Parents of high schoolers--improving grades

Discussion in 'Community Board' started by Pigeon, May 1, 2013.

  1. Pigeon

    Pigeon DIS Veteran

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    Her grades are inconsistent. She is currently failing math this quarter, chem is barely passing. Last year, she was in the 90s in math and science.
     
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  3. Pigeon

    Pigeon DIS Veteran

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    She's determined to be unmotivated by anything. She'd been talking eagerly about getting her permit, now when it's on the block she just says fine, I won't drive. Same with everything.

    She's not opposed to the therapist at this point, but I've seen no change. I think she just spends the time whining about how mean and unreasonable we are and I suspect the therapist sort of validates that. She likes the woman well enough. Since its all confidential, I have no way of knowing what goes on. But the kid had excellent teenager manipulation skills.
     
  4. Buckalew11

    Buckalew11 2013 1/2 Marathon Finisher!!! Woohoo!!

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    We took DD to counseling 8th grade year because of bullying and depression from that. She did counseling for about 8 months and finally the counselor told me that she did not feel she was opening up enough to move forward at that point. Years later, DD told me that she could just tell the lady what she wanted to hear etc.

    I know sometimes it can help but sometimes it doesn't go too far.

    I'd hold on to that driving deal. She says,"I won't drive." But the reality is she does care. If it were me, I'd probably still teach her to drive but it'd be at a slower pace than normal and hold out on the license part IF she does not improve at school. The learning would be on OUR timetable and convenience and not when she had the whim to go out driving.

    I'd also sit down with her and really have a heart to heart talk--why does she think you are mean? Unreasonable? Try to really find out what she is thinking. Kids can often feel like nothing is good enough for parents. My DD actually made the comment once that as an only child she felt tremendous pressure not to screw up because "she was our only chance." WTH?? Where did that come from...THAT needed to be a banished thought right then. But her personality is about perfection etc. I truly felt like she might drive herself crazy trying to be perfect (and me too!)
    Over time, she has relaxed in those thoughts but she still says things about achieving goals vs. living upstairs in the attic for the rest of her life (if she does not have these goals set and goes after them.)

    Does your DD have siblings? Is there an older child who is tough to follow? I know you say she is unmotivated but she sounds overwhelmed too. I think one can bring on the other. "Oh, I can't be perfect so I'll just give up."
     
  5. MEK

    MEK DIS Veteran

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    I don't think its oppositional defiance either and I believe I said that, but what I do think is that some of the strategies that work for ODD can work for parents that our dealing with children with declining study habits. OP has already said that the tactics she is using aren't working. There are tactics out there that DO work. It's been a couple years since I used any of these programs, so if I can figure out the name of the one I am referring to, I will post it. It spent A LOT of time on how to approach the homework situation.
     
  6. MEK

    MEK DIS Veteran

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    Your daughter will come back around but you have to do the research and figure out how to approach her regarding her study habits. She obviously has the native intelligence to do this work. She has chosen NOT to do the work, for whatever reason. Don't start falling into her pattern of thinking when she says "I am just no start". That's crap and you know it.

    Here's the source I was looking for http://www.empoweringparents.com/author_display.php?auth=James-Lehman

    Again - I am not suggesting that you child has ODD and problems with authority figures. What I am saying is the advice in here can help you set limits with her. First and foremost you can NOT get emotional about her grades. Once you do that you give her the upper hand. As hard as it is, you have to remain detached when you interact with her. But you ARE going to have to supervise her. What I mean is you are going to have to say "X your grade in math dropped from an A to a D this year. I know you are looking forward to your driver's permit. But we can not support that until we see an improvement in your math grade. Therefore it is my expectation that you will study for 30 minutes each evening and your cell phone and computer will not be in the same room with you".

    I know you don't want to helicopter, but you do need a new approach.

    I wish you much success in getting a handle on this now because Junior year is the make or break year for college admissions. The better schools flat out tell you that they are looking at an improvement in grades.
     
