Here’s a video response to an email I received:
Hey Seth, I’ve been thinking about next semester. My son did ok ( I.e. no D’s/F’s). But there were several classes that he should have had better grades in (actually most of them!). These are classes where he started off strong. His M.O. typically is as you describe, although he seems to be able to “Hail Mary” it at the end (stressful for both of us!).
Out tutor does a great job working with him; the problem is the follow-through. (finishing, remembering to finish, handing in everything) of course he rejects the planner and so often forgets key elements of assignments). He usually volunteers what he needs to do, then doesn’t do it.
He is already fluent in your systems and has rejected some / made some his own. He’s sort of in need of the next step I.e. using the tools you’ve provided to make himself responsible as well as being accountable to someone he trusts like you.
I was wondering if you had thoughts on offering something for kids like him who are beyond the basics but still need a push to succeed, to change their mindset (a term loathed by my son btw!).
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Hi everybody, I hope you’re doing great. I have a really great email I’m going to go over for you. The gist of what I’m going to get to on this email is that a mom is asking, “how do I help my child get to the next step?” the child sort of has a decent foundation on what he’s supposed to do, but how do we get him to do it? So here’s how the email goes. And what I’m going to do, by the way, is I’m going to give you five ways to help in a situation like this. So here’s how it goes: “Hey Seth, I’ve been thinking about next semester (which happens to be the upcoming spring semester) my child did okay, meaning that there are no D’s or F’s but there were several classes that he should have had better grades. Actually, most of them! These are classes where he started off strong. His M.O. typically is as you describe, although he seems to be able to ‘Hail Mary’ it at the end, which is stressful for both of us!”
So a lot of times this child goes through the DIP, their grades fall apart and then they’re swimming upstream for the rest of the semester. And in this case, he ‘Hail Mary’s it,’ meaning the last month of school when there’s a ton of stress and he’s trying to do all these projects and papers and everything, and he’s able to pull it off okay. Meanwhile, as you get further in school and into high school and such, it gets harder and harder to successfully ‘Hail Mary it.’
Anyhow, “Our tutor does a great job of working with our child. The problem though is the follow-through. Finishing. Remembering to finish. Handing in everything. Of course, he rejects the planner and so often forgets key elements of assignments. He usually volunteers what he needs to do and then doesn’t do it. He’s already fluent in your systems and he has rejected some.” I’m totally okay with this, she says he’s made some of his own which is really good. He doesn’t have to do everything the way I teach but getting some system in place is key. And then refining it for that person, that’s called Frankenstudy by the way if you haven’t been following For a while. “He’s sort of in need of a next step. I.e., using the tools you provided to make himself more responsible as well as being accountable to someone he trusts, like you. I was wondering if you had thoughts on offering something for kids like this who are beyond the basics, but still need to push to change their ‘mindset,’ which is a term loathed by my child by the way.”
Mindset is a huge, huge part of this. And what I’m going to talk to you about right now in terms of how to help with this has a lot to do with mindset. So first of all, I want you to understand, parents, that if your child is in this type of situation and you need them to get the next level, they have the foundation, they’re just not doing it enough to get the results that they need It’s not one thing. There is no one answer. What you have to do parents is you the child has to do several small things to make a change. It’s kind of like working out. If you want to get healthy and you start going to the gym and all you do is bicep curls and you don’t do any aerobic activity. You don’t work out your legs, you don’t work out your back, all you do is bicep curls. That’s not going to achieve your goals. So when you’re working with kids like this, you have to take many different approaches and apply lots of little things that are going to make the change.
So what I want to talk about in terms of mindset, and I’m going to tell you ways to apply this mindset, is what I called the 5% rule. I also talk a lot about micro successes. Basically, the 5% rule is this. I tell students all the time that the reality is that in order for them to do significantly better it often only takes a little bit more effort than they’re already putting in. If they can just put in 5% more effort they often will get way better results. So let’s say your child is getting a bunch of D’s and they put in 5% more effort. Chances are they can bring themselves up to B’s relatively easily. They’re not actually doing 5%, it’s more a mindset. And that mindset is to say, “Hey, I can do 5% more. I can do one more homework problem. When I hit a wall, I can write one more sentence when I know I’m the type of writer who my teacher always says, there’s not enough detail. I can do one more sentence. I can do one more word. I can spend five more minutes studying. I can study one more day this week on this test.”
