How to Get Your "Lazy" Kids to Prep for the SAT or ACT

Hi, I’m Tom, the CEO and Co-Founder of Testive.

Let me tell you a story about Amy, the mother of Brenda. Amy sent me an email late one night saying that she was worried about Brenda. Brenda wasn’t doing much work on her prep and Amy was worried that she wouldn’t be able to get the test scores needed to go to Stanford, her dream school. I could sense from her language that she was very anxious about this, so I called her up and we had a chat.

During the call, I learned a lot about Amy and Brenda: their hopes, dreams, stresses, and fears. Finally, after going around in circles for a while, Amy confessed to me, in a soft voice, that she thought Brenda was lazy.

That startled me. It didn’t match anything I had heard about Brenda in the call so far. Brenda was an honor student, she played field-hockey, wrote for the school magazine, and even had a job.

I asked Amy why she thought her daughter was lazy and what she said made sense. She said that for all the extra curricular activities that Brenda does, she still actually has a lot of free time on her hands. She spends an inordinate amount of time texting her friends, watching videos online, and basically sitting around doing nothing. Also, college entrance testing is something that will have a major impact on Brenda’s access to education and opportunity in the future. But for all its importance, Brenda doesn’t tend to do any work to prepare and it’s like pulling teeth just to get her to engage in the lightest conversation about college. With her test date fast approaching, she simply can’t reconcile Brenda’s behavior with her situation without concluding that she is either delusional, or lazy, or both.

What I said next startled her back. The number of parents that confess to me that their kids are lazy is about half. (And most of the rest think it too, they just don’t say it.) Interestingly, they always say it in a whisper like you would tell a secret. I think they’re a little embarrassed by how their child behaves sometimes, and they wouldn’t normally talk about it. The number of parents that use the word “lazy” is about a quarter. The rest use words such as apathetic, disengaged, unmotivated, and distracted. Regardless of the words, the theme is the same. Parents are almost universally unable to explain much of their children’s behavior. What’s more, the growing mystery makes it harder for them to control what their children do, and how they perform. This lack of control, combined with looming deadlines, creates stress.

We have been down this road before, many times. We have worked with hundreds of thousands of students (and almost twice as many parents!). With Testive Coaching, we help you build a process that moves the needle on test scores. Maybe it won’t be easy for you and your student, but it does work, and there is virtue in it.

So what happened with Amy and Brenda? We got to the bottom of some of Amy’s stress but we didn’t get to a point where Brenda was jumping off the couch to study geometry. We’re going to have to save parts of the story for another day, but I’ll give the short version of where things ended up.

    • Brenda was not lazy. She was procrastinating. There was a difference, and the difference was important.


    • Both Amy and Brenda were focusing on the evil parts of prep (humiliation, ranking) rather than the great parts (learning, growth) and I helped Amy see the virtue in those, which made it easier for her to engage in the hard work.


  • Amy was trying to control things that were uncontrollable (scores). I helped her orient around things that *are* controllable (behaviors), so that once those things were managed she was able to relax (a little).

So, you might be wondering, what are you supposed to do? We’ve talked about fears, dreams, stress, and anxiety, but what is a parent actually supposed to DO? Good question. For parents who sign their teens up for Testive Coaching, there are two things that they can do.

    1. Keep track of your student’s meeting date/time with the coach, and make sure that he/she shows up. The single biggest mechanical failure our students experience with prep is failing to meet with their coaches. Students are often weak at managing calendars, but just as often parents are great. You main job would be to make sure that your student shows up!


    1. Give yourself a break. You don’t have enough information to know it yet, but you are now on the right track. Testive is a one-stop-shop for SAT prep and ACT prep. We’re great at what we do, and we’re going to work really hard for you. We’re also going to monitor things very closely so that if they aren’t going well and you need to make a change, we’ll let you know that too. We’re going to manage this entire process for you, so that you’ll know when you need to step up your game, and when you can take a breather. We have plenty of work for you to do later, so for now, rest up.


By | 2017-08-11T19:50:19+00:00 October 31st, 2016|Other Posts|0 Comments