Time Management for Teenagers in Canberra

akinom 4 December 2010 51

I have a 16 year old starting at Narrabundah College next year. He is a perfectionist and, worse, a procrastinator. He leaves assignments to the last minute, and spends all night working on them. Unfortunately, he gets very good grades (As and Bs).

So the system rewards this practice. But the rest of the household is upheaved every time this happens – he turns lights on and off, paces around the house looking for stuff, and bangs doors. My teenager refuses to plan and lacks empathy for the rest of the household.

One solution suggested to me was enrolling him in a time management course. Does anyone know of any good courses coming up over summer or early next year? Any other suggestions for coping with this behaviour would also be welcome.


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tommy tommy 9:40 am 04 Dec 10

Boarding School

neanderthalsis neanderthalsis 9:45 am 04 Dec 10

This is perfectly normal for a teenager. I did the same at that age. Buoyed by the fact that I was a brainy kid that had to put in minimal effort to get A’s & B’s, I left everything to the last minute, pulled an all nighter and submitted. I did the same at University, discovered that I can manage a good 750 words an hour in a state of mild panic and get the assessment in 5 minutes before close off and still manage distinctions and the occasional HD.

This may seem foreign to the average mindset and he might not be suitable for public service employment. I’m sure he’ll do well in private enterprise where outcomes are more important than process.

gospeedygo gospeedygo 9:49 am 04 Dec 10

You can’t argue with results lady.

BenMac BenMac 9:50 am 04 Dec 10

Sounds like a typical teenager to me.

Unfortunately, he gets very good grades (As and Bs)

Would you prefer he fails?

Fiona Fiona 9:52 am 04 Dec 10

The Unis run them for their students, perhaps a suggestion that the college can seek interest in holding one there?

knuckles knuckles 10:09 am 04 Dec 10

Isn’t this how everyone studies?

rebcart rebcart 10:24 am 04 Dec 10

neanderthalsis said :

This is perfectly normal for a teenager. I did the same at that age. Buoyed by the fact that I was a brainy kid that had to put in minimal effort to get A’s & B’s, I left everything to the last minute, pulled an all nighter and submitted. I did the same at University, discovered that I can manage a good 750 words an hour in a state of mild panic and get the assessment in 5 minutes before close off and still manage distinctions and the occasional HD.

I’m exactly the same way.

He’ll get to a point where this sort of behaviour is really not good enough, and he’ll either fail an assignment, or continue scraping by but start to seriously feel the effects on his body (sleepiness, lack of concentration, headaches…). Then, he’ll either start changing himself, or he’ll let it all go and drop to bare passes – and note that this is his decision, depending on how he feels about the work he’s doing. He’s more likely to go “ah stuff it” on subjects he dislikes, or where a teacher doesn’t support him, and make a serious effort on his best subjects.

I reckon he’ll feel strongly resentful if you try to force him to change his ways, including enrolling in any courses. Most schools try to teach those things to kids anyway, you know what we thought of them? “Yawn, another one of these things where we have to fill in thousands of pages of mind maps and flow charts and write what our goals are… wake me up when it’s time to go and head to the nearest bin to throw these stupid handouts away”

Instead, your focus should be on support – he may drop into depression, perfectionists are susceptible to this. You have to remind him that no, the world won’t end, that you’re there to help, and the form of that help is to talk him through things – you use questions about how he feels and how he does things to create a scaffolding on which he can think and build a way that he might start changing. But, overall, his grades and his working method are HIS responsibility. I know you want the best for him, but the best way to get him to realise this is not to constantly attack him for not doing things right, it’s to set up situations which force him to work differently if he wants to do it well (real world work, applying for things like scholarships which require research, I’m sure you can think of other things… )

The banging doors and turning lights on and off thing is entirely separate to this situation. That sort of behaviour is shocking, and all I can say is I have no idea what to do (not a parent) but it must stop. I’m afraid I can’t help, I always did my assignments as quietly as possible in the middle of the night at home if I was being last-minute, to make sure nobody noticed, because I was embarrassed.

Gosh, what a ramble… hope it helps.

Pork Hunt Pork Hunt 10:59 am 04 Dec 10

Nah, wait till later…

Icepoet Icepoet 11:06 am 04 Dec 10

I am pretty similar when it comes to assignments as well, and having that perfectionist streak doesn’t help. For me a lot of my procrastination comes from anxiety about not being able to do a good job on the assignment or knowing that I won’t be able to get it done perfectly. Have you talked to him about whether he might be feeling anxious about his schoolwork and whether this is playing a part in his procrastination?

If that is a factor and if he’s willing, he might benefit from some time with a counsellor or psychologist who could help him to work on the anxiety, which might help him to let go of some of those perfectionistic tendencies and be able to start his assignments earlier.

vg vg 11:39 am 04 Dec 10

Any other parenting issues you want to outsource?

Pommy bastard Pommy bastard 12:21 pm 04 Dec 10

Procrastinator ? perfectionist.

