Yes, today’s kids are heavily influenced by school, peers, and the media, but parents can and should reassert control to ensure they prosper in work and in life. Here are some tips for concerned parents.
1) This generation’s college degree is the equivalent of last generation’s high school degree. So talk with your son about how the world has changed since you were young—how decent grades are much more important, and how studies show that the more he reads, the better grades he’ll get. If a male relative or friend conducts the chat with him, even better for the role-model factor.
2) Determine your son’s learning style and adapt homework support sessions and teaching moments to it.
3) Limit children’s total media time to no more than one to two hours of quality programming per day, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
4) Engage in short family debates on a regular basis to sharpen his confidence with reasoning and words, and comment on his delivery more than content.
5) Shift from a focus on building his self-esteem, independence, and individualism to one of modeling and promoting perseverance, humility, and community service. Jean M. Twenge, associate professor of psychology and author of Generation Me, writes that self-esteem without basis encourages laziness rather than hard work, and the ability to persevere and keep going is a much better predictor of life outcomes than self-esteem. Her book, The Narcissism Epidemic, includes a self-test for determining one’s degree of egocentrism, and suggestions for lessening it.
6) Guard against overprotecting and over-scheduling your son, since many characteristics that lead to achievement are best nurtured by independent free time. Further, resist engaging in a sense of competition with other parents, which encourages him to compare himself with fellow classmates, often leading to lowered empathy and a lifetime habit of stress, frustration, and over-scheduling.
7) Expand your tolerance for toilet humor and fighting scenes in books he selects, and don’t pressure him to abandon picture books or graphic novels (a classy version of comic books) before he chooses to. Literacy experts say these books can develop a child’s critical thinking skills in particular ways, and the vocabulary is often more challenging than in a chapter book.
Excerpted from Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life, by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill (Viva Editions). All references (footnotes) contained in the book.