Parenting Resource for Coaching Teens Through High School

Parenting Resource for Coaching Teens Through High School

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 4 million US students began 9th grade in 2016. That’s a lot of kids taking the next step in their education by starting high school. It’s no wonder, however, that out of all these students, parents are primarily concerned with getting their own kids through this transitionary stage successfully. Unfortunately, high school comes with some big adjustments for teens, and that can make things complicated for parents, too.

Many parents become concerned when their teens let their grades slide by avoiding homework or exhibiting poor study habits. They don’t always understand why their teen lacks motivation, or can’t see the ramifications of their actions. They may even start to feel like their kids are lazy. But luckily for both teens and parents, that’s not usually the case.

The Big Picture

Chances are, when your teen doesn’t seem to be applying him or her self in school, they are simply being teenagers. That’s not a cop-out, it’s a simple result of their young age and ongoing development. The fact is that many teens simply aren’t able to see the big picture that you can see. They don’t fully grasp the fact that staying on task and finishing tonight’s biology homework provides a foundation they’ll need for their study and work habits for the rest of their lives. You gained your appreciation for these things by your own experience and maturity. But most often, teens just aren’t there yet.

What Should You Do?

If you’re becoming frustrated by your teen’s performance in school and their seeming lack of concern for their grades, here are a few things to help you coach them through their high school experience without losing your sanity.

  1. Don’t expect too much — This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set boundaries and expectations. It just means that a 17-year-old cannot be expected to think and behave at the same level as their parents. Don’t throw caution to the wind, but set reasonable standards that they can achieve at their maturity level.

  2. Be careful about punishments — Instead of simply taking away privileges as punishment for poor grades (often leading to resentment and little else) try to arm your teen with the tools they need to succeed. Do they have a quiet space to work? Are they getting enough sleep? Could you do a better job of monitoring grades and assignments online before things get out of hand? Reduced screen time or other restrictions may be in order, but focus on enabling them to succeed rather than handing out punishments.
  3. Talk to teachers — Teachers will often have valuable insights as to why your teen isn’t performing well. Are they missing assignments or doing poorly on quizzes? Are they distracted during class? There may be cases where the teacher is not doing their job effectively, but don’t go into a conference ready to place blame there. Instead, sincerely ask what your child is missing or what they can improve upon, and what arrangements can be made to facilitate those changes.
  4. Give positive reinforcement — No matter what else happens, try to be your teen’s biggest cheerleader. No matter how small the improvement, let them know you noticed. Your encouragement and belief in their abilities can go a long way to making your student want to do better.
  5. Get some extra help — When your student isn’t doing well in a particular subject, the cause could simply be that they are trying, but aren’t quite grasping the material. Maybe they need a little extra help or the slightly different approach that a tutor could offer. Most teachers are happy to offer some extra support after school, but you could also talk to counselors about finding a tutor. You may even have a family friend or older sibling who could give them the support they need.
  6. Find appropriate rewards — Instead of offering a huge incentive for a goal that’s unrealistic, try offering rewards in small doses. What if your son turns everything on on time for two weeks? Can your daughter bring her C+ midterm grade up to a B by the time report cards are made? Choose goals that encourage growth without feeling insurmountable.

Perhaps most importantly focus on maintaining a healthy relationship with your teen while you let them learn about hard work and accountability. The bond you share is what will prompt your son or daughter to feel comfortable coming to you when they need help — whether their issues are related to academics or something else. Be patient and keep fighting the good fight; your efforts are bound to pay off for years to come!

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