I often write about the importance of leading by example, but right now, it’s more important than ever. This is true for everyone from political leaders to parents, but, of course, it’s the parents I’m speaking to now.
Many of you are now spending far more time at home with your kids than you normally would, so you have many more chances to model the kind of behaviors you’d like to see in your children. I’m sure you’re already modeling good health and safety practices like washing your hands and social distancing. But what about the academic behaviors you wish your kids were more engaged with?
For many students, the struggle right now is getting themselves to do the “optional” work that teachers are providing. For those who are actually being given graded work, it’s the classic struggle of doing more than what is asked, which has been made doubly hard by the surreal situation we’re in. Not being physically at school five days a week is making it easier than ever for kids to disengage from academics. But one thing that will help with both cases is parents leading by example.
But Chris, I’m not a student. I don’t have schoolwork to do. How am I supposed to lead by example here?
If you have a job, then you almost certainly have room to grow professionally. Take an online course or read a book related to your field. And pretend it counts: take notes, quiz yourself, and otherwise take it seriously. Or develop a secondary skillset that could allow you to change careers if you needed or wanted to. Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but aren’t able to earn a living doing. Now is a great time to start working your way toward the center of the Ikigai diagram.
Or just engage in relentless learning for the sake of it. Practice genuine curiosity and wonder. Your kids will pick up on it. And do some mental cross-training. Read books. Do puzzles. Play board games and card games. Make art or music. Challenge yourself.
This is also a critical time to model limiting screen-time as much as possible, obviously tough in the world where most social interaction and work is relegated to the realm of video chats. But the more you can show your kids that it’s possible to entertain yourself without electronics, the better. Oh, and don’t forget to exercise.
Furthermore, you now have more opportunities than ever to model using executive function and willpower strategically. And remember, showing them how to do this through your actions is much more powerful than directly teaching them.
Lastly, it’s also essential to do your best to model patience. Your kids might be struggling to navigate the electronic resources provided by the school. Their teachers might be struggling to provide those resources in a clear and consistent manner. The administrators might be struggling to move the school forward in a coherent manner. But please keep reminding yourself that we’re all new to this, that no one signed up for this, and that we’re all doing our best.
We know this is hard. But you don’t have to figure it out all on your own. Please remember that if you want personalized guidance, Greg is available for parent coaching sessions via Zoom.
Chris Loper has been working as a tutor and academic coach since 2014, racking up over 10,000 hours of experience supporting students.
Along with Greg Smith, Chris is the cocreator of Parenting for Academic Success (and Parental Sanity) – a five-part course offered every summer.
Chris’s most recent endeavor combines his academic and habit-formation expertise to help students thrive in college. Visit SmartCollegeHabits.com to learn more.
In 2021, he published a humorous memoir titled Wood Floats and Other Brilliant Observations, a book that blends crazy stories with practical life lessons, available on Amazon and through most local bookstores.
He lives in Issaquah, WA where he is the owner of South Cove Tutoring.