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How Much to Demand of Teens?

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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > How Much to Demand of Teens?


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Children with B-average GPAs - hope for a good future?

Feb 2013

Hello there, Could BPN families who have successfully launched your children with B-average GPAs into college and life share the insight with me? Things like:
1. Are there colleges with good science programs that take B students and educate them to be ready to do work in science? Did any families actually go through this process? Or should my kid give up thinking about science as a potential college major since she's got the B grades in math and science and English?
2. Is it really true that there are colleges for every kid? Are those ''colleges that change lives'' still taking B students now that everyone knows about them? Which colleges could we consider?
3. How do you help kids who are bright but not motivated to work hard? Who thinks classroom learning is not very fun? How do parents deal with this? When do you hire a tutor/life coach/etc to help? How can you tell if that's just how your kid is, or if the school is not doing a good job making learning fun for your kid?
4. How do you keep from feeling disappointed and stressed? I never expect my kid to go to Ivy League schools, but I had hoped for a good college -- one that would educate her and train her to have skills to go out in life with an ability to contribute to communities and to allow her to discover herself socially. With B grades, and without varsity sport/leadership position, is there hope for good future?
5. Lastly, not every kid got all As, right? There are parents of B students out there and I'm not the only one, right? (Why did every parent I talked to last year have straight A students? It's mind boggling since I never even asked anyone about their kids' grades.)
Your insight is greatly appreciated. Worried Mom


I have a kid who was a B student in high school, and he got into several good liberal arts colleges and is thriving at one of them. I was like you a couple of years ago -- despairing that there would be a place for him. I am now convinced that there really is a place for every student. I was so impressed with the wonderful small liberal arts schools that we visited (many of them with strong science programs) that offer close attention from professors and a caring campus environment. Don't fret. It will all work out. Anon
Hi First, I would like to ask you if your child wants to go to college. You mentioned that you ''hoped for a good college.'' I myself had hoped for my son to go to college, as I am the only one out of my entire family to have gone to college, but college is not for him. He is a junior in HS and does not like school. He is a C- student and could care less. It was very difficult for me to accept that he would not go to college. There are many ways for people to obtain an education. I see many kids who are in college but hate it, who would have benefitted much more from some kind of trade school or internship / apprenticeship. My son is extremely good with his hands and can build or fix anything. He is a hard worker, and looks very much forward to finishing high school, learn a trade and make money. What that trade is, we don't know yet but my son is working with a fabulous Life Coach, his name is Casey McCaroll (510-703-8179). Thank you for whomever recomended him in a previous posting as he has been a life saver for us (especially since my son's therapist passed away suddenly). Casey is great in helping to figure out what to do after High School, whether that is college or something else. You say ''is there a future.'' Of course there is, college is not the end all be all. My son constantly tells me ''i will be ok mom, don't you worry about me'' and I honestly don't worry. Some parents (I am not at all suggesting that you are one of them) are putting way to much emphasize on college. Again, college is just not for everyone and that is not a bad thing. Like I said, education comes in many forms. It is up to you and your child to figure out what that means for your situation. Have Casey help find your child's passion so wherever he/she ends up, he/she is happy. Isn't that what we all want for our children. mom of fabulous C student
There is nothing wrong with the California State University system (CSUs). I attended SFSU for my BA and my MA. I was a very motivated 3.81 GPA student, in fact one of the first two kids chosen in my school for the first gifted program our district had, based on my IQ. I didn't want to leave the area for school, and my parents had very little money, so SFSU it was. My husband, who nearly flunked out of high school, took community college classes, then transferred to SFSU for his BS in biochemistry, and now is earning his PhD at UC Davis. He would love to be able to go back to SFSU as a chemistry professor, but those are coveted spots and very hard to come by.

And you say you want a good college, ''one that would educate her and train her to have skills to go out in life with an ability to contribute to communities and to allow her to discover herself socially. With B grades, and without varsity sport/leadership position, is there hope for a good future?'' Believe me, a CSU can do that. Trying not to be huffy here, but if you met me, you'd find me an intelligent, successful person, despite the enormous curse of having attended a CSU.

I might add, I was blown away when I heard from friends who went to top-tier schools and I learned about their grade inflation. There is no grade inflation at CSUs. You want an A? You earn an A. CSUs are rigorous, and have smaller class sizes than UCs, plus the classes are more often taught by professors or at least adjuncts, not grad students like my husband. And they're less expensive. A win all around.

The school is not what transforms your child. Your child will change as she grows up. Wherever she goes, she will be challenged, make friends, grow and mature. Our foster daughter really began to thrive when she started at SJSU, after stumbling her way through high school. She went in a C student and is now an A-B student. My bio daughter was an A-B student at best and got into UC Santa Cruz, where she did fine. I hope that some of this helps you worry less. our children will be who they will be


Yes, your B student will have some options for college. Yes, it's a good idea to check out ''Colleges that Save Lives.'' My daughter was accepted at one that had a lot to offer. She ended up going to another college, but it was a nice option. anon
I don't have answers to all of your questions. But, felt compelled to respond to your post, which you signed, ''Worried Mom.'' Why are your worried? I would encourage you to consider your specific concerns. Are you worried that your child will be less employable with a degree from an ''average'' college? Are you worried that your child won't get into college at all? Or won't graduate? Are you worried that your child won't be successful? What is your definition of success - making lots of money, having a career, doing what they love/having a passion? Are you worried that your child is ''behind'' his/her peers that have straight A's. Are you worried about your image as a parent if your child isn't viewed as being as ''smart'' as the straight A kids? I ask these questions because I've had to reflect on them for myself in my own parenting. I was a straight A student - highly motivated and great at academics. I got accepted to every college that I applied for. But, I struggled in college socially. I have a good job and a good career - one that I am passionate about. But, I would still say that I struggle to feel ''happy.'' My passion doesn't pay well, so money is always an issue. And, I am recently divorced. So, while my straight A's made graduating college fairly easy, I struggle in many other ways. My ex was a B student. In fact, he never graduated from college. However, we make the same amount of money. And he's happily in a new relationship - he always excelled socially. He's a good parent, too. So, despite his academic challenges, he is doing ok! And, our child seems to take after him. At first, it was really difficult to accept less than A's. But, after much consideration, I know that A's are just one aspect of life. And that, there are many paths to happy adulthood. I encourage my son to do his best and work to his ability. I encourage him to do the things that bring him joy and passion. And despite his B's and C's, he's an amazing kid. He doesn't care about getting A's - that's my want for him. Does your child want to get A's and feel badly about getting B's Or, is your child ok with B's? I don't worry about my B student's future. He'll find his path and be happy - as long as I don't get in the way and force him to go in a direction that matches my hopes and dreams rather than his own! Mom to a B student
I just responded about my B student. But, wanted to add, that your ''B'' student seems to be a shining star compared to some of the other posts in today's newsletter - other parents of teens are posting about needing recommendations for therapists, etc. Your B student sounds great just the way she is! My advice is to ask her what she wants - both for a college experience and as an adult. Ask her what she needs for support. Ask her about what motivates her. I'm a firm believer in setting the bar high and pushing kids - well everyone, to work to their potential. But, I'm discovering that my son could get A's if I push and nag and yell. I've decided that it's not worth it. I'd rather enjoy my time with him and be ok with B's. And, the time spent yelling over grades is now spent doing things together that we both enjoy and are good at, like playing sports. He's never going to be a professional athlete, either. But, that doesn't mean he isn't athletic. He enjoys sports and plays to the best of his ability - sure other kids are better. But, I'm ok with that, especially, if he is a happy and healthy kid overall. This parenting stuff is hard sometimes!
HI worried mom, I hear your concerns. Yes, there are schools for B students. I can't answer the science question, as my son is a history, theater, and English kid.