  7. mom2rtk

    mom2rtk DIS Veteran

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    I feel for you OP. It's so hard to see our kids go through things like this when we know they are capable of so much more.

    The truth is you can want it for them all you want. You can punish them all you want. But keep in mind your goal here is not good grades. Your goal here is to get your child to WANT good grades. You need to flip on that little switch deep in their mind so that they become driven to get the grades and excel at what they do. Not an easy task in some cases.

    Since she says she's OK with working a menial job the rest of her life, maybe you need to find a way to let her get a taste of that somehow. I know she's only 15 so maybe too young for a job of her own, but maybe you can find someone to send her to work with? Or another way to help her truly understand what she is in for.
     
  8. StitchesGr8Fan

    StitchesGr8Fan DIS Veteran

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    Maybe you need a few family therapy sessions with DD and the therapist. It might give you insight in to what is going on. You may also be able to tell if this is the right therapist for your DD.
     
  9. Pigeon

    Pigeon DIS Veteran

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    She has a sister but the sister is a few years younger. The younger sister is a good student, but there's nothing in the tough act to follow category there.

    Dd is very hard to have a deep conversation with. She's mostly just trying to play us and will admit to telling us what she thinks we want to hear or argue endlessly about minutiae or completely shut down. She's always been our little attorney-in-training. I think one of the issues is that she does tend toward being a perfectionist, and in the past she's gotten a lot of attention for her accomplishments. Her thinking tends to run very black and white. So either she's going to do something perfectly or she can't do it at all.

    As an example, Dd is an excellent violin player. She had been taking lessons for years from an extraordinary tutor, a woman who has very high standards and is brilliant. But, she's pretty rigid and demanding. She came from a prestigious conservatory, where she was faculty, but then she married and relocated to our area. This year, dd and the tutor butted heads on a lot of things, and the end result was that dd was encouraged to leave. I think they both were equally to blame. Dd wasn't working very hard, but the tutor wasn't taking into account that teenagers have other things going on in their lives, and also might want to have some say in what pieces they play, etc. She was used to teaching highly motivated college and graduate students. We had a month of high drama where she wanted to chuck the whole thing and never touch her violin again. We got her a new tutor and it's somewhat better. She recently went to a festival and got a 98/100, which is the equivalent to an A+, but she cried all day for not getting 100.
     
  10. Pigeon

    Pigeon DIS Veteran

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    I think CBT would probably be more effective than what's she's doing. The thing is while there are tons of therapists in the area, almost none of them will take children and a grand total of two will take adolescents. They aren't stupid. ;)
     
  11. Pigeon

    Pigeon DIS Veteran

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    I'll try the link you sent, thanks!
     
  12. MEK

    MEK DIS Veteran

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    Good luck Pigeon! Many of us have been there and our kids came our better people for the challenges they had in high school. I have no doubt your daughter will be successful!
     
  13. NHdisneylover

    NHdisneylover DIS Veteran

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    I think this is right on target for many, many teens. :thumbsup2 She is realizing she is smart but not the biggest fish in a big pond. She is realizing that what she "always wanted to be" is going to involve a LOT of work she does not enjoy and/or is not good at. Her own view of herself, and her friends and teacher's views, and even YOUR view (OP) are wrapped up in her being smart. She has to figure out who is is if she isn't "the smart girl" or who else she is besides that. I see a lot of people hit this wall in highschool, or in college, and then they freeze up and do not know how to handle it--so they handle it by avoiding what makes them feel less smart, which leads to no studying and no homework done (or minimal) and plummeting grades.

    Personally, I would work on telling the perfectionist that it is okay not to be the best. Show her examples of people who are successful in life who were not A students. Make sure she knows that while you celebrated her academic achievements, that is not what you love about her and if those go away you love her just as much. Give her "permission" to do reasonable amounts of work and get Bs or Cs but not knock herself out getting As. Tell her it will seem better next year when she is not in honors classes, and make that GOOD thing (a way to not live in so much stress) and not a bad thing (ie--don't tell her she is screwing up and will e kicked out of the honors program).

