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Perspectives: Work Habits Start in School

by Steve Adubato, Ph.D. for NJTV

Managers and leaders in the workplace deal with it every day—excuses, scapegoating, lame reasons for why a deadline was missed, or someone missed a meeting or showed up unprepared. This lack of professionalism impacts productivity and effectiveness and frustrates those of us who are accountable for the actions of others. But these poor workplace habits don’t just develop overnight. They are the product of many years of laziness, blaming and excuse-making.

In fact, much of it starts in school for students in all grade levels who don’t do their homework when they should, leave it to the last minute and then hand in shoddy work. Often, they later complain about the poor grade they received, saying that the teacher never explained the assignment or that they forgot they even had homework. More excuses.

Whatever the case, as students start a new school year, it is a unique opportunity for parents to realize that the study and work habits established for our children from grade school to high school will have a major impact on the type of professional they will become in their 20s, 30s and beyond. With this in mind, consider the following tips and tools that parents should consider in helping to shape and guide our children throughout the new school year:

  • Don’t solve all their problems. It is tremendously tempting to jump in and do some of your children’s homework when they are struggling. We have all done it. Often, it is out of love, but sometimes it is out of frustration or simply because we don’t want our kids struggling so much. When our kids complain that they “just don’t get it” and after hours of trying to explain something, we wind up giving them the answer. The problem is that if they don’t struggle and work through it—together with their teacher—they aren’t likely to figure it out on their own.
  • Everyone needs extra help. Even the greatest athlete or top-level professional has a “coach” or mentor. The key here is to encourage our children to communicate directly and honestly with their teacher about areas where they need additional help or further clarification on an assignment or lesson. This should not be seen as a weakness but rather as an opportunity to learn and grow. Isn’t this what being a professional in the workplace is really about? Fifth grade shouldn’t simply be about getting good test grades, but rather testing our children in terms of building their character to the point where they acknowledge that they are not perfect, but are always trying to improve. This builds confidence in the process.
  • Teach our children to take responsibility versus shifting the blame to others. Too often our children spend endless time and energy coming up with reasons why they didn’t complete a project or assignment on time. They blame the teacher’s directions, if it is a team project they will blame others for not doing their part, or they will complain that they have too many other responsibilities. Ultimately, for us as parents, we must remind our children that it is THEIR responsibility to manage their time. As a parent, avoid the temptation of writing “the note” to the teacher with an excuse or asking for an extension or special consideration. This sends the message to our child that as a parent we will “fix” anything that our children do and they won’t have to take responsibility when they make a mistake. This will hurt them as they develop poor work habits, which will carry into their professional life.

How do you help guide YOUR children in their school-related activities that will help them become more successful and productive in the future? Write to me at sadubato@aol.com.

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