Here's my general advice: Your child generally will get in to the school that reflects her effort and ability. And it will most likely turn out to be a great fit. One idea is community college. Would she consider that? Also, is she a B student at a rigorous high school? Is she taking difficult (AP/honors) courses? My son is on the high side of a B average, unweighted, but has received acceptances from a few good liberal arts colleges. His SATs weren't off the charts or anything. But he took a tough course load and was involved in a few different types of activities (but he isn't the BMOC, over-achiever type of kid)

It is very difficult to let go of the stress and disappointment. My son is extremely bright and quite honestly could have mostly As if he wanted to. But he does the minimum to get by. We have had long talks about it, especially in light of the fact that college will be harder. All I say to him is, ''I can't want it more than you do.'' Even though sometimes it seems like I *do* want it more than he does. Maybe a session with a college counselor about her options would be helpful? My friends who have used such services say if nothing else, it has helped to have a third party involved, to work with your kid and take the parent-child dynamic out of the situation.

As far as schools go: our local CSUs have to take students in the school's geographic area who meet the school's minimum requirement for entry. We are in Lamorinda and our local schools are Cal State East Bay and SF State. Each school has a formula for admission on its website for you to check out. My son applied to SFSU as a backup option, and he got his admittance letter immediately. I would also suggest looking into University of Oregon and Southern Oregon University. Both of those have rolling admissions, so students are accepted or rejected right away--no waiting until March. I have a soft spot for Southern Oregon. It is a cool small public school (5,000 students) in Ashland. It has a good professor-student ratio. Also, it is a WUE school, so out of state tuition for Californians is pretty darned low. Mary


Dear Worried Mom, Stop Worrying. There are indeed plenty of good Colleges for 'B' student. She will find her way if you let her follow what she is good at doing. My son was a B student and got accepted into many good colleges. Your Daughter will be motivated if she is studying and taking classes she likes. Sounds like science may not be it. Kids change in College too and often find themselves. Go to a College councilor who will help HER choose the right school and it will work out fine. tracy
Breathe, your child will do fine. My child was a B student, graduated from a good college (not Ivy League), learned a great deal and is happy. There is too much stress on the 4.0+ GPA and the type of college the child should apply to. There are wonderful schools out there where your child can flourish. I would be more concerned with what the criteria should be for the college he/she desires. Geographic location, curriculum, college campus experience, study abroad programs, to name a few. My child spend 4 mos in East Africa studying abroad with fellow students from her college, an experience that was unique and specific to her college. In the end it did not matter that she did not graduate from an Ivy League school. It will be fine
i can't help w/ questions 1-4, as they are all very specific and my daughter is only in 8th grade.

however question 5 is right in my wheelhouse (from a competitive endeavor that is both my profession and my passion). of course you are not the only parent of a B student. not only are there plenty of your type around, imagine, there are actually even more parents of C, D, and worse students. (and rather than feeling as though your glass is half-empty, try to think of it as half-full in comparison to those latter parents.)

the reason you seemed to talk to parents of only A students (w/out yourself having asked anyone about their kids' grades) is because those are (exactly) the only parents who are so proud of their kids' grades as to WANT to start conversations about them--and they are probably more than a little ego-involved w/ the subject. you can start working on your bad feelings about this topic by shutting these fools out of any conversation as soon as you find yourself able to do so.

the competitive endeavor w/ which i am so heavily involved is duplicate tournament bridge. i noticed early on in this endeavor that in the post-mortems after games, the only people who asked me how my game was were the ones who wouldn't even let me quite finish whatever answer i was giving them by interrupting to tell me what a high-percentage/winning game they themselves had had. funny how that works. i have learned that whenever i am asked how my game had been, i just say, ''pretty good'' and quickly turn on my heel so as to miss most of the glorious self-review they are about to give about their own game.

as for your B student, remembering back to my own rather checkered acadmeic career, you can lead the horse to water, but you can't make her/him drink. no, your child will not likely get into an ivy league school or anything similar, but there are plenty of academic opportunities for solid B students and, as in high school, your child will make whatever they are able to make of such opportunities.

sometimes it may even take your child leaving school after high school or prior to finishing college to try the work world. then one of two things may happen: 1) your child will find a successful and fulfilling career w/out needing the academic success you imagine is necessary; or 2) your child will realize that in order to find more rewarding work opportunities, she/he will need to return to school w/ perhaps a tad more of a diligent attitude than previously.

i only wish my parents were still alive so that you could see you are not the only parent of a B student and also because i am sure you and my mother would have several lively and fulfilling conversations on the subject. best of luck. doug


High school student and motivation to succeed

Oct 2012

Hello, I'd appreciate words of wisdom from parents of high school students. I'm worried about my daughter's motivation to succeed and how she's applying herself in high school. My questions are:

- How do you stay calm when your child's GPA is not where you think it should be?
- How do you motivate and provide appropriate guidance?
- How far do you push your child to do her best? How do you know what her ''best'' is? When do you stop pushing?

My daughter is an average bright student who generally cares about learning, and likes to socialize. In 8th grade, her focus started to shift more to the social life and her grades were As and Bs. She's now a high school freshman and her grades so far have been mostly Bs (with 2 honor classes, one being algebra 2, and a sport). I understand that adjusting to high school takes time, and I understand the need to socialize, but I want to motivate her to focus more on academics. Her grades are now mostly Bs because she missed things on the tests/assignments (this appears to be more carelessness and lack of focus -- she generally understands the material and she does not have any learning issues.) I've been talking to her about spending more time studying, talking to teachers, etc. She told me she'll try to do better, but things are not better yet.

