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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



  1. I’ve tried the motivational talk with my daughter, and it’s done nothing. I’ve tried not being a nag, and letting her figure things on her own. She yesses me to death, tells me she knows what she’s doing, and she’s got everything under control. Two weeks later, I get deficiency notices from three of her teachers. Believe me, I don’t want to have to take away her privileges, it sucks and I get a sinking feeling when I get those deficiency notices. But, all my daughter is motivated to do is, be on her phone, watch Netflix, and go out with her friends to socialize. Soooooo, I’m going old school. I took away the laptop, took away the phone at night, and she is grounded from going out with her friends. She promptly thanked me by yelling she hates me, and told me that now, she’s never going to get good grades, because I’m mean to her. I replied with a well, it’s up to you if you want your privileges back, you are going to have to put in the hard work. She blames me, for her unhappiness. I told her, it’s not my job to provide her with happiness, and stuff. It’s my job to make sure she is fed, healthy, and able to go out into the world independently and be successful. She just needs a little added push to do it since she isn’t figuring it out on her own. I’ll let you know how it goes, by the end of December. PS, I really like your website, and I’ll be showing it to her to motivate her with all of your cool study tips and ideas:)

    • Hi Kristen, thank you for your comment. I’m not a parent so I can’t imagine how hard it must be to deal with issues like this, but it sounds like you’re doing an amazing job. Hopefully we can help you and your daughter out with some study tips along the way. I’m sure she’ll get there in the end. We wish you and your daughter the best of luck.

    • We tried motivational talks — 100’s of them. We tried punishment, taking away the iPhone, grounding, etc and that didn’t work either. He would behave for a day or a few days, get everything back, and then we’d start the dance again. We visited a psychiatrist to learn some good ole fashion tips in dealing with a defiant teen. What works?? NO MORE PUNISHMENTS! Why? Because he as nothing to take away. Every morning he wakes up he starts with zero. He has nothing. He earns privileges like texting, watching tv, hanging out with friends, dating, etc, etc, through his behavior that day. We go on a day by day basis. THIS is what works!

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