What to Do if You Think Your Teen Might Be Doing Poorly in School?
There are many reasons why teens may be doing poorly in school. Contrary to what some people may think, it’s not always because teens are lazy or irresponsible. The role of parents in motivating their teens to do better in school is very valuable. When parents insist on enforcing negative types of discipline on their teens, it invites more resistance or tears down teens’ self-esteem rather than motivate them to do better.
Here are a few possible reasons why your teen may be doing poorly in school and what parents can do in response to them.
Your Teen is Afraid of Failing
Some teens have a fear of failure that prevents them from trying. These teens have a poor sense of self-worth and think that if they fail (and they think they probably will fail), their family will be so disappointed in them. Before they even fail, they try not to get emotionally invested in whether they pass or fail.
Teens who feel conditionally loved (they are loved only if they succeed) respond by not trying hard enough. The other side of the coin is that they may become “serial pleasers”, or teens that overachieve and push themselves to toxic limits to avoid failing so that they always feel they are loved.
Of course, many parents don’t really mean to make their teens feel conditionally loved. Teens have a funny way of interpreting actions sometimes, so parents must always be aware if they’re sending the wrong message to their teen. Getting good grades is great, but going out of your way to praise their effort and not just the end result will help them learn more than their school lessons but other valuable life lessons as well. Especially those lessons pertaining to their self-worth.
They Don’t See the Relevance of Doing Well in High School
Many people have been through that stage in their life when they wonder what good Algebra can do them if they plan on becoming a writer someday, or what good History would do to a future engineer? Help your teen understand that passing high school is something they’d want to do if they want to go to college someday. Even if they don’t think Algebra is relevant, it’s something they have to succeed at if they want to get to wherever they want to go.
Aside from needing the grades to earn a diploma, working on these subjects also build character. It teaches teens important life lessons that would be useful someday. For example, no employer wants to hire a quitter. Perseverance is something that shows on your academic records and it’s also something you learn from working on things even if they’re not fun.
They Focus Only On What They’re Good At
Most people do very well on a few subjects in school. Some do really well in Math but suck at History. Some do really well in History but suck at gym, and so on. Some teens know what their strengths are and bank entirely on them while being psychologically beaten by their weak points. When a teen begins to believe that they absolutely suck at math, just the thought of tackling Math problems make them anxious.
You can help your teen by accepting what their weaknesses are and moving on towards resolving them. Tell your teen “Yes, I know you don’t like History, but what can you do to pass this?” You can try to convince your teen that he/she can also like History, but it won’t be as effective as accepting that each person has his/her own individual tastes. However, you don’t stop working on something just because you’re not good at it.
Too Much Stress
Some teens do poorly in school because they have too much on their plates. Sometimes, it helps to trim down the extracurricular activities in order to release some of the pressure that can become physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting for teens.
Poor Time Management and Organization Skills
School work can be pretty overwhelming. The older children get, the more demanding schoolwork can get. Teens sometimes need help in getting tasks organized in order to prevent feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of things on their to-do list.
Parents can help by teaching teens to prioritize. Don’t lighten their load by doing some things that they are supposed to be doing for school. Help the map out their deadlines and find time for their tasks within the week. If teens forget to do their chores or are unable to do them because of their school load, don’t bear down on them and interpret this as being irresponsible. Have a little breathing room for your teen and choose to make gentle reminders whenever possible, rather than making unkind comments that often result to power struggles.
Your Teen Needs Extra Help
Sometimes it’s a source of frustration for teens when they don’t seem to learn as easily as other teens do. It’s not that they are less smarter than others, they just have other needs that traditional schools alone may not be equipped to meet.
If you suspect that your teen has learning differences or disorders such as ADD/ADHD, it’s a good idea to schedule an evaluation with a therapist. If your teen does have other needs, a lot of things may begin to make sense for you and for him/her. Proper intervention can be done in order to respond to their specific needs. It could be a significant turning point in your teen’s life, not just in terms of academics but in every aspect of their life. Many teens who have been suffering from undiagnosed disorders feel a lot better when they begin to understand what makes them different from other people, and what can be done to deal with the symptoms.