Helping your teen get the grades you know they’re capable of achieving is unlikely to be a stress-free journey. As I’m sure you’re all too well aware…
There are going to be highs and lows along the way.
Dealing with the highs is easy. Jump up and down in celebration of your teen’s achievement. Go the movies. Go to Pizza Hut with your family and stuff yourself with as much cheese as is physically possible.
But how are you supposed to deal with the lows?
Do you go with tough love or do you give them a gold star for effort?
Do you take away all privileges? Tell your teen they’re not getting their cell phone back until their grades improve? Lock them in their room?
This is approach some would have you adopt.
To me, such measures are draconian and serve to do more harm than good.
Let’s look at things from your teen’s point of view for a second.
If your teen’s grades aren’t where they should be and they’re not motivated about or enjoying school, then they’re probably already not having a super fun time.
Knowing that you’re mad and frustrated as hell isn’t going to make them feel better any better. And it’s sure as heck not going to turn them into a straight-A student.
Why don’t traditional punishments work?
If your teen is lacking motivation about school, it is because they don’t see the connection between doing well at school and success later on.
You understand it perfectly. You know that getting good grades at high school is the best thing your teen can do to set them up for the future.
But teenagers’ brains work differently. The consequences of not doing well at school don’t flash up brightly in their minds, like they do yours and mine.
Well, actually motivated teens do understand why they want to try hard at school, and that’s the difference.
What I don’t understand is how traditional punishments — taking away all privileges, locking teens in their rooms, stopping them from going out — is supposed to help matters. In all likelihood this would only make your teen incredibly angry at you.
Your teen has got to have a reason to want to do well at school. Otherwise, they see no point, and it’s game over.
Therefore what is punishing your teen for not having figured out their reason(s) supposed to achieve? I’m at a loss.
If not punishments, then what?
Your teen is a teenager (duh, I know, but hear me out). They’re not five years old anymore. They have thoughts, ideas and opinions. They no longer respond to threats and bribes.
If you want them to do something, they have to want to do it. You can lock them away in their room and take away their cell phone, but you’ll be waiting a loooooong time before you see an A+ come from it.
I propose you treat your teen like the young adult that they are, and talk to them.
What do they like doing? What subjects do they like? Or what subjects do they hate less than others…? What can they see themselves doing when they leave school?
The key is to help your teen make the link between trying hard at school now, and good things happening later. (We talk about this stuff in a lot more detail in our Motivation Video Package)
This connection probably won’t be made overnight. But in order for it to happen at all, it’s really important that your teen knows you are on their side.
They need to know that you’ll be proud of them not matter what, as long as they tried their best.
You getting angry at your teen and them getting angry at you in return is not conducive with getting good grades. Being in a positive, supportive and encouraging environment is.
Punishments are so last century. Let’s leave them in the history books.
Image Credit: Svadilfari on Flickr