Last Updated on September 2, 2021.
Are you struggling to get your teen to do school work? Here’s how to discipline a teenager for bad grades in 5 easy, foolproof steps.
There’s probably nothing more disheartening than to see your teen throw away opportunities to reach their full potential. And when they’re putting in no effort at school, that’s exactly what they’re doing. So how can you discipline your teenager for bad grades?
I’m going to remind you of a lesson you learned when your child was a toddler. You cannot make them do anything they do not want to do. You couldn’t force them to eat, sleep or potty on the toilet during toddlerhood. And you can’t force them to do school work as a teenager. The best solution is to get buy-in.
And to get buy-in, we need to avoid using negative punishments. Punishment and positive discipline are two very different things. Punishments are typically punitive and can promote further conflict. It creates resentment and damages relationships (permanently). Discipline, on the other hand, is about teaching. You want your teen to absorb the lessons you’re offering, internalize them, and achieve their greatest potential. You want them to become a disciple (in a non-religious sense).
So now the question is: How do you get your teen to work hard in school? The answer is to connect with them, understand who they are, and tap into the things they love. Here are 5 foolproof steps to get your teen.
1. Talk to Your Teen
Teens are notoriously difficult to talk to. But with a little patience and persistence, you can connect with your child through conversations. Set aside the conflicts and learn about your teen. What do they like? What are their plans? Who do they want to be in their adult life?
It works best if you have small discussions over time (rather than one big, long sit down talk). And make it casual (no formal agenda). Kids are often more open when they’re busy, so plan fun bonding activities, like hiking, bowlin, or doing a puzzle.
2. Set Realistic Goals Together
Once you have a better understanding of your teen, it’s time to set some realistic goals together. What do they want to do for work in their adulthood? What are they passionate about? Are there requirements for that career? What sort of house do they want to strive for? How much money do they need to make annually to afford that lifestyle? Do they want a family? What kind of career would help them have the family life they dream of? Do they want to retire early? How much do they need to save during their career to make this happen? Do the legwork to get actual data to help your teen truly understand what’s required to achieve their goals.
If your teen has no aspirations, it’s time to figure out what they are passionate about. Enroll your teen into classes that might interest them. Your local community center probably has a wide range of inexpensive courses, like photography, natural sciences, and even basket weaving.
Think outside the box! Does your teen want to own a business? Contact a local business owner and see if you can set up a 30 minute meeting for your child to ask questions. Do they want to be an actor? Join the drama club at school. Do they want to explore nature as a career? Get them a scuba diving or spelunking lesson.
Find something that excites them! Then use this to set goals they can achieve.
3. Create a Plan
Once your child has an end goal, it’s time to create a plan. What specific jobs could they land right out of school as a stepping stone into their desired career? Do they need a college degree?
I find it easiest to plan backwards! If they have an ideal career, it’s easy to find out what educational qualifications are required. Then you find potential schools. Take a look at the admissions requirements for those schools, and you’ll find a minimum high school GPA. This gives your teen an immediate, tangible goal they can work towards.
If you’re a planner like me, you might want to lay out long term and short term goals. Keep the long term goals more generalized, like a field or industry. Short term goals should be more specific, like achieving a specific GPA, or gaining admission to a specific college or trade school.
4. Control the Environment
Teens’ brains are not fully developed (that doesn’t actually happen until they are about 25), so they still lack some impulse control and decision making skills. To help them, you can control their environment.
Here are a few of the ways I suggest to keep your teen on the right path:
- Limit and monitor cell phone and computer usage
- Limit social outings and activities
- Encourage activities that are in line with their goals (classes, hanging out with friends with similar interests, etc)
- Encourage outdoor time (nature has a plethora of benefits)
- Insist on meeting the APA sleep guidelines for their age (their brain is still developing, remember!)
- Use logical consequences only when necessary
- Allow independence and autonomy whenever possible
5. Let Natural Consequences Be the Teacher
It’s tempting to step in as a parent to prevent your child from failing. But failure is a wonderful teacher. Your kids will learn more valuable lessons from the natural consequences of their actions than from any consequence you put in place. So when your child doesn’t do the work, don’t try to alleviate the repercussions. Be there for support. Offer to help them plan better for the future. Ask how you can help. And hopefully they will take you up on it.
Tips for Success
When you’re thinking about how to discipline your teenager for bad grades, here are some important tips to consider to increase the odds of success!
⮕ When talking to your teen, try doing it while you’re sitting side by side. You can do this while sitting at the dinner table, while driving in the car together, or just sitting on a bench together at the park. There’s a whole body of psychology that suggests that sitting side by side while talking is less confrontational.
⮕ If you’re comfortable doing so, get your child involved in the financial planning at your own home. Diving into the family budget can be a sobering experience. When they realize how expensive the basics are, such as housing, utilities, and groceries, they’ll better understand why they need a solid career plan.
⮕ Get your child involved in household chores and maintenance. They live in the home, they should be responsible for some of the upkeep. Assign specific tasks, set the expectation, and use logical consequences to enforce these new responsibilities. The benefits are threefold: they’re learning how to be responsible adults, they’re gaining basic skills, and some of the household work is off your plate.
⮕ Kids naturally want to have a sense of power over their own lives, so it’s important you find a balance of giving them autonomy and creating a path to guide them. If you venture into controlling parent territory, you risk long term damage to your parent/child relationship
⮕ If you need help, join our Positive Parenting Support Squad! In the group you’ll find online resources, a community of parents to help you, and me!
What You Should Do Next…
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Connect with like-minded moms (and dads!) in our free online community. You’ll find a plethora of resources to help you through your parenting challenges. Plus, you’ll find me there! And I’d love to connect.
Do you need actionable strategies right now? Register for this free 60-minute webinar titled How to Get Kids to Listen, Without Nagging, Yelling or Losing Control. You’ll walk away with parent-tested tactics to get your kids to listen starting today.