• Family Tech Tips

    Help your teen collect reference resources

    Schoolwork is easier when students have easy access to the references they need to answer their questions. Your teen should have a dictionary and a thesaurus, in book form or bookmarked online. A copy of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations can help your teen avoid using the misquoted or misattributed quotes that are all over the internet. Check the school website for links to other helpful resources.

    See national treasures without leaving home

    Get your teen excited about museums by taking a virtual tour together of one of the world's great collections. Choose a museum that matches his interests. You can access nearly three million items from the many different Smithsonian Institution museums at www.si.edu. New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is at www.metmuseum.org/art/collection. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is at edu.rockhall.com.

    Steer clear of these motivation busters

    You want to inspire your teen to do her best. But saying the wrong thing can have the opposite effect. A statement like "That teacher must not like you," for example, just gives her an excuse for failure. Also avoid pitfalls such as name-calling and nagging ("You're lazy and you'll never get into college if you don't straighten up!") and comparisons to other people ("Your brother always got A's. Why don't you?").

    Bring intelligence and character to decision-making

    Martin Luther King Jr. defined the goal of education as "intelligence plus character." Teaching your teen to think through decisions helps him develop both. When your teen faces a tough choice, ask him to consider which option he would be most proud of. Suggest he think about the choice a role model might make. Then encourage him to think about potential consequences of each option, for himself and others. How would he deal with them?

    Use the news to boost critical thinking

    Critical thinking, the ability to form reasoned opinions by analyzing, evaluating and applying information, is a key skill for school success. To boost your teen's critical thinking skills, have her read a newspaper editorial on a subject that interests her. Then, have her underline all the facts and circle all the opinions. On another day, have her read the text of an article and write a headline that summarizes it.

    You don't have to know all the answers

    Parents sometimes worry that their teens won't respect them if they can't answer every question. But teens respect parents more when they admit they don't know and say "let's find the answer." You don't have to answer immediately, either. If your teen asks a difficult question when you don't have time to respond, say "That's a tough one. I'd like to think about my answer and get back to you." Then do

    Ask questions before hiring a tutor

    If your teen is struggling with a subject, ask the teacher if a tutor would be appropriate. If the teacher agrees, ask for recommendations. Before you select a tutor, consider these questions: What is the tutor's teaching experience in this subject? Will the tutor contact your teen's teacher? Will the tutoring take place in person or online? Tutoring can be expensive, but some tutoring centers offer scholarships.

    What did your teen ask today?

    Instead of asking your student, "Did you learn anything today?" try doing what Nobel Prize-winning physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi's mother did. Ask, "Did you ask a good question today?" Rabi gave his mother credit for the fact that he turned out to be a scientist. Her daily query prompted him to ask thoughtful questions.

    Send your teen a helpful message

    What messages are you sending when your teen does assignments? Your actions say many things about your attitudes toward learning. Parents who don't ask about schoolwork send the message, "Your work doesn't interest me." Checking only for errors says, "Smart people never make mistakes." Instead, tell your teen that he will learn and get smarter if he works hard and learns from his mistakes.

    Show how satisfying good work can be

    Sometimes students just want to be finished with work, so they move from one task to the next without considering if each is done well. To encourage your teen to do her best, help her learn to take pride in her accomplishments. If she makes a meal, for example, say "It's good when you can enjoy what you've made, isn't it?" Let her see you enjoy your successes, too. She may be more inclined to strive for her own.

    Don't let your teen get caught in a class-skipping spiral 

    Your teen was up late last night and wants to sleep in. But missing just one or two classes can start a downward spiral that can lead to poor grades and even dropping out. Whether your teen is learning remotely or in school, attendance matters. Remind him that no employer will let him show up only when he feels like it, and school is his job. Limit his late-night work hours to the weekend. Then give him a loud alarm clock.

    Suggest ways to read for better understanding

    Many parents are surprised to learn that their teens still have problems with reading comprehension. When your teen sits down to read, encourage her to ask herself questions such as, "What do I know?" "What do I want to know?" "What have I learned?" Then suggest that she read aloud. It lets her learn with two senses, rather than one. When she finishes a section, have her summarize it in her own words.

    Strategies help teens get much-needed sleep

    Teens need more sleep than adults. And when they don't get enough, they fall asleep or fail to pay attention in class. To make sure your teen is well-rested, have him start assignments in the afternoon, not late at night. Set limits on extracurricular activities and recreational screen time. If he has trouble falling asleep at a reasonable hour, suggest winding down with some soft music

    Keeping a reward in sight can inspire effort

    From time to time, your teen may feel overwhelmed by a school assignment. To reduce the resulting stress and procrastination, encourage her to promise herself a small reward when she finishes the task. Your teen knows best what will motivate her. Just make sure that the reward isn't more than the job merits. And avoid using sweets or junk food as a reward; they're not good for the brain or the body.

    Conquer common student stumbling blocks

    Teens often stumble over a few familiar hurdles when doing schoolwork. Parents can help. If your teen isn't doing assignments or turning them in, have him make a to-do list and check items off. If he doesn't care about schoolwork, motivate him by praising any progress he makes. If he takes too much time to complete work, it may be because he doesn't understand it. Encourage him to ask the teacher for help.