    If her dad is a high school science teacher, why pay this? Can't you set aside time a couple of times a week that she HAS to work on Chemistry with dad, regardless of if she has homework, until she is maintaining passing grades?

    Thanks for answering :thumbsup2


    I thought I had also quoted the OP about there being something between Brain surgeon and Nail Tech, but it is not here :confused3

    OP--with a perfectionist who is losing her drive, be careful with this thought line and expressing it to her. I think it reinforces the view that is likely in her mind that if she doesn't do well, she might as well give up all together and not try because you are basically telling her that if she gets some bad grades as a sophomore in highschool her entire life will be "ruined" and she will have very few options in the future.

    That is simply NOT reality. You can have nearly any grades, still get into community college somewhere and get better and work your way back up and go to college and get a degree and a job--and when you do, no employer gives a flying fig about what grade you got in HIGHSCHOOL.

    The single best thing we ever did for my DD was get off of the "every decision you make now greatly impacts your future" train that seems to be running full steam ahead in the US right now. The pressure of that was just too much and it was killing her. Once we totally changed our focus and I started pointing out all of the successful people we know who were average students in highschool, and looking with her at all the various things that lead to success and happiness in life and how grades are a tiny part of it, and looking at what things REALLY do impact you forever (being seriously injured or killed by driving drunk or drug use, posting really stupid things online that people will see forever, etc) and saying that all the rest has LOTS of wiggle room, she found her motivation again. She has her OWN motivation again, and is not bringing home 100s but is getting As even (and that is not what we tell she needs to do!).
     
  14. NHdisneylover

    NHdisneylover DIS Veteran

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    and one more thing: I really do not think it is fair to kids to place pressure to have any certain type of career on them. Talk about the pros and cons, yeah sure. BUT as long as they are supporting themselves and not a drain on you or society, why couldn't she be a "nail tech" if she wanted?

    I have a sister in law who was MISERABLE trying to follow a career that her degree was in for nearly two decades. About 5 years ago she finally had enough, quit and ended up working as a delivery driver for Fed Ex. She has told us she felt like "a failure" like her family and especially her parents would think she was a failure and not valuable and not "living up to her potential" and it ate her up inside for a long while (and is what kept her from making the change sooner). Truth ism that change is the best thing she ever did for herself. She actually enjoys her work and she likes that at the end of the day she LEAVES it all behind and has no work related stress at home at all.

    The best thing she did for her mental and physical well being was move to a "no skills" job. Her family is provided for. It is really sad that she felt pressured for over a decade NOT to do that because of how her parents might view it.
     
  15. MichelleinMaine

    MichelleinMaine DIS Veteran

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    Haven't read through all the replies, but here's our recent experience with DS17....

    He's always been a decent enough student- Cs, B's, occasional A but getting him to do homework has always been a struggle. I have often wanted to bang my head because he'd get A's and B's on most of his tests and lower grades on report cards because of 0's on homework.

    We tried taking stuff away, you can't do XYZ til all your homework is done, threats, bribes, etc. 2nd quarter this year, DS said if we'd only lay off him, he'd promise his grades would be better, so we tried that. Ok, all up to him. End of the quarter, he's nearly failed 2 subjects and had a 37 in another. :faint: No, it was not pretty.

    We have had a HORRIBLE past couple months. Fights, depression, just really awful for all of us. Out of that though, DS was finally able to express (and/or we actually asked the right question. :() where he was having problems. Several rounds with counselors and social worker and many hours of testing with a neuropyschologist- come to find out, the kid's got a learning issue. His entire academic career makes SO much more sense to us now. He's been working with a teacher at the learning center at school and will be learning some different strategies through the neuropysch doctor... this was 20 pounds lifted from my shoulders and I think 50 lifted off his. No kidding, we went out for ice cream to celebrate the eureka moment!

