Parenting Tips For Teenagers Vol 4 – Pragmatism and Patience

This is part of my monthly series on Parenting Teenagers.

Almost five years ago I wrote a series of posts reviewing the excellent book by Celia Lashlie, Growing gorgeous boys into good men. You can see the posts here.

I have been re-reading these posts and feel that I am overdue to read this book again. The following section is particularly relevant to our teenager at the moment:

Adolescent Pragmatism: Why They Do What They Do

Lashlie feels that to understand an adolescent boy, you really need to understand their pragmatism. That is – “what’s in it for me, what’s the pay-off, why should I do this?”

This pragmatism also shows itself in the way most adolescent boys will do the work when the moment arrives and not before. The nagging, cajoling form parents is unlikely to have any impact.

“When he knows it’s up to him and only him whether something does or doesn’t get done, when he’s able to link action with consequences, then he’ll begin to make good decisions for himself.”

Lashlie feels that to connect with your adolescent son we need to:

“encourage him in making good decisions, we need to step into his timeframe.”


Accepting the teenager’s pragmatism requires endless patience on my behalf. Over the last 10 days he has had seven exams and three NAPLAN tests. Before each exam period I encourage him to create a plan for how he will approach his study. A couple of weeks out fromt these when I tried to do this, the teenager made it very clear he was not keen on this and didn’t want me going on about it.

I made a conscious decision to stay out of his study planning this time. I clearly and calmly articulated that I respected his ability to organise himself and let him know that both myself and his dad would be happy to help if he needed it, he just needed to ask us.

From where I was viewing his study, at times it has been like watching a train wreck. The night before his English exam he did indeed ask me to help him with some revision. While he is very capable at English, it is not his favourite subject and through discussion it appeared that he had spent earlier days studying his preferred subjects of science and history and English was left a little late.

He admitted in hindsight, he should have prioritised better. I resisted the urge to lecture about planning, instead focusing on giving him some tips on what to do now he was in this predicament.

I did unfortunately comment on a different evening to him, that for someone who had NAPLAN and an exam the next day, he didn’t seem to be doing much work. He quite rightly pointed out that he shouldn’t need to do anything for NAPLAN and that I had said I wasn’t going to comment on his study habits. Humble pie for me to eat.

He seems happy with the way his exams went. Time will tell. But I found it quite exhausting, using every ounce of my energy to be patient and allow him to work on his own time line. The good thing is that as these are year 9 exams, he has plenty of time to practice working out his study habits, before the exams start accounting for much more of his results.

How do you approach exam study with your children?