I was talking with a friend of mine who was having difficulty getting her high school son to take his homework seriously. There was a lot of wasted time, daydreaming, and an overall lack of effort.
Mom: "It seems as if I have to sit right next to him while he does his homework or else he'll just drift off. I know I can't keep doing this because he needs to learn how to complete his work on his own without my direct supervision."
I mentioned the idea I always share with frustrated parents and teachers about keeping the emotions in check. Staying calm, which is a good model for the children to see, really helps to keep a focus on the issue.
Mom: "Yeah, I sometimes find myself getting worked up and raising my voice. I just get so angry because we've been battling this for a long time."
I then made a mistake. (Which is the point of this entry.)
Speaking somewhat authoritatively:
You should use a timer to keep him on task.
I tried. It didn't work.
End of discussion about timers.
Way to go, Rick. Offer an idea that sounds like a guaranteed fix and make her feel bad because it hadn't done much to help her deal with her son.
I immediately realized my mistake and vowed to not do that the next time I found myself in the same sitatuation. In the future, I'll try something like this:
Wanting to help:
Have you tried using a timer?
Whether a timer has been tried or not, the question creates an opportunity to discuss the use of timers. And even if the response to the question is what I heard from my friend, a dialog could develop.
How was the timer used?
What was her son's response?
Were there any consequences for not being finished on time?
The point I'm trying to make is that I should have asked her about timers instead of telling her to use one. A small point, I'll grant, but an important one.