Does Your Teen Have Academic Issues?
Are you constantly worrying and battling with your teen about their less-than-impressive grades? Are you worried your son or daughter may fail out of school?
More and more teens today are struggling to succeed in school. This may be due in part to the demands and expectations put on students now, which are greater than ever as schools constantly strive to meet higher testing standards. No matter what your opinion is about the expectations being put on your child, the reality is that we are living in a society where grades in high school matter. Low or failing grades will make it difficult for your teen to attend college, setting them back behind their peers in the job market. As a parent, it is your responsibility to help your teen see the value and importance of school and do what you can to help them towards success. Although you cannot force your teen to care about or succeed in school, here are a few strategies you can try to help them deal with academic problems.
Determine the cause of your teen’s academic issues: Is your teen underachieving or struggling with a learning disability/emotional problem? Some teens that struggle in school have a diagnosable learning disorder such as ADD or ADHD. Others may be facing emotional or mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, etc. Evaluate if one of these issues is contributing to your teen’s academic problems. If so, find help for your teen in the form of therapy or other treatment first before trying to address their academic shortcomings. If the problem does not seem to be related to a broader struggle, such as the ones listed above, then it is likely not a lack of ability but a lack of motivation. This is where the term “underachievement,” or “performing below one’s ability” is appropriate. If you feel your teen is underachieving, try using the strategies listed below.
Identify one or two subjects your teen shows interest in: Is there one subject that your teen seems to enjoy more than any of the others? Maybe they are an avid reader, show an interest in scientific experiments, or are always the first to do quick math in their head. If there is no core subject they show interest in, encourage them to sign up for an elective such as an art, choir, or photography. Wherever their interest lies, try working with them on this subject area first, showing them how they can connect their interest to academic success. If your teen begins improving in this subject area, it may give them the confidence and motivation to work towards improving other areas as well.
Establish a clear punishment and reward system for grades: Work together with your teen to come up with a system for punishing and rewarding their grades. With your teen's input, set realistic goals based on where your teen is currently at. For example, earning a C or below will result in a loss of technology, time with friends, or other privileges. The lower the grade, the longer the punishment. But earning a grade above a C could result in rewards such as new clothes, extra time out with friends, or more time out with the car. The higher the grade, the greater the reward.
Help them study, but never do the work for them: Start by setting up a good study space for your teen. Where do they work best? If it helps them to be in a library or other quiet space, offer to drive them. Be willing to put in some time sitting with them and helping. Offer to help them make flashcards, quiz them for a test, or research a tricky problem together. Be careful to never do the work for them, as this will encourage laziness and only decrease their motivation.
If academic problems are beyond the scope of what you can do to help, make a change: Maybe you have tried all of the strategies listed above, plus dozens more, and are still seeing no improvement in your teen’s academics. If this is the case, be willing to make a change to get your teen the extra help they need. This could mean hiring a tutor, switching them into a private school with more one-on-one attention, or even sending them to a summer camp where they can catch up academically.
Remember, your role is to encourage and support your teen by helping them set up realistic expectations and goals for themselves. You cannot force your teen to do well in school, but you can take steps to set them up for success and help with any academic issues.