If he was a perfectionist he would not be procrastinating.

Cobrico Cobrico 12:23 pm 04 Dec 10

I agree with Neaderthalis and Icepoet. Red warning lights are flashing as I read this. I would buy a copy of Dr Michael Carr-Greg’s When to Really Worry book about teenage behaviour and how to pick warning signs. From what you have described, some of this behaviour is normal, some may indicate other problems.

barzma barzma 12:25 pm 04 Dec 10

Up to year 10 assignments and school in general is for many a joke – it is easy for kids to cruise along getting good marks.

That all changes come college though – in Narrabundah’s own words, kids used to doing assignments at the last minute will “crash and burn” in years 11 and 12. Also, Narrabundah has a reputation for being an “acedemic” school, which means many of the best students from around Canberra choose to go there – making it fairly competitive.

300,000

Special G Special G 1:06 pm 04 Dec 10

Get a supersoaker and everytime he bangs a door squirt him with it. It works for my cats.

shadow boxer shadow boxer 1:12 pm 04 Dec 10

How can you be a perfectionist and a procrastinator ? Sounds like he’s far from a perfectionist and is cruising at a public high school. It’ll be fine but he wont get into medicine or anything even though it sounds like the talent is there.

I’m not much for courses but there are two that I have found useful, negotiation training and a time management course called priority management but it is more aimed at people with lots of competing priorities than people putting things off.

Brianna Brianna 1:40 pm 04 Dec 10

Your son is very lucky. My daughter struggles through assignments and manages to get ok grades. She struggles for everything. Be thankful for the good grades. However he gets them. As for the lights and door slamming, that is just outright rude and inconsiderate. Tell your son that you understand him doing his assignments in a flurry but threaten him with some consequences if he continues to disrupt the house. Think of a suitable punishment for him and if he does it, punish him.

Gerry-Built Gerry-Built 1:50 pm 04 Dec 10

Oh My!!! “The System” rewards him for doing his work! When did that start… did I miss the memo!?!

Yes – he leaves his assignments to the last minute – must be “the system”… Yep – teachers and and the school MUST be to blame – it is so obvious now!!! This situation is clearly one beyond the control of “the system” and the responsibility for this one is in your hands…

So, here’s some advice for you from someone in “the system”. Sit down with your child ASAP in the new term with the Subject Outlines (which CLEARLY plan out the assessment items) which are given out in the first week (if he “loses them”, they should be available on the cLc the same day they are given out). Work out some regular study time, and at BARE MINIMUM, revise work and assignment work plans. When Assignments are given, create an assignment work plan, planning back from the due date – aim to be finished the day before due date – so any unplanned disasters can be overcome. If it is obvious he won’t make it – he needs to see the teacher ASAP to seek an extension.

For each assignment… Work through a plan of how he can prepare, and establish some goals (i.e. assemble research/notes 2 weeks prior; first draft, 1 week before; typed up etc two nights before and proofread – along with final print and bind etc)… plan back from the final goal. Planning on a study calendar or creating a gantt chart can help visualise this for most students. At regular intervals, you need to sit down with him for a short time during his regular, planned study times and check he is on plan – if he isn’t – ground him until he catches up (he is unlikely to repeat if he knows what will happen if he doesn’t keep up).

By Year 11, a student should be doing as much meaningful study per subject in their own time, as they do face-to-face in classes. Perhaps you need to start thinking about YOUR responsibilities in his education – rather than leaving education solely to school. Sounds like your boy is pretty intelligent and willing to work hard, so working to such a plan shouldn’t phase him. While his grades may not improve sharply, the stress he places on himself and his household will improve.

gospeedygo gospeedygo 2:41 pm 04 Dec 10

Gerry-Built said :

tl;dr

I reckon that kid would run for the hills if his parent/’s started doing that.

MrsD1ngo MrsD1ngo 3:25 pm 04 Dec 10

Special G said :

Get a supersoaker and everytime he bangs a door squirt him with it. It works for my cats.

+1. Also withhold the cash. Quickest way to get any teenager to listen.

beejay76 beejay76 3:29 pm 04 Dec 10

Pommy bastard said :

Procrastinator ? perfectionist.

If he was a perfectionist he would not be procrastinating.

Yes, you can procrastinate and be a perfectionist. Perfectionism may mean someone who is just very exacting, but it can often be a lot worse than that. Highly perfectionistic people can be paralysed and unable to begin a task unless they are sure it will be perfect. Given that nothing’s ever perfect, you can imagine that it often means terrible procrastination. Also, highly perfectionistic people may begin something, but never fininsh it. There’s always just one more thing that’s not quite perfect…

To the OP: It sounds like he might be quite anxious and may benefit from therapy. There’s only going to be more pressure for him from here on in, so he’s going to need to find ways of dealing with it. If you can’t afford a private psychologist (and who can?) ANU and UC both have psych clinics staffed by masters/ doctoral students. They are well supervised by senior staff and are an excellent affordable alternative.

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