How to Talk to Teenage Children About Their School Grades

If you have a teenager who is struggling with schoolwork, be proactive. Meet with your teen and discuss the issue in-depth. Even if you didn’t achieve high grades yourself, that doesn’t give your teen permission to settle for inferior marks. You have every right and responsibility as a parent to ask that your teen tries one’s hardest in school.

Before you meet with your teen, come up with a game plan. You should devise a mental script so that you can communicate exactly what you mean. While this discussion won’t be about winning or losing an argument, strive to carry an authoritative tone. If you need to, write down what you want to say and rehearse it a few times before sitting down with your teen.

Once you are ready to hold the discussion, start out by listening. Ask your teen if there is anything going on in his or her life that is causing grades to deteriorate. There might be an issue in the classroom, on the bus or even at home that is negatively affecting grades. By offering to listen before speaking, you won’t intimidate your teen as an angry, over-authoritative parent.

Instead of expressing your desire for your teen to attain higher grades, show him or her how a poor academic performance will affect one’s life. Tell your teenager all about the doors that poor grades will close in terms of not being admitted to college, not obtaining scholarships,  being excluded from consideration for internships and possibly even school athletics. Highlight something specific from their life, something that impacts them.  This way, you won’t paint yourself as the bad guy. Communicate to your teen that while society may value excellent academic achievement more than you do, your concern is for them. Your teen needs to be fully aware that one’s “life chances” will be reduced as a result of poor high school grades.

If you think that your teen won’t respond to society’s rewards for good grades, consider offering your own form of positive reinforcement. This way, you’ll be able to mimic the macroeconomic phenomenon of performance-based rewards. Consider paying your child for each A that he or she earns on a report card. Or offer positive reinforcement in the form of a later curfew or bed time. Sometimes, teens won’t respond to parental demands until they can see how doing so benefits their own self-interest. Alternatively, consider imposing negative reinforcements for your child’s poor academic performance. Tell your teen that a continued string of average to below average grades could result in losing television, computer or video game privileges.

As a parent, you should be a part of the solution. Offer assistance in the subject areas where you can help. Your child might respond better to homework when someone else is in the room. Often, students need to engage in a dialogue in order to fully understand concepts and come up with effective study strategies. If none of the above strategies work, consider a parent-teacher conference. This should only be done if your teen is failing and isn’t showing any signs of improvement. You might be able to devise a solution to your teen’s academic woes when you are provided with the teacher’s unique feedback.

When you approach your teen to discuss grades, you should be focused on your child’s perception of you. If he or she views you as a concerned communicator instead of as a demanding parent, your teenager will be more receptive to your assistance. If your teen can view you as an ally, you’ll make a much more meaningful and positive impact on his or her academic performance.

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