I'm trying to find a balance -- when to push her to do better, and when to stop lecturing, and how to get her to do this on her own, for herself and not for me. Middle school went by in a flash. Now she's in high school, and college is next -- when she'll be on her own. I'm feeling panicky that my daughter hasn't learned how to learn and focus well enough to succeed. Is this a teen thing, or is it something about my daughter I should try to help her with?

I hope I make some sense. It isn't that I'm crazy about GPA. Sure, I want her to get good grades, but I recognize that it is only one of the measurements. It's more important to me that she understands the need to apply herself, do her best, and reach her full potential in school so that she can eventually be a productive member of the society and support herself.

I'd appreciate advices from parents who have successfully guided their children through high school. Thank you very much! Worried Mom


You raise such profound questions that get right to the core of this season in the parenting journey. As a friend of mine said recently, sometimes parents need to forge the path, sometimes we need to walk next to our child, and sometimes we need to push from behind them. I think these years require all three of these in strategic harmony.

My daughter just began college in Pennsylvania and our son is a junior in high school, so we are a little further down the road and have a little perspective on this. Like everyone's kids, my are both alike and very different. My junior son puts out maximum total effort all the time in every class. His IR teacher says he looks to my son to find out if the other students are connecting with the material, because they are that in synch. My daughter on the other hand, now a college freshman, well, her head was in another place. Not a social place, but more of an intellectual, introverted, literary place. She would write independently for hours on various plays, essays, stories - I would often walk into her room and wonder ''how is the homework getting done here?''. But somehow she manages, got good grades, did it almost all on her own, and got into a great college that specializes in her field of interest (musical theatre).

I learned with both kids that they are well on their way to being ''raised'', that is, we have diminishing influence at this juncture. The whole college thing, to most kids, is as abstract as it terrifying. Talking about getting into a good college is like saying that I want you to be land comfortably when I throw you out of your life in a few years. I would get really clear on the absolutes (that could be: you can use MY car if you follow MY rules related to the car/grades/chores/whatever, you can go out with your friends on the weekend if..., etc.) But now that we have a kid in college, I have watched a whole class of high school seniors and now college freshman struggle with their parents to work through these issues. I think 10th and 11th grades might be the toughest from what I've seen recently, big academic demands, big social pressures. A lot to sort out.

Here's another thing that helped me. Sit quietly, close your eyes, and really think back, in a deep, full way, to your 9th grade and 10th grade years. What were your issues? What did you care about? What pressures were you under? What were your joys and sorrows? How did your parents handle things? How do you wish your parents had handled things? Then ask yourself, what did I just learn? Proceed accordingly.

Finally, I have come to believe - with regard to college - that the universe has this big sorting hat, and that a special magic comes to pass with regard to where kids land. I was just amazed to follow the 60 kids or so from my daughter's middle school class, who, four years later, landed in the most diverse, interesting set of colleges, each so appropriate to his or her needs. I still can't get over it. There is indeed a college for every student. And incredible growth happens between where you are today and where your child will be in just a few short years, and she will land in the school that she is meant to attend. I really firmly believe this now that I have lived through this with my first kid, and two years ago (when she was a junior) I just had no idea how (or if) it would all work out.

Trust your instincts. Set some thoughtful rules. Be there. Do as much talking as possible with one another. Listen a lot. Gather resources. Make appropriate demands. Hand things off. Wait and see. Trust in all the hard work you've done to date. And enjoy as much as possible the precious time together before your daughter spreads her wings and flies to a new nest of her own construction. Best of luck


This isn't exactly what you want, since I'm in the middle of it myself (my daughter is a junior), but I've been dealing with a very similar situation and I've found a way which, so far, seems to be working. This is not to stress about GPA and preparing your child to get into college, but to take a longer view, encouraging your child to work hard, acquire good study habits, and be interested in school work, with the thought that these will be skills for lifelong use.

At the end of middle school and in freshman year of high school my daughter was doing poorly enough in terms of grades that I thought she might not even get into a four-year college. I was very dismayed about this, because I knew she was a bright child, but after I got over my panic, I decided that the thing to do was to accept that she wasn't going to be a highly academic student, but to try to help her acquire the skills and motivation that would serve her well in life and which would make it possible for her, if she did eventually go to college -- e.g. community college -- to do well at that point. So I stopped paying attention to her grades, but I was very proactive in talking to her about school work, discussing assignments with her, and encouraging her to work hard on them. Her grades actually improved enough that, at the beginning of junior year, things are actually looking quite good for college. I have to keep reminding myself that it's not the grades that matter, it's motivation, hard work, and finding pleasure in academics.

What seems to be working for me, then, is being very active in encouraging my child and trying to help her with school work and assignments, but very much with the attitude that this isn't so that she gets good grades or even so that she fulfils her potential in high school, but rather with longer-term goals in mind. It's a hard attitude to take, because there's so much emphasis on grades and competition to get into college, but I find it helpful to keep telling myself that this is my opportunity to teach her some life skills about applying herself and working hard at whatever she's involved in.

Sorry, I have a feeling I didn't really address your question, since I have no practical advice to offer, but your post certainly resonated with me. Trying not to pay attention to GPA


I'm responding because I loved your post. It was so measured and appropriate. I know next year I will be going through the same thing you are going through. I hope there will be some great wisdom brought to us by the BPN. I have already thought about do a mini college tour when this crops up for my daughter. I wish my parents did this for me. When I was in HS I couldn't see the point of it all, and there were so many social distractions. In stead of just the concept of college, it seems like it could help in the motivation part of HS. Often unmotivated myself
The short answer? You can't make her do anything, but you can guide. You absolutely should not push. It really doesn't help.

Here's what I say to my son: ''I can't care more than you do. This is your life and your future. I can tell you what the consequences of your poor habits will be, but I can't make you care.'' This has worked pretty well.

the background & detail: My son is a senior in high school, and we've been through the same thing you're going through with your daughter. He is a very smart, engaged kid, but for some reason he only wants to do the bare minimum to get by. I think part of the problem is he has always been smart and school was easy K-8, but HS was a whole other ball of wax.

When a dismal progress report came home in 10th grade, I had a heart-to-heart with him. I asked him what his plans post HS were. I told him I always thought he wanted to go to a decent or good university, but if he was more interested in community college or working for a while after HS that was totally fine with us. I just didn't want to project my desires on him. He was shocked and insisted that he wanted to go to a good 4-year school. I told him if his grades and lack of activities didn't kick up a notch, he was shutting doors left and right. My husband printed out the acceptance stats from all the UCs he would potentially be interested in and showed him where his performance fell in with the numbers. It was a real wake-up call. But again, we made it clear that it was his decision. There was no ''you have to do this'' or ''you must do that, '' but rather, ''What do you think you should do then?'' and ''How can we help you get where you want to be?''

