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Learning to Fish

Remember the guppies I was telling you about in my previous post? Well, they are doing great and our kids now have a greater interest in fish, so now we have added an additional fish tank to our home. Between our new fish tank and fish purchase and my husband's on-going enthusiastic conversations about fishing, I'm pretty sure that this blog post resulted from their influence.

So here we go...

I'm sure you have heard of the timeless proverb,

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.

I love a good proverb (despite the misleading pronoun references) and this one sums up my reasons for launching Ready To Set Goals. I want to share with you my philosophy.

A lot of the stress and the roller coaster of emotions parents feel when it comes to our children and their lack of motivation for homework and studies has to do with the immediate result we often want, and now expect to see. With technology and the internet, we live in such an "instant world". Remember when we actually had to mail letters and wait to get a response, or bus to the library and hunch over microfiches and understand the Dewey Decimal System to find a book? Well, those days are rare, as we are used to the instant results. Last week, my husband was scrolling through his phone searching up UV filters for the fish tank and right before bed, he ordered one online and when we woke up the next morning, the package was already on our doorstep! Now that is unbelievably instant!

While instant gratification can be satisfying, it does have its drawbacks. It has taught us to be less patient. We get frustrated when the internet is slow and our web browser can't open a webpage. We curse when we overclick and have to now wait for the page to load. We get restless when we have to wait in line for too long. Recall the number of times you groan when you see a long grocery store line up. Rush hour traffic? Forget about it. We don't like to see a delay in anything, so we often just find shortcuts and sometimes these shortcuts end up taking longer in the long run.

With this sense of now, and along with our lack of patience, we tend to also want an instant solution when it comes to our kids and schoolwork. We often hear parents tell their kids, "Okay, enough screen time. Go do your homework" or ask "Is your science project done?" or "Did you study for your math test?" as that will, hopefully, trigger that instant reaction from the kids. As a response, your kids may say "Oh yeah, I'll do it now" along with the occasional eye roll and the stomping feet as they leave to get their books. Or they may say "Not yet" and then resume to do what they were doing without any attempt to start their work. That's when we get triggered and start to raise our volume and pitch up a notch and say, "Well, go do it now!"

We repeat these requests (demands?) and when it doesn't happen instantly, we lose our patience. Then we wonder why we have to even remind them in the first place.

We remind them because we know that when we ask them, they do it (most of the the time). But this force of habit has made our kids only do the work when we ask them. It becomes their habit to do it only when asked. We are creating habits, but not good ones.

We get caught up by going through the routine of these instant but constant reminders. And when we ask and tell them what to do, we are ultimately "throwing them a fish and feeding them". They may end up getting their work done (barely), but would they be able to complete the next project and study for the next quiz without you telling them? Most likely not.

We get caught up in this cycle, and these instant and constant notifications they get don't teach them anything except what they had to do at that moment. This becomes frustrating for parents and the reminders turn into nagging and can ultimately spiral into stress and end up wasting more time and effort (like undoing a tangled fishing line, for you fishing fanatics out there) .

Imagine if we don't need to nag. We don't need to be our children's notification reminders and they do it themselves without you going through that routine of asking. Wouldn't that just slow down your white hairs and reduce your blood pressure down a few notches?

That's where learning the skills come in. Rather than exerting your energy and "throwing them a fish" every time, parents should find ways to help their children time manage, plan and set goals so that they are prepared and know when and how to do their schoolwork. In other words, they should be taught "how to fish". The only catch (pun intended always) is that this can't be done instantly. We have to be a little patient (like a true angler) and give them some time to adjust and learn. If we provide them with the tools to succeed and top it off with some patience, your child will change and it will make life so much more pleasant for them and for you.

So, as great as this proverb may be, it's a little dated with the gender reference. Let me rephrase it and say "Tell your child to do their homework and they will do it when you tell them. Teach your child the skills to organize and set goals and they will effectively manage their schoolwork (and time) for a lifetime..."

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