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November 10, 2010

Whose Grades Are They Anyway?

Image: Flickr/Marco Nedermeijer

Image: Flickr/Marco Nedermeijer

My daughter is really struggling with her grades and honestly so am I. I understand that I am part of the problem because I am having trouble controlling my anxiety with her grades. Can you give me some suggestions of structures or processes that I can put in place that will not only help her, but help me stay calm during the process?
— Jill F.

Hal : We get this one a lot…well, at least this subject. OK, here’s the thing. You are not responsible for your daughter’s grades…I know for me I’ve got to breathe that truth in. So, if that’s true, you have to take a step back and identify what are the actions that you have been taking that you actually feel responsible for? Are you harping on it? Are you talking about it every day? Are you having parent-teacher conferences without your kid in the room? Which, by the way, is mind-boggling that this happens. So, the parent feels responsible for getting the kid to get good grades and the teacher who feels responsible for getting the student to get good grades and getting together to discuss this…even though the only person that actually is in control of getting good grades is not even in the room. That is just not going to be productive.

Try this. “Whether you get good grades is up to you. Is there anything that I could be doing that could help you do better?” Get feedback from your kid. Ask her. Don’t be afraid of what she might say. She might say, “Yeah, you could get off my back.” “Really. Tell me more about that.” “Well, you’re harping on it all day. It’s all you’re ever talking about. You’re freaking out all the time.” Then, you just have to resist the temptation to say, “Well, I’m just doing the best that I can. My parents didn’t…”. You would tune yourself out if you were listening to that. Of course she’s going to tune you out. Don’t turn it into a lecture. Continue to ask questions.

Because…you’ve got to ask yourself a tough question. “Do I want her to discover her own unique way of learning and take control of her own grades or do I just want her to vindicate that I’ve been right the whole time?” I see parent after parent after parent who just wants to be proven right…rather than leading them down a better path. What are my responsibilities to my children? Do I set up a helpful schedule? Do I restrict TV time enough? We do it a little differently in my household. I tell my kids, “Hey, the TV is coming on at 5.” “What?” “The TV is coming on at 5.” “What about now?” “No.” “Well, what should I do now?” “I don’t know…go outside, play, read a book, do your homework…that’s up to YOU.” They are like “Huh?” That’s just so different than “The TV is not coming on until you do your homework.” They need to now start thinking about managing their own time. “Oh , by the way, the TV is going off at 6.” They begin to figure out, “Dad’s actually encouraging me to watch TV? How bizarre. Hmmm. Maybe now would be a good time do my homework.”

My job is to provide encouragement, structure, supplies, whatever help they may need…but that may not come from me. If they ask for help, I say “who else in your class can you call?” My job is to hand their life back to them and equip them to eventually know what to do with it. And it’s never too late to get started.

Take care, Hal.

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