It was also good for me to divest myself of my own preconceived notions of where I saw him going to college and working and such. It is hard, but I can say he has taken A LOT more responsibility for his work now. He has a very good chance of getting into a some decent schools, and they are schools he is excited about and is therefore motivated to keep up his studies.


Am I doing them a disservice by not being more pushy?

Nov 2008

Re: Unmotivated high school freshman - Help!
I read the epilogue and it got me thinking. Is there something wrong with kids who are average? and just kids? I read through these posts about tutors and activity after activity and I am beginning to wonder if I am too loose? I am a single parent with full custody of my two teenagers so I don't have the resources that a two parent family would have. However my kids have structure and love and nurturing.

Still, I wonder if I am doing them a disservice by not being more pushy about their grades or activities or ?? I am totally fine with my kids' grades (b's mostly) as they study hard and seem to be doing their best. I encourage their friendships and drive them to and fro their activities. My daughter, age 15, is mostly into her friends and school activities (i.e. attending football games) She does not have any hobbies. (unless text messaging counts) She is not athletic and so far has not found anything 'extracurricular' that she loves. My son, age 13, is mostly into playing sports and friends and funny television shows. They are both generally happy and generally typical teenagers but well behaved and not causing big problems at home or in school.

I have not, thus far, pushed them to earn straight A's and I have not been worried that they don't have enough 'activities' that might look good on a college application. I was raised by a high achieving family and I felt a lot of pressure to be 'perfect' growing up. I did not want my kids to feel the same way. Sometimes as I read these posts I wonder if I 'should' be doing more? getting them tutors, micro managing their homework, pushing them into activities just so they will have all the right stuff to put on their college applications? Looking for advice advice from those whose kids are already in college or out of the house?

beginning to wonder


Colleges do seem to care about kids doing at least one non- school thing in depth (for at least a couple of years): a club, a hobby, a sport, a job, church, Scouts, theater, music, animals, babysitting, crafts, whatever. My son, with one longtime sport and one other longtime interest, got into a UC that his friend, a great kid with better grades and test scores but no activities, did not. And in any case youth is a good time to explore various interests and acquire skills. In your place I would encourage your daughter to pick ONE thing to try besides ''school and friends.'' And she could do it with a friend! If she's into shopping, she might like a fashion camp or sewing lessons, a job in retail, or training in cosmetology. If she's into little kids, she might volunteer at a preschool or a library, or get herself into a CIT program (counselor in training) at the YMCA or other camp. In my daughter's case, I announced that she had to have ONE regular physical activity, but it was up to her which one, and she came up with something she liked, that worked. good luck
Perhaps your experiences in being pushed to be ''perfect'' have led you to the opposite approach of laissez-faire? There are many ideas to consider in between these two polar opposites, and no one has suggested that you get your children tutors, micro manage their homework, etc. But would it benefit your children to let them know that they can have other experiences that expand their world view, get them to consider helping others, help them explore the talents or interests they might have? Suggest a few ideas. This is a responsibility of a parent--to help expand your child's outlook on life. Suggest a few possibilities and encourage them to explore.

You also have to think realistically about where they might want to go to college. If they want to go to a college other than a Cal State or community college, they will need to show some outside interests or activities. Sophomore year in high school would be a good time to get involved if your daughter hasn't already. Consider: music, dance, video production, writing, volunteering to work with young kids, being in a school club, etc.

So the idea is not to be pushy, but to show them interesting activities, encourage them to develop who they are, and let them know that there are many opportunities outside of school for them to learn and grow. Anonymous


I appreciated the recent comments about how much our children should be doing, and how much should they be involved in. My kids are definitely not overscheduled. School is pretty much their main activity, and they have a 2 hour sports class on the weekend, and that's it. But I see my 13 year old, as being a bit lonely. My 9 year old doesn't mind playing alone as much. But for my young teen, there are no kids to play with afterschool in our neighborhood, so his social life is very minimal, and that is where I see getting him involved in some activities, gives him the play time, that I had as a kid afterschool. Trying to figure it out, as I go along
In response to ''beginning to wonder,'' I'm pretty much with you on not pushing/micromanaging my child. 80% of success is showing up and doing what you're told on time. So I hold her to that, never missing class and doing all the work on time; B's and ''proficients'' are the result. I do require one extracurricular activity of her choosing (a sport, non- competative is OK, or club), she doesn't have to be the best, just participate and enjoy it. I believe that by requiring active participation in life with a variety of no- stress experiences, she will choose on her own where and when to push herself.

That said, maybe I am just lucky that my daughter does go along with ''active participation in life.'' I guess outside help is needed when kids refuse to do anything. -- hope this works


Ex-husband's harsh punishment for Bs and Cs

Jan 2008

My 12 year old daughter is in the 7th grade, her father & I are divorced and share custody (which we have done all of her life). We have a major disagreement on how to handle a particular issue. Our daughter is a bright, lovely girl, with a good head on her shoulders. She does okay academically, however, her dad is not satisfied. He believes that she is not working to her ability, and that she is overall lazy and unmotivated to perform better at school. She currently has 3 A's (easy classes)B's in math, English & science, and a C in History. He yells at her frequently about her poor grades/effort, and threatens to take away her one & only extracurricular activity - an all girl's chorus. This is her 4th year in this group, and she absolutely loves it. It's a wholesome group with an outstanding reputation, she loves music, and she gets so much out of it. She performs in concerts for the community several times a year.

I think she is a smart girl, yes, she could probably do better, but even when she had straight As last year, her dad still yelled, threatened, and hounded her regularly. I know how difficult a person he can be, he is very rigid and controlling. She gets frequent migraines, I think from all the pressure he puts on her. He wants to punish her for her lack of effort/motivation by having her quit her choral group, which will also mean she can't go on their annual 4-day tour. She is heartbroken by this, and is tired of his threats. She cries frequently at my house at the slightest mention of grades, and does not want to talk about it, because that's all she talks about at her dad's house.

I don't think punishment is the way to motivate a child, and I'm afraid she will become rebelious and her grades will really go down. Also, I'm worried about breaking her spirit, and having her go in the wrong direction.