    I obivously don't know what is up with your daughter, but here's what I wish someone had told me with DS.
    1. Talk to him with open mind to find out what the problem actually is. "Unmotivated" and "doesn't care" generally has a root cause. Of course kids get that good grades generally equal more chances for success. Is there something bigger than that going on that pushes them to "other problem is too big for me, so I just don't care."
    Does he not understand the material, not have the right materials at hand, need a quieter place to study, doesnt' know where to start the project, has a teacher not giving him enough info what the project is to be, etc.
    2. Parents may not be the best ones to do #1. You've got a vested interest and it's hard to actually listen for what you need to hear. I'm not sure a psychologist is the best one either, unless there's a good level of comfort and trust already.
    Is there another trusted adult she can go to- a teacher, another parent, aunt, pastor, etc? It could even be a peer. The understanding has to be that person is going to reply her message to the parents.
    (I just know often times DS needs to talk things all the way out til HE figures out what the problem is... and well frankly I'm not patient enough to keep quiet that long. DS was able to talk the whole thing through witha friend, who could then tell us the short version of the problem matter of factly.)
    3. Trust your gut. Alot of people told us we were overreacting, DS was acting like a typical teen. They weren't seeing the dispair in his eyes though. We pushed through for testing, figuring what is the worst to come out of it- they tell us we have a typical teen.
    4. Tell them you love them. In the middle of our horrible 2 months, DS wrote me a note that he wished I still loved him. :( In my mind, of course I did, otherwise I'd not be fighting so hard on his behalf. In his mind, though, I was just yelling at him.:(


    For us, what was finally the break through was realizing that the teacher he had the most trouble (and the 37) in was an extreme of a particular type of teaching style. Other teachers along the way are somewhat that way- DS would do poorly in those parts, but did well enough in the other parts of the class to average out well. This one teacher is an all or nothing sort though, and it's the sort DS has trouble with. Once we were looking for the right thing- it was pretty obvious that is where he needs some help. We'd been just throwing out "solutions"/threats hoping one would work, but none of them had anything to do with what his problem actually was.

    Hope that helps some!
     
  16. punkin

    punkin <font color=purple>Went through pain just to look

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    My DD14 was a good student until 7th grade when her grades started sliding. I started punishing and taking things away. It didn't work. By first semester 9th grade (this year) they had fallen off a cliff. She actually failed one class and was barely keeping a D in honors Geometry. I had guidance counselors calling me diagnosing her with ADHD for a start (now my DD actually does have neurological problems and ADHD has never been diagnosed...it's just the flavor of the day in educational circles). She kept saying that she was stupid and it was just too hard, etc...Unlike in 7th and most of 8th grade, I didn't punish. I made sure the work was done and gave her help when she needed it. I also hired a tutor for the subject she failed (I offered to hire one for Math too, but she refused).

    Fast forward to this semester...My child has As and Bs in all classes (A in the class she failed last semester and a B in Math). Her Math teacher asked her if she was on medication (no. she's not). I have no idea what happened. Obviously, she matured or something. My point is (I guess) that there was nothing I could do to make her get the grades until she wanted to. As long as you provide support and a home environment where learning is paramount, she will eventually "get it!"
     
  17. Pigeon

    Pigeon DIS Veteran

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    I know way more people who wished that their parents had pushed them a little more when they were younger than I do people who are thrilled to death to be working in dead end, low paying menial jobs. I have SIL who works for UPS and it has not been thrilling. She kicks herself all the time for having made poor educational choices when she was younger.

    I am NOT putting pressure on my kids to become neurosurgeons, but yes, I do think education is important (or learning a skilled trade like plumbing or electrical). I also think being able to earn a decent living is important. I don't want them to face a lifetime of financial stress.
     

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