You’re a good parent. But parenting a teenager is not easy. You’re navigating through a lot of tricky situations – not the least of which is trying to figure out how to support them in school.
When they were little, you had to provide a lot of structure and routines.
But at some point, they are supposed to handle their responsibilities, like grades, without you.
But what if that’s not happening?
If you do too much, they won’t learn how to get things done on their own.
If you do too little, and they drop the ball, they risk falling hopelessly behind and might fail classes. That will change the opportunities that are available for life after high school.
It seems at times that some teens are oblivious to the concept that their choices now will have consequences later. Ugh!
Add to that the reality that they are going through a physical phase of life that is infamous for mood swings, apathy, impulsivity, and major social challenges.
No, parenting a teenager is not easy.
Please use my classroom experience to help you with one thing today – finishing the school year strong!
How can you help them help themselves if they are behind in a math class?
If your student has dropped the ball and needs to catch up before the end of the semester, what can you do at home to support them without enabling them?
Tip 1: Communicate expectations with clear, concrete and complete language.
For example, an expectation of “no missing work” is likely to be interpreted literally.
All missing assignments will be turned in after being done quickly without quality. Missing grades will be replaced with failing grades. Which is probably NOT what you meant.
However, they won’t be missing, which is what you asked for.
(Wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told “Mrs. White – You don’t understand! I’m not supposed to have any missing work” when I’ve handed back a badly done assignment for a redo.)
Tip 2: Set Attainable & Measurable Goals
I hesitate to recommend expectations about grades because, again, kids interpret things literally. If the expectation is “C or higher”, they may assume you don’t care how they get that grade.
The advantage of setting a grade goal is that grades are clear targets and easily measurable.
But a grade goal must include the expectation that the math skills are actually learned.
Learning math takes time and repeated practice. This is why grade goals are a little tricky for parents and there is a temptation to fall back to “at least you tried”.
However, “at least you tried” reinforces the “just turn it in” message you didn’t intend to send.
But yes, it’s tricky to set a grade goal with a student who has been not seeing success in math.
Too high, a student will shut down from fear of failure.
Too low, they aren’t challenged enough to work. They may procrastinate because they don’t feel a sense of urgency to reach a low goal.
I wish all teenagers were capable of setting their own goals, but from years of experience, I suspect most will play it safe and set them too low – also from that fear of failure and of disappointing you.
An appropriate goal encourages a student to stretch outside their comfort zone without shutting down.
Goal setting is a great conversation to have with their teacher. If I’m your child’s tutor, we’ll have this conversation, too. Because I’ve taught high school math for a couple decades, I have a good idea about what is reasonable, but I’ve also seen what kids can accomplish when they are motivated and supported.
Tip 3: (Supported) Self-Reliance
The student must be in charge of checking their own grades online, pulling together a list of missing work, and be the one in charge of talking to the teacher.
If they are still learning how to be self-reliant, you’ll need to check those grades, too, and they need to know you are checking on Fridays before any weekend plans are finalized.
It’s a good idea to email teachers if you have a question, but don’t have the hard conversation about missing work or how to raise the grade for your student.
Resist the urge to come up with a solution for this situation for them. That was age-appropriate before. It’s not now.
They must handle this themselves.
Even if a student isn’t handling things the most efficient way, they will learn from the experience and will handle a similar situation better next time.
They have to figure this out now. You won’t be there to intervene with a college professor, a roommate, a co-worker, or a boss.
Having hard conversations and the self-discipline to keep up with their work are skills that won’t be learned if a teen is rescued from navigating the consequences of poor choices.
Just like at home, they have to clean up their own messes. Doing it for them is enabling. Supporting while they do it themselves is teaching self-reliance.
If I’m your student’s tutor, I will support you and also coach them on how to handle this situation. I won’t do it for them, but I will help them learn what they’ve missed, get caught up, and hold them accountable.
Tip 4: When to Hire a Tutor? Now. Now is Good.
In order for a student to catch up and close the gap between where they are and where they are supposed to be before a final exam, they need help and time.
Math is not a “crammable” subject and closing gaps requires more expertise than simply providing homework support. It also requires quite a bit of coaching and mentoring, also something that an experienced, professional, and caring teacher/tutor will provide.
The fastest, most efficient way to get a student up to speed is to work with a qualified expert who will pinpoint the mislearnings, reteach effectively, then accelerate learning by adapting lessons to that student’s learning style preference.
If you don’t have the best tutor for your student in your neighborhood, you do have the entire world available online. One-on-one tutoring is as common place now as making a video call – but private teachers have online, interactive whiteboards and every resource on Google available during a lesson, at a moment’s notice.
Parents – you have a task ahead, but you don’t have to figure it out alone!
Use these tips to make a plan that you can implement now. Waiting until the week before final exams just puts a student in a pressure cooker filled with stress and anxiety.
Now is the time to make a change if your student needs to recover this semester.
Thank you for reading! Your questions and comments are welcome. Please feel free to share this blog if you found it helpful.