What is the best way to motivate a child to perform better academically? Do you parents that have kids with straight A's demand that from their kids? Her grades are important to me, but I also want a well-rounded, happy child. I think it would be a big mistake to punish her by taking away this activity. Has anybody else gone through something like this? What's the best way to ensure academic success? Have other parents taken activities away from B students, and have them become better students?? Discussing this issue with her dad is pretty much impossible, last month he made a unilateral decision to have her miss her Christmas concert because she got a D in History.

BTW, we have not had any help handling any disagreements regarding our daughter for 6 years now, he previously fired two different Special Masters we had (because they sided with me on several major issues). Any advice would be appreciated. sad & worried mom


Firstly, I think he's over the top! I don't think taking away the pleasures in her life is a good idea at all! period. People need to have a passion and an escape. Music is wonderful for that. He sounds like a tyrant and she will rebel against him, not trust him, not talk to him, and learn to stay away after a while. He is setting that up.

You have to be your daughter's advocate, if you think what he's doing is breaking her spirit, which is abusive behavior then you have to stick up for her no matter what. That will also include helping her to deal with help her to learn to fend him off and to stick up for herself. Sounds like you are letting him rule your roost even though you are divorced. He is probably scary when he's mad, but you have to get past that and help your daughter find her ''voice''.

As far as demanding success from your kids, I think that you can say I think you can do better, what's going on with this class? Are you connecting wiht the teacher? Can I help you? Do you want a tutor? etc. She's just a girl and will learn that what she puts into it is what she will get out of it. Her grades don't sound that bad anyway. History is a hard class to make interesting and it's probably mostly reading a boring textbook! People like certain subjects better than others and your can't fight that. She's not a machine. 7th grade is a hard time no matter what. There are lots of things going on with girls at that time anyway. Hormones are raging, friends stuff can be difficult, the home should be a respit from the outside world, calm and supportive (if that's possible with a 13-year old!). good luck anon divorced mom


Dear sad & worried mom-

Although I'm not in your boat, I can sympathize with having a distressed child; it makes discussion impossible, and one can end up feeling helpless and frustrated. A few things occur to me:

- Assess the grade situation with your daughter-have her identify what makes the academic work hard in certain subjects, or what is affecting these grades. Maybe you and she can talk to her teachers. This action can let her know that you are pulling for her, and show her how to navigate the system.

-Set some goals with her for the next semester, to improve certain grades.

-Get help from another adult-maybe someone she trusts and admires in the Chorus, or a school counselor; don't have this become a fight between her parents.

-I agree, removing her main passion is not the way to go. If television or computer time are at play, they may be affecting homework time; cutting back on these would be a logical step. hope this helps


You post a challenging and multi-dimensional problem. Obviously there are relationship and parenting issues with your daughter's father. Things sound very difficult for you. I am sure you will get some suggestions from others on the site on that topic.

Regarding her academic performance however, I would like to comment. I don't think that emphasis on performance (that is-- a demand for straight A's for instance) is useful. Rather, I think the most useful thing we can instill in our kids is a strong work (study) ethic. With that, the grades will come. Does she demonstrate an understanding of the value of hard work? Is she willing to invest effort now (and delay gratification of doing something more ''fun'' or easy like hanging out with friends or even chatting with her family) in order to achieve something? Is she able to do her assignments or does she need some help that you or her teacher or others might give her?

I frankly find it hard to believe that a child who really tries hard, puts in honest substantial time and effort, still gets C's or D's in History, unless she has a learning disability or language limitation. If you can instill in her the love of learning, fantastic. Perhaps even more importantly, if you can convince her that working hard to learn and achieve is a value of your family, you will be giving her a tremendous gift that will serve her well long after she has grown and moved out on her own. She may have a base for understanding in the practice she needs to do in chorus-- I bet they go over the same passage many times to perfect it. The same sort of commitment to excellence in academic efforts is what you want from her.

We always required our kids to have homework done, tests prepared for, etc, before any extra curriculars. I think it is fair for you to set an expectation with her on what she needs to do (and again my bias is not that she would need to make certain grades, but that she would put in a certain level of effort into her academic work-- it could be hours per day or it could include showing you all her work and improving it if necessary). It would be great if you can come up with a plan-- what does she need to do to participate in chorus-- and stick with it. Best of luck another mom


Dear Sad & Worried Mom- I side partially with your husband, partially with you. My kids activities would be severely limited if they came home with a D. However, I disagree with pulling a child out of a music or sporting event at the last minute when someone is depending on her.

My son has had similar grades as your daughter over the years (mix of mostly As/ Bs, an occasional C). We never yell about grades, but we do limit privileges (TV/ Computer/ Video games, parties, and going out with friends) if grades are substandard (ie. below a B). However, we have continued with sports practices, regardless of grades, as we think that a child needs a group to identify with through middle school and high school (chorus, band, or sports) and those activities require commitment. So organized extracurricular activities would be the last thing to go in our house. That said, I have denied participation in weekend tournaments, etc. due to mediocre grades and would not hesitate to take away a 4 day chorus trip for poor grades, especially if it entailed missing 2 days of school, (its clear from your daughter's grades that she cant afford to miss school).

I have told my kids that school is their job, and their lifestyle will be effected by their grades: an A lifestyle (complete freedom, lots of privileges, days off school for tournaments, vacations), a B lifestyle (some privileges, but more parental oversight), or a C lifestyle (heavy parental involvement, limited outside activities, no time off school). I have no qualms about minimizing privileges and, to a lesser extent, meting out some punishment for bad grades. But let me be clear: we lay out the expectations ahead of time in very clear terms so they know whats at stake-- and we always follow through.

Has it worked for us? For the most part, yes, but it takes constant vigilance in my sons case. My son will never be the straight-A student my daughter was (she was naturally motivated and focused), but hes clear about our priorities for him and is somewhat motivated by our expectations. Hell squeak out a 3.6 or 3.8 this semester (at a very academic high school, in rigorous classes, while competing nationally in his sport). I set high standards and expectations for my kids because I want them to push themselves to be their best. I support your ex's goals, but it sounds like his approach is overly harsh and reactive, not proactive (yelling is unacceptable) . On the other hand, you sound like you dont have very high standards for your daughter and seem much more interested in pleasing her than in looking out for her future. Im also worried that you have focused on your ex being the problem (not your daughters poor performance), and are certainly contributing to the problems shes having with her dad if you are taking her side against him. -parent of 2


Pardon my bluntness, but your ex is behaving like a real jerk, at least in this regard. No, you cannot and should not demand straight As and outstanding test scores from a child, although sometimes you can persuade it from her. (And, of course, you are entitled to nag her completing homework, etc.) Trying to improve her grades by taking away what she loves most is ineffective and, in my opinion, cruel, and I applaud you for standing up for her.

