Say This, Not That

Spring Fever

Dear Ilana and Jess: It’s that time of the year again. We’re in the final few weeks of school and spring fever is in full swing. Academically, my two teens are throwing in the towel and I suspect they’re barely getting any work done. I don’t want them to self-sabotage just because they’re nearing the end. They’re both juniors in high school and really need to do well. How do I get them to stick it out? -Lucy

Dear Lucy: You’re up against a problem that plagues many teens (and children and adults) every year. It’s an important problem to solve, as nice weather isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon (we hope).

First, help them understand the difference between motivation and follow-through. While motivation is a helpful ingredient for getting things done, it’s not a necessary one. Now is a good time to lean into the rhythms of habit to help maintain momentum. One way to do this is to choose environments that make it easier to focus and work. Even opening their backpacks in the spot where they usually do their work could help your teens get the ball rolling.

When the circumstances don’t provide incentive, your teens can create their own. Taking more breaks than usual can make the process less painful and reduce procrastination.

Encourage them to get outside and exercise. Not only will this help your teens improve their focus, it will satisfy the urge to go out and enjoy the beautiful weather. Thirty minutes outside – especially if that time is spent exercising – can make all the difference for the rest of the evening.

Remind them of the long game. Your teens may not feel motivated to get their work done, but their responsibilities haven’t changed. Their future bosses aren’t going to care how nice the weather was while they weren’t doing their projects. The same principle applies here and now. It can be tempting for teens (especially future-oriented ones) to write the high school years off as a waystation to better things. But they won’t get where they’re going unless they do the groundwork now. Remind your teens that they’re already in the process of building the life they want to lead and that even homework assignments count.

On a very practical level, you should also remind that, even after a university accepts an applicant, they can review the student’s recent transcripts and rescind their offer, if grades have fallen. If your teens don’t believe you, they can ask their guidance counselor.

Say This: “I suggest you both take a break. Get outside for a half an hour. Go for a walk or run, then come back to your homework and reset in a room where you can concentrate. It’ll help.”

Not That: “Have you done your homework yet?”

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit:


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