So often, teen’s grades start slipping due to procrastination, not handing in homework, not finishing projects on time, poor test scores – you know the drill. It makes for a tough home environment when two incredulous parents are struggling to figure out how to get through to a teen who just doesn’t care what they think, and doesn’t think there’s really a problem in the first place. As much as you try to keep a stress and drama-free home…well, I’m sure you know how grades can really put a damper on that plan.College admissions folks put a lot of emphasis on GPA (grade point average) and on academic rigor (expert-speak for “challenging courses”). In fact, it’s right up there at the top of the list for items they look at first when considering applications. So, it’s natural to feel a little pressure here.
And I’m sure that, after employing an arsenal of tactics to encourage your teen to lift those grades without any success at all (persuasion, reverse psychology, bribes – none of these are recommended), you’re probably ready for some new ideas. Well, that’s where this blog comes in!
A Self-Development Junkie’s Epiphany
If you’re not familiar with Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, you should be. There is so much to learn and take action on within this book. With chapters entitled “Believe in Yourself,” “Unleash the Power of Goal Setting,” and “Success Leaves Clues,” you’ll find successes in your own life with these actionable principles.
The reason I bring up his book is because he also happened to create the same book in a simpler format for teens: The Success Principles for Teens: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. This book will seriously help your teen identify and focus on their goals for the future.
Sunday Afternoon Book Club
Try instituting a Sunday Afternoon Book Club with just you and your high schooler. Make it a goal to read a chapter a week and discuss how you can each use the principles you’ve learned in your own lives. Starting with the first chapter, “Take 100% Responsibility for your Life,” implement new initiatives to hold each other accountable for not blaming others or things outside of yourselves for things that go wrong in life. A friend of mine did this with her daughter and was able to eliminate her perceived lack of time as an excuse to get things done for her business and started getting up earlier in the morning to complete things. Her daughter used it to stop blaming a tough teacher for her low test scores and asked for a tutor to support her in math. They took serious responsibility together right away for everything and found their own solutions – no excuses.
After a few book club meetings, my friend’s daughter was showing significant improvements. Not only in the academic sphere, but she also started setting bigger goals for her future.
With this method, you and your high schooler will have two accountability partners: the book and each other. And, over time, you’ll find that your home life is much less stressful and your teen is doing better academically – both major wins!
Tips for Overcoming the Battle over Grades
- Provide guidance, not force. The surest way to get your teen to put up a wall is for you to tell them exactly how things should be done. You’ve probably noticed that power struggles are typically won by your teen in the homework/school arena – it’s one area they’ve got more control over than you do. Take more of a mentoring role here instead of one of authority; I promise it’ll produce better results. You can ask passive questions, like:
- Are you satisfied with the way things are going?
- If not, what do you want to do about it? How can you make it better?
- How can I be helpful to you in this?
- Model successful behavior. Demonstrate to your teen that you’re developing and working toward goals you’ve set for yourself. Take the available time you have in the car or at dinner to discuss your goals (to run a marathon, complete a project, earn more money at work, start a business). Talk about what’s working for you, where your challenges are, how you plan to overcome them.
- Hire a tutor. Outsourcing the job of accountability and study support for your teen is one of the best ways I’ve found to ensure there’s less stress at home when it comes to school work. There are great tutoring companies out there, or you can check with your high schooler’s counselor to find out if there are free options for support at the school. Several of my students receive amazing tutoring at home via Skype and a shared whiteboard from people all around the country with PrepNow Tutoring.
A Little Solace: Success in Life Can Happen without Stellar Grades
Knowing that it takes some time for a GPA to increase over time, I did a little of what I call comfort research: It helped me to learn that Steve Jobs and Colin Powell are examples of very successful people who graduated with very low GPAs in high school (2.65 and 2.0, respectively). Maybe that’ll bring you some solace, too.
Heck – Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn’t even graduate college! Just…maybe don’t lead with that. 😉
Let’s continue the discussion! Thoughts on this post? Please leave a comment below!