Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Use training wheels.

What you can do

Help tweens and teens do a task independently by providing a series of starter questions or brief instructions indicating what to do next. These starters will help kids begin to master each of the steps involved

Think of these external aids as training wheels on a bike. Your child may need them to get comfortable with a new task or activity. But over time you can begin to remove some of these aids.

As you slowly start to take away these “training wheels,” encourage your child to describe the steps needed to complete the task. It’s also a good idea to get him to develop a plan for what to do if he realizes he needs help. Build his confidence along the way by pointing out how he has successfully connected the series of prompts together to finish the task.

What you can say

“Hey, Jacob, are you planning to start writing your essay tonight about the Revolutionary War? You got a really good jump on it yesterday by filling out that five-paragraph graphic organizer. Why don’t we take another look at it?”

“Yup, looks like you’re ready to begin your introductory paragraph. Your opening sentence is a real attention grabber! And you’ve jotted down the issues and your opinion. Remember, you’re trying to convince the colonists to see things from your point of view! Now what you have to do is pull it all together into a good first paragraph. You’ve got everything you need.”

“Why don’t you set a goal to have the paragraph all done, as best you can, by dinner? Would you like me to check in on you while I’m cooking? Great! I will. So get yourself started. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe you can even tackle the second paragraph after dinner!”

Why this will help

Tweens and teens with learning and attention issues want to become more independent. Using a series of starter questions will help them begin a task and stay on track toward completing it. Starter questions will help them develop problem-solving skills too.

Getting kids into the habit of keeping track of what they do well and describing what they need will help them feel confident enough to use problem-solving skills in other situations. It will also help them develop the self-awareness they’ll need to know when to ask for help.

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