Teens and Academic Problems
Our children are becoming more competent and independent. They spend much of their time away from our supervision. They need recognition of their developing maturity, and at the same time, they are still children, and require our protection, guidance, and discipline. To set effective limits we must remember both sides of this balance.
The best chance we have of establishing effective rules is through discussion with our adolescents about what is going on in their lives, how able they feel to take responsibility for themselves, and what we as parents need to require for our own peace of mind.
Some rules are "bottom line," and are different from family to family. We make them because life without them would be unbearable. These rules usually include knowing where kids are if they are not at home, not allowing them to talk back to us, and strict rules about aggression or violence toward others.
Other issues, like allowances, curfews, chores, and homework require a different amount of flexibility, depending on how responsible the child is. Education is important to every parent, and we want our children to succeed in school. Unfortunately, as they gain maturity, we may lose some control about how much homework gets done and the quality of the work. To keep ourselves sane and to avoid constant bickering, rules about homework and school performance should be firm and consistent.
The best way to come up with those rules is to discuss school, homework and future goals with your teen. If they understand why you worry about their school performance, and can identify the benefits that school success will have for them, you are over one major hurdle. One way that teens decide whether we are truly interested in their lives, is by judging how involved we are with activities important to them.
Many of us make the crippling assumption that our teens aren't willing to share their world with us, which is usually not the case. If we remember to encourage our teens to tell us about things, they will usually comply. Asking a closed ended question like "how was school today?" is sure to get the response, "fine." Asking if you can help with a Biology project may open many other doors.
If you cannot get answers from your child about school, expectations and performance, do not be afraid to call the school and talk to the administrative, counseling, or teaching staff. They are frequently willing to work with you and your child to enhance his or her education and achievement.
Reprinted with the permission of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. 2008 Palo Alto Medical Foundation. All rights reserved.
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