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? How can you help your child overcome bad grades in school?

Good grades are no guarantee for a good life, and having bad grades in school does not mean your child cannot live a happy, fulfilling life. Regardless, every parent wants their child to do well in school because we want our children to not be deprived of any opportunity. 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.


Identify the issue

Determine the cause of your teen’s academic issues: Bad grades in school may be a symptom of a larger problem. This may mean emotional struggles, learning disability, or substance abuse issues to name a few. 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.

Despite how unmotivated a teen may seem, they are motivated towards something. If it seems as though there is no larger, dramatic cause for them being "unmotivated", it's simply that something else has become a priority in their life. This is normal for teens.

These priorities are not innately negative, in fact, some teens become motivated towards education at the expense of other life skills. They may be motivated towards relationships, towards a particular skill, or towards any number of other things. Helping them regulate their energy and ensuring they spend time pursuing both what they are motivated towards and their education is key to helping them move forward.

Personal interests

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.

Rewarding good grades

One thing to consider is what would make a meaningful reward? For some teens, that would be more time out with friends, a ticket to a concert, new gear for their hobby, or a new video game. Something that was a motivating factor for one child might be meaningless to another.

If you can, make the reward both meaningful and something that encourages additional skill growth.

Be careful not to go the route of punishment for bad grades in school. While it is good to reward positive outcomes, the aim should be to correct bad behaviour, not bad outcomes. Teens often feel like grades are outside of their control and placing consequence on bad grades in school could foster resentment.

Get Involved

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.

Partner For Change

Get Outside Help

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. It is ultimately up to your child to stop getting bad grades in school, but you can take steps to set them up for success and help with any academic issues.

We hope that this content has been informative and helpful. It is our desire to help families and bring struggling teens back together. We encourage you to share this information with others who may be in need.


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