Based on my experience rearing a smart, focused, and stubborn daughter who was convinced she couldn't do math, a good way to motivate a kid to ''perform''--not a term I like--is to encourage her with kind words, find her some peer and/or adult tutoring, express pride in her efforts, tell her stories about your own struggles and triumphs at school, and reward her for good ''performance'': e.g., take her to a concert she'd enjoy if she brings a low grade up. Or let her choose her own reward.

Your daughter sounds pretty solid and well-behaved right now (a D in history* will not wreck her academic career), and she's also young enough to be cowed by her dad. However, if he continues making these unreasonable demands for perfection, she might well become very rebellious and difficult in a few years, and I wouldn't blame her. *A D in history from a bright, sensitive girl like your daughter? I wonder how competent her history teacher is.

I don't know what your custody agreement says about your daughter's education. Have you suggested going back to family counseling regarding this matter? (I gather your ex didn't care for the counseling you received before.) If he won't do it, you might need to return to court and attempt to readjust your agreement so that he cannot legally make these unilateral decisions.

Assuming that your ex wants to see his daughter eventually enter a top university, you might also try seeing a college-admissions counselor with him. Perhaps he'd realize then that getting into a ''good'' college doesn't always entail a 4.5 GPA and huge SAT scores. Truly good universities are also looking for individuals with strong interests who are committed to their field of study: someone like your daughter. Melanie


It is truly a challenge to co-parent in a rancorous divorce, I understand that well. To put some things in perspective, though, even though my parents remained married, my Dad really pushed me much too hard on the issue of grades. I was a bright kid but not particularly industrious and really interested in my music, writing, theater, etc. My Dad always berated me for the one or two mediocre grades on my report card, ignoring the As I received in most subjects. He once grounded me for a semester because I didn't make the honor roll. I never made straight As, because I resisted all the threats and punishment. I just continued to do what I wanted. And I went to Harvard eventually, but only because I wanted to. Now I'm a tenured professor at Cal, but really, not thanks to my Dad's treatment of me. Don't push your daughter. If Dad does it, that's up to him, but don't even ride her about homework at your house. Give her a little haven. She will work up to her ability in the areas that truly interest her, and she's clearly talented. Make sure she can do her music, countermand her Dad's orders on that as much as possible. When she turns fourteen, if he's still browbeating her, you can revisit the custody arrangement. She will have more say about where she wants to live; I would consult with a mediating lawyer about her rights in that regard. The kind of treatment she is getting from him is quite damaging, I can attest. no long browbeaten
This is a tough problem that many face, made worse by the conflict between you and your ex-husband. I believe that you can ask for academic success from your kids and can put consequences to their not achieving good grades, but the sticky point is what level of grade you are asking for. Assuming your child has no learning disabilities, there is no reason for her to get grades of C or D unless she is not trying. So I think your husband is on the right track to give her consequences for serious academic lapses.

If it were me, I'd do two things: Try to build motivation in your daughter by exploring her future goals and helping her to see that what she learns now will help her in the future (in high school, in college, in her career). Help her to focus on the future! Then set out a contract or set of rules ahead of time so she will know the consequences of bad grades so that you can avoid the yelling and disagreements and she will understand that her participation in special events is based on behaviors under her control.

To do these things, first try to talk to your daughter about what her future career goals are and what type of college she would like to go to. Then research colleges in a guidebook to show her the GPA that these types of colleges expect. Also discuss the specific career goals she has and try to help her see how knowledge in certain fields (for example, math, English, science) may be critical to being successful in this fields. So you are trying to help her see that she is laying the groundwork now for doing better in high school in these courses and for success in what she wants to do in the future.

It would be useful to write a contract together. Here it may be useful to do this with her father involved. Set out the criteria necessary for her to be able to participate fully in her choral activities. For example, as long as she gets grades no lower than B, she can participate fully. A lower grade than this and she has to miss the next concert. Do this rationally, with no yelling, and write out the final agreement, with copies for all. That way, there is no yelling or arguments at the time the low grade comes in. She knows ahead of time about the consequence and it can be applied without further discussion.

Your ex-husband may be open to this idea if you emphasize how the goal is to improve her grades and having the contract in writing will help to reduce tension and let your daughter take more responsibility for her own behavior.

Revise the contract yearly. When she goes to high school, you may want to up the ante because high school grades are one of the most important factors in getting into college. At that time she may be more aware of her interests or what colleges interest her, and you can use that as a motivation as well.

Good luck! The tension between you and your ex-husband I'm sure is part of the mix in why your daughter isn't putting her all into her school work so any other things the two of you could do to reduce those tensions may help your daughter overall. Anonymous


Dear Worried Mom, You mention that your daughter has migraine headaches. It is important to stop her body from developing a pattern that recreates these debilitating headaches. Please explore possible sources of relief for her.The Anat Baniel Method and Cranial/sacral balancing are good choices. To facilitate communication between you and your daughter's father: Ed Schmookler is a Berkeley Therapist that many couples have benefitted from seeing. Perhaps he could help you and your ex-husband to feel more unity in your approach to raising your daughter. May you all experience peace, health and happiness, Rosalie
Please do not make your daughter give up chorus! It is so important to have other kinds of social and learning experiences, and much research has shown that participating in music has a positive effect on intelligence, grades, learning, plus all the other less measurable but sometimes more important aspects of being a human being.

Since your daughter is only in 7th grade, she does not need to worry about grades for college uyyet, so your husband should back off. Also, as I have learned the hard way, your child has to be on board with the goal of good grades --- the parent can't do it for them. Is she unhappy with her C in History? Then look at the steps that led to it --- were some assignments late? could she have done something extra? Gradually, she can develop study habits that, in very small steps, will almost automatically result in better grades (and hers are really great, believe me! a C can sometimes be a mismatch between a teacher and a student's way of learning).

It is sad that your husband is not sending a message of pride and support to your daughter. Although I would question: do you hear his criticisms directly from him, or is she reporting them to you? That would be important to find out. Did he really ''hound her'' when she got straight A's? Then it is not grades he is after, and some kind of acting out is going on somewhere.

Why is it his decision for her to quit her choral group or miss a concert? Don't you have a say in this? If you are parenting together, is there some way you can work these things out without her in the middle? Could the three of you go for some family therapy to change this dynamic?

At this age (13?) her most important task is to develop a confidence and self-esteem. Those are more important now than grades. And being in a chorus is a very powerful way of doing that. Please do not take that away from her! And let your house be a place, for now, where grades are not discussed as much as music, friends, and her growing awareness of the self she needs to construct to live in the world.

