Nudge your Child toward a mid-year course correction

The excitement and anticipation (and sugar highs) of the holiday season are behind us. Now it’s time to get back to schooling. If you are on a normal September to May school year schedule, then right about now (January) is the “half way” point of the year, meaning that six of the 12 PACES for each subject should be done about now. If your child is not there – maybe not even close – well, don’t despair. It’s not too late to get back on track for the year if you act now. Here are some tips to nudge your child with motivation and goal planning.

Let’s face it, there’s not much to do outdoors right now with winter weather upon us. So let’s capitalize on this season of starting a New Year, setting goals and resolutions, and being stuck indoors to our advantage.

Teens need to learn the important life skill of setting goals and then crafting a plan to get there. The PACE system is a great tool for doing that. So much of the work is easily measurable (number of PACES left to get done this year, weeks per PACE, pages per day, etc). Grab one of those new free wall calendars you got in the mail. Sit down with your teen and ask these simple questions:

Where am I?

How many of the 12 PACES have been accomplished? How many yet to go? Talk about why your teen might be “behind” if they are. Don’t take the blame as the parent (even if you are part of the problem). Help your teen take ownership of where they are and why; that will help them make decisions to get on track instead of blame-shifting and making excuses.

Where do I want to be?

Figure out when the “end of the year” should be. Teens tend to be idealistic and set unrealistic goals,  like wanting to be done by the end of April. Help them see that based on choices they’ve made so far, if they continue at this pace (pun intended), they will still be schooling well into the summer. Settle on an “end date” that both of you of you think is reasonable. Subtract one full week or more for “emergency interruptions.” Then simply count the weeks and/or days and divide by the number of PACES to be completed for each subject. Maybe instead of the normal 15 days per PACE, your teen needs to finish one every 10-12 days. That’s still very “doable” if you start doing it now. Waiting until May and then rushing through a PACE a week is not a good method!

What motivational factors can help?

In a school setting we utilize Privilege status, Honor Roll, merit system, and special privileges (as well as negative consequences) to help motivate students to work hard to follow their plan. Is your teen wanting to work a part-time job? Or get a driver’s permit or license soon? Those are major responsibilities that have to be earned by demonstrating the maturity to reach goals. Don’t squander those important motivational tools by giving them away as “rights of passage.” The following articles may help give you some ideas:

How can I help you?

Teens are not ready (especially boys) to just go on “autopilot.” Though the PACE curriculum allows them to work fairly independently, it is imperative that you as parent (or school official) keep checking in and holding them accountable. Post the plans you made in the earlier steps in a very visible place (refrigerator) and follow the plans. I wrote an entire article about the need to view schooling with PACES as “co-pilot” not “autopilot.”  Ask your teen what help or level of accountability they would like from you. Be sure you  put reminders on your own personal calendar and follow up as promised!


Several months ago I heard a great podcast by Freakonomics about how we can “nudge” others (or even ourselves) toward reaching a goal. There were seven steps in the process called, “Getting Big Returns from Thinking Small.”  Here’s the outline in compact form:

  1. Goal
  2. Plan
  3. Public Commitment
  4. Reward
  5.  Accountability
  6. Feedback
  7. Stick (reflect and refocus)

I would encourage you to listen to the podcast at the link below, or read the transcript posted there, for more on making small changes that bring positive results!

Big Returns from Thinking Small

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