Learning From Experience

January 5th, 2012 by Tina

Once again I find myself hovering over my 17-year-old son, trying to convince him to NOT wait until the last minute to finish an assignment he has been putting off. And, once again, he is telling me not to worry, that he will get it done, he has a plan. I know his plan: staying up all night the night before it’s due, reading until his eyes turn red. But I know something will come up to get in the way. He’ll fall asleep (probably), he’ll suddenly remember another assignment due at the same time that takes precedence (possibly), or something much more fun will present itself and he just won’t be able to resist it (definitely). This pattern repeats itself over and over again. No matter how many times I try to reason with him, he keeps going back to his old procrastinating self. I say the same things every time. ”If you wait until the last minute and you get sick, you won’t feel like doing it.” ”If you wait until the last minute, you’ll be stressed-out and won’t be able to do as good a job as I know you’re capable of.” ”If you wait until the last minute and something else comes up, you’ll have to miss out on the fun because you put off doing your work.” Except the fun part almost always happens.

I don’t know why he has to be this way. You’d think by now he would have caught on that it is so much easier to do the work in smaller batches than try to get it all done in one marathon session at the last minute. No matter how persuasive my argument is, he just won’t do what I want him to. He has so many talents: a graceful, athletic ability that is a joy to watch, a wonderful sense of humor, a willingness to pitch in and help when he sees someone in need, and an uncanny way of nearly always charming me out of a funk, whether he is the cause of it or not. Unfortunately, time-management is not one of his gifts, as frustrating for me as that may be.

As his parent, I try to guide him, help him learn from my experience (in my head I can hear my Mom saying ”good luck with that”), pass on all the time-management skills I have learned over the years. Take a big task and break it down into smaller, more manageable portions. Figure out how much time you need to spend on your project each day. Think the task through before you start so you don’t have to figure the whole thing out as you go. It all seems so simple when it is laid out in front of you.

Except you actually have to put it all into practice. It’s one thing to know what you should do and another to do it. The truth is, I had to learn these skills through experience and consequences, and I’m still far from perfect. Leading by example sometimes only goes so far, and while I do mostly follow my own great advice, it’s still tempting to tell, yell, and cajole him into better management skills, as ineffective as that tactic may be. When all is said and done, I realize that my son will have to learn the same way I did: by messing up and paying my dues. In the meantime, hope springs eternal that at least some of my good habits will rub off on him. I know my mom still holds out hope for me!

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