I don't know what a Special Master is, but it does sound like you and your husband need a mediator of some kind (with the grades and interest you describe your daughter as having, she seems fine.) This seems more like a parenting issue than a student issue. Can you and your husband see a mediator or counselor, who could talk to you both about this without anyone having to be ''right.'' If not, I would suggest contacting the school itself, as there might be guidance counselors, psychologists, a teacher --- or even the chorus director --- who could give you both a better perspective on this, and reassure you that your daughter is on the right path, and will be more likely to stay on it with acceptance than with anger.

--- a musician, educator, teacher, and mother of a 17 year old daughter who has yet to figure out that her high school grades actually have some connection to what comes after high school


Run, don't walk, to the nearest therapist or lawyer who can help you save your daughter from such a destructive man as your daughter's father (your ex). As someone who has been there, my heart goes out to you. This man is abusive and sadistic, by all your descriptions. As an educator, I can assure you that of course you don't improve academic performance by threats and lashing out and removing the most special activity a child really loves. But, as you yourself saw, it in fact has nothing to do with your daughter's actual performance. When she got all As, he still attacked her and will continue to berate and undermine her until he crushes her soul. All your fears, of him breaking her spirit, of her going in the wrong direction, are very real and very likely to happen if you don't take steps to protect her from him, immediately. The fact that the mediators (Special Masters) repeatedly sided with you should give you the confirmation you need. There's no excuse to delay. You have all the warning signs. Her migranes included! I feel terrible pain for your daughter, having had to save my own from a similar fate. Please contact Dr. Debrorah Joy in Berkeley and check out her group or see her privately. She has had a lot of experience with women in abusive relationships (and with abusers in general) and is bound to be able to guide you about the next steps you must take. In sympathy and anguish, Anon
Hi - Your daughter is fine. The issue is how to protect her from her dad's abuse. If he won't participate in third party situations, it may be a question of you documenting everything and going to court about it. He is hurting her and you seem clearsighted about it. Get clear enough not to appear to chime in with him ever - she needs to know you are her advocate. I may be less ethical than other people, but in this kind of situation, is there some way he can not get those grades? or get all-A report cards? The problem seems deeper, as you said, he'd find something else to yell about. Get help and help your daughter. Good luck. Anon
I'm sorry to be so blunt, but your daughter's father is behaving unbelievably stupidly. You cannot badger, threaten, punish, or take away valued pursuits without devastating your daughter's self-esteem. Instead, he should be providing academic assistance in the form of tutors or coaches who can help get your daughter organized and motivated. To take away chorus, which gives her joy is not only mean, it is short-sighted. Singing in a chorus isn't just ''fun'', it is one of the most powerfully team-building experiences there is, and a life-enhancing skill to boot. The best motivators are positive, not negative! Don't let him prevent your daughter from participating in the main thing that gives her confidence and self-esteem. anon
You can ''demand'' academic success from your teens all you want. That doesn't mean you'll get it. Rather than punishing her for poor grades, especially taking away the one thing she really enjoys, offer incentives for good grades. If she likes shopping offer a shirt for a B and a pair of jeans for an A. Or you can give points that add up to something larger. For instance an A is 10 points towards a 50 point trip to Disneyland. You can be creative with it and get some suggestions from your daughter.

We never gave any points for anything under a B (even a B-). You can even qualify it and make it only good for Math and English grades. Good luck. -Whatever it takes


My daughter also began to get Cs, then the occasional D in math in middle school. Meanwhile, she got top grades in the humanities. She also sang for several years in a local choir. At first I was unable to accept that my child wasn't willing to do whatever it took to get As in every subject. But, coincident with this downturn in some grades, she began to show signs of stress. She worked very well with an excellent local therapist, Dr. Kristen Carey, and I began to understand my daughter was much more sensitive and complex than I had even imagined. She loved music, art, drama, dance, literature. She wasn't willing to play the game to get the grade at any price. I've learned that she isn't cut out for that. Putting her on restriction, lecturing her, offering tutors, made her scream at me, ''I'm going to figure this out for myself!!!'' I finally got it. She needs to feel it's her investment and not mine. What is she willing to work hard for? Her music? Then follow that. Why does this culture expect kids to be experts in every subject? In Europe people pursue their particular academic interests at an earlier age. There is so much pressure in this town, and I mean horizontal pressure -- not just pressure from above -- but peer pressure -- to do well. Your daughter will feel that soon enough. It starts in high school. We need to ask if we want our daughters to be superstars or be happy, well-rounded, caring citizens?

Referring back to the days when she got straight As, my daughter told me emphatically, ''I was a robot then. I never want to be that way again.'' Please don't take away the one thing she loves to do, that feeds her soul. Last summer my daughter had the stamina and perserverance to appear for seven weeks in a local musical production. She got an A in A.P. English at BHS this semester. She will do what she loves well. She wants to go to college to study musical theater. Now she's motivated to have a tutor in her challenging subjects so she can achieve her dreams. There will be a place for her in this world. kathe jordan


This is such a tricky topic. There is no one solution, but I can recommend several that can work as a team approach. If your ex wants what is best for your daughter, ask him if he would consider working with Berkeley mediation and Dispute (NPO, changed their name, but they are on San Pablo and are very good and reasonable) An additional approach, as part of a team for your daughter, night be to support her academically through a more holistic approach to learning. I am Co-Director of Classroom Matters, and that is our specialty. We also have a number of resources we can refer you to, as wel. To learn more about our service, please visit our website: www.classroommatters.com. We'd be happy to set up a free consultation for you. Molly
To the mother of the girl struggling in school: It occurs to me, and no one has mentioned this, that your daughter's struggles in school can be a direct result of her father's harrassing and haranging her. It could already be a ''rebellion'' of sorts, or else the direct result of the father's trying to break her. As others have indicated, this is a very delicate time in a young girl's life, when self-esteem issues loom very large. I would venture to say that having someone as close as a parent berate and admonish your daughter as her father does, is having a terrible impact. It's bringing her down. As an educator who works with struggling students, we see kids in school adversely affected by hardships around them all the time, especially of an emotional nature. This has a huge impact on their grades and ability to focus and learn. As ironic as it may sound, it appears likely that her dad is affecting your daughter's ability to do well in school. She needs support, desperately. I would bring her to a counselor, and keep her far from dad. Best of luck!
Oh, dear - it is very important to have teens maintain connections to healthy, positive activities! Especially ones that take up time and provide positive re- enforcement. Your ex clearly has NO IDEA what kind of trouble your daughter would have time to get into if she wasn't in the chorus. Allowing your ex to force your daughter out of the chorus is a recipe for trouble for her (and he clearly has some real issues with control). On what basis does he get to make that decision if you oppose it? Also, just what is her problem with history? What is her explanation for why this is her worst subject? (And a C is not that bad a grade, but with everything else an A or B, it does stand out.) Is she bored by it? Does she have trouble understanding it? What about getting a tutor for that subject? Demanding all A's isn't practical; kids need to be POSITIVELY motivated for that sort of effort, not NEGATIVELY motivated. Sounds like your ex needs to have another adult who isn't you talk to him about why your daughter's being in chorus is a net positive, and something he shouldn't tamper with. But talk to your daughter and her teacher and find out what sort of help she would need to improve her history grade. Life is a lot more than pure academics. Most colleges look for well- rounded kids, and years of experience in a girls chorus could help her get into school not keep her out. Some choral singers can qualify for music scholarships if they're good enough at singing. Does your ex know this? Wishing my daughter had been in a chorus

Tired of pushing - should I back off and let her fail?