So it’s really a mindset because it’s how do we get the student to take more action? And the reason they don’t is because it’s overwhelming the reason it’s overwhelming is because it’s abstract and they think it’s this big *stretches hands wide* and if we can make them feel like it’s this big *shrinks hands* like it’s manageable, then they’ll do more than 5%. But if we can just make it feel like 5% and that kind of mindset. I’m not trying to motivate them. I’m trying to get them to do what they don’t want to do and I’m trying to say, “Look can you just do one more problem? Can you just do this for five more minutes? Can you do it for one more minute? Can you write one more sentence on this paragraph? Can you do just that much more?” And when that overwhelm is not there, that helps a lot.
Now I’m going to give you five things that are going to help sort of with implementing this 5% philosophy.
(1) Accountability: One way to get 5% more to get a little bit more is accountability and meaning having your child implement systems that are going to help them be more accountable. So for example, I will often now as a coach, you may or may not work as a parent because kids are not as receptive. But as a coach, I will often email or text or call my students and say, “Hey did you this? Did you do that?” Or I’ll say, “What reminders do you want from me this week and I’ll text you that reminder?” So that little bit of accountability can go a long way if it helps them get one more thing in that they get credit on that can be a difference between a C and a B for example, etc.
(2) Office Hours: Another thing that has to of the 5% rule is office hours, or going to see their teacher. I really pushed my students to advocate for themselves and see their teachers. If they go into office hours and see their teacher at the beginning of the semester or a couple of times during the semester and say, “Hey, what’s up, just wanted to check in with you. How are you doing? Hey, do you have any success tips for me?” So I will often recommend that is students go in to see their teacher and ask for a success tip. What can I do to be more successful in your class? That shows interest in the class and the teacher will give them a great tip. And the teacher knows that they’re interested and the teacher will naturally help encourage them throughout the rest of the semester. “Hey, thanks for coming in. Hey don’t forget to do this, don’t forget to do that.” So that goes a long way, and it’s a tiny little 5% thing that goes a long way.
(3) Study Group: Next thing is study groups. Middle schoolers don’t often do this, but it’s great to get them started in middle school. But high schoolers and especially college student starting study groups where you have one or two or three friends and you meet on certain days or for certain projects or certain tests or whatever, and they all studied together. It’s fun. It’s more interesting and makes studying more exciting. You learn so much that way, by studying with other people. And it builds in more accountability because they have to be there if they started a study group and that definitely gives them that 5% more studying than they would have otherwise done.
(4) Advocacy Emails: Another one is advocacy emails, which is similar to office hours, but I have my student say, “Hey, what’s up? I want to do great in your class this semester. What ideas do you have for me? Can you give me some feedback on what I could do differently?” or something like that. So that’s a very easy thing a short little email to teachers to say, “Hey, I’m interested in doing well. What do you got for me?”
(5) Routines: And then the last thing is routine. A lot of times these kids are not very routine kids. So let’s say that their study time now is from 7 to 8:30 or something. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but putting in place study routines so that there’s no ambiguity around it. No saying, “I’ll study when I feel like it tonight,” taking that choice away. Now, they don’t have to study at exactly the same time every night but having a printed and posted routine that takes the thinking out of it so that they know this is my study time. It makes it a lot easier than having to decide when do ‘I feel like,’ it because they’re often not going to feel like it until there’s a lot of pressure or arguments or what have you.
So I want to make it really clear that this is not about motivation. I’m not trying to motivate students. I’m trying to make them feel emotionally safe enough to take one next micro-step, that 5%, that 1% rule, whatever you want to call it. I’m trying to make them emotionally feel safe. I want to get that real clear. I want them to emotionally feel not overwhelmed and safe to take a small micro-action that is going to move them forward. And oftentimes, once they do get started, they’ll get a little bit of momentum and they’ll do way more than they did before. It may not be perfect, may but not be completed, may not be the highest quality, but it’s growth and that is what is going to get your child to change. Growth growth growth growth growth. Not perfection, but how do we get them to take a little more action all the time. That’s what works. Anyhow, I hope this helps you and I hope you have a fantastic new year. Take care.