calculated the average hours per days still remaining. Most of all we said “well done” a lot and, I think, our daughter felt a sense of achievement as she gradually marked up the hours and made her targets. The whole thing became positive and our daughter was left in peace when she wasn’t revising, because we knew she was on track.

Now we’re up to A/S levels. The same system seems to be working again. We now have the added luxury of “frees” – free periods during the school day for revision.

The key thing of all this is that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Our daughter will be able to vote in next year’s general election. We have to realistically taper off our “control” and provide, chiefly, comforting support.


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