As a parent of a teenager you might find yourself in a conversation that sounds like this:
Parent: “Do you have any homework tonight”
Parent: “What do you mean no? They don’t assign homework at school anymore?”
Teen: “I don’t know”
Parent: “Well from the look of your last report card…..”
And the battle begins.
Maybe your conflict is not over homework, but over grades on the last test, progress report or report card. Having a conversation about school work is really important. Good grades help your teen get into college, earn scholarships, and opens doors to many other opportunities. With such high stakes, there is so much pressure packed into these discussions that they can spiral out of control at any moment.
Remember that as your teen get’s older, you should be increasing independence without sacrificing accountability.
There are many practical ways to do this with academics, but let’s start with just a few.
1) Start the conversation early.
Rather than waiting to have a discussion about grades when they have become a problem, talk about them at the beginning of the school year, semester, or even 9 week grading periods. Take an honest look at where they are and make a plan for where they need to be. Planning dates to have a talk about grades ahead of time minimizes surprises, because everyone knows the conversation is coming.
2) Separate the “can’t do” from the “won’t do”.
It’s worth identifying if your teens academic struggles are from a genuine struggle in learning or a momentary lapse in motivation. You will treat each of those very differently.
3) Connect the “here and now” to the “long from tomorrow”.
Many times when teens are making decisions in regards to school work, they can be thinking about the here and now. This is in sharp contrast to us parents who have a keen awareness of what is lining up for years down the road. It is important to periodically have big picture conversations in which you talk with your teen about how they are doing now and what will that set them up for in the future. You might get a lot more interest from your teenager when the conversation is paired with a milkshake or other treat that you know they love.
With the school year now in full swing, let your teen know that not only are their grades important, but they are important too.
Jason Gibson draws from his experience as a parent, clinician, and researcher to deliver practical truths that are relevant to today’s family. His work has focused on supporting families and children in all walks of life including those who struggle with emotional, behavioral, and cognitive disorders. Currently, Jason is the director of the BabbCenter for Counseling in Nashville,TN. He has bachelor and master degrees from Appalachian State and Florida State and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Kentucky. He and his wife Julie have 3 kids with one on the way!