Oct 2001

I know this will hit the spot with many parents of teens. Our 16 year old daughter is not doing very well in 10th grade at BHS. Today I talked to her about ways in which she might improve her performance. I believe that parents should allow their children to make as many decisions as possible on their own as long as they are successful, but when they stop being successful, it's time for the parents to step in to help.

The conversation with my daughter was going well. We talked about how she needs to go to her biology teacher after school when she doesn't understand what he talked about that day, how she should review her notes every evening and look up in the book the topics she didn't understand. She was pretty receptive to my suggestions, but when we were finished talking and she said she didn't have any biology homework, I suggested that she look up in the book or on the CD that was enclosed with the book, the topics that he discussed this week, she really balked and said "Why should I look up stuff about biology when I don't have any biology homework"? I replied that this one way for her to succeed in the class, but she flatly refused to do it and yelled at me that I shouldn't help her at all with her homework!

I get to the point, frequently in times like these, where I think "Screw her! She can just fail if that's what she wants to do", but I know that that's the wrong direction for me to go. However, I don't know what to do at that point when she adamantly refuses to do something I've told her she has to do. What do people think? How have you found success in these areas? T.


Our daughter struggled with math and chemistry as a sophomore. Her test scores on math are high but she had trouble with the teaching. And also I think the sophomore year is a tough one for the kids. The schoolwork is escalating in difficulty the kids have a hard time grasping that they have to work harder, be more organized, study more, not get behind etc. This seems to be an age of resisting authority so not doing the work has an emotional component. So we decided since neither of us can help in math or chemistry to get her a tutor. We got 2, one in Chemistry and one in math. Both are recent CAL graduates. The fact that they were young made a big impression on her. They basically said to her- you are smart, you should be getting A's in math. What is the problem? Do you have a boyfriend? Are you smoking dope? Are you too social? and then he said- oh I get it, you don't like the teachers, so you don't do the work. Well, you will like the teachers in college a lot better. You are going to really like college. So you just have to do the work so you can get there. The combination of the validation, the understanding of their point of view with actual help with the subject made all the difference. She brought her grades up in math and chemistry from C's to B's and worked very hard at it. I think the fact that the help came from someone other than a parent who was closer to her age was very important at this time in her life when she was resisting parents on other levels.
I'm amazed that you were able to hold the conversation with her "about ways in which she might improve her performance...needs to go to her biology teacher after school... how she should review her notes every evening and look up in the book the topics she didn't understand. She was pretty receptive to my suggestions" This is incredible! Tell me how you do it!!! Usually as soon as they know the subject is school, they walk out. End of conversation. I find nagging doesn't work. Checking on them daily doesn't work. Checking on the details of the assignments doesn't work. The only thing that does at all is a general "how's it going?" or "Good luck on your exam". Being available if they ask about an assignment is the only chance to be involved at all, and then only to make a suggestion, not tell them how to do it. At those times, try "have you thought of . . .?"
I think we need to keep trying to help our kids forever, but maybe you overdid it a bit in your recent conversation with your daughter about biology. I'm guessing she got to feeling a bit overwhelmed and sorry for herself and that's why she snapped at you. But I keep reading that teens do want and need our advice, even though they don't act like it sometimes. My sons sometimes complain bitterly about homework or anything they view as extra work, while taking it in stride at other times. I think they do, almost secretly, adopt some of our advice once it's had a chance to sink in, or maybe be reinforced by a teacher, tutor, friend, etc. So I'd say keep making gentle suggestions; just try not to turn them into lengthy lectures or critical nagging. Tying good grades to various short- and long-term goals is also often helpful. Ann
When to stop trying to help? I struggled with this same issue last year when my daughter was in tenth grade. I knew that she needed to take the initiative and responsibility for her own education. However, relying on her own initiative and responsibility resulted in the possibility of her failing three classes. We talked, talked and talked some more, fought, met with teachers, counselors, and basically had major drama for months on end as I tried to "help." In the end she failed one class and repeated it in the summer. I think this had more impact than all the talking, meeting, arguing, and "helping" I did. She missed her favorite summer activity, because she had to go to summer school. I'm glad to say that the natural consequences of her actions appear to have changed her attitude about school and what it is going to take to succeed. She now has a tutor in her most difficult subject and knows that I (and a myriad of friends) are here to help should she require it, but the work itself and the monitoring of its completion her job. Asking for help is also her responsibility. I'll ask how it's going, if the response I get is, "Fine," I'm going to believe it and back off. If help is asked for, it will be provided. It has been very difficult for me to back off, and yet it appears to be working. I learned the hard way, that it is up to her and that she'll learn much more quickly from the results of her actions than she will from advice and "hand-holding." She'll find her way, even if she screws up occasionally along the way. My advice? Let her stand on her own, but let her know you're there if she needs you.
I really feel every bit of what was said. I have a sophomore who is struggling with chemistry and I'm all talked out. I can say "thank you," I thought I was the only one. I've asked my daughter the same questions about boyfriends, etc., but no response. I'm not going to give up on her, but maybe back off a little and get her a tutor. RR
Thanks to all about "How to know when to stop helping" I appreciate so much all the people who responded to my plea for "How to know when to stop helping"? There were many excellent ideas, probably the best being, let her find her own way. What has happened with us recently was that we got her progress report. It was pretty bad, but it underlined the fact that she really needs help. I tried to get her to allow me to help her with her homework. She didn't go for that. She said she wants a tutor, so that's what we'll do. I'll also contact the teachers in a couple of weeks to see if she has improved at all. Also, field hockey, which takes up 2.5 hours every day, will be over soon, so I suspect she will be able to do better after that, as well. Thanks for all your help. This is what makes the digest so special. T.
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