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Parents: How To Get Your High Schooler To Take Academic Responsibility

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As parents, you probably feel that your student is incredible. To you, they are intelligent, motivated, intellectual, creative, and everything that colleges would ever want in a student. However, as brilliant as your student may be, you may recognize that they don’t always try their best when it comes to schoolwork.


It’s important that you as a parent note that this kind of apathetic behavior towards school work is perfectly normal. As the school year drones on and the spring semester gets well underway, students often lose interest in academics. It’s possible that they have been in the same classes for so many months that they may be getting bored of the subject. It’s also possible that they may not fully understand how much is riding on their academics from a college admissions perspective.


Either way, if you feel like your teenager is lacking academic responsibility or may be losing interest in school, here are some suggestions you can try to help get your student back on track.



Realize That Times Have Changed

Just because high school and college applications were a certain way when you were in high school doesn’t mean that that’s how they are now. In fact, with the advent of technology in the classroom and the increased diversity of the US student population, the likelihood of there being similarities between your high school experience and theirs is pretty slim.


Thus, when you’re talking to your child about schoolwork and assessing whether they’ve lost interest in academics, it’s important to not compare your high school career to theirs. You truly don’t know everything about what they’re going through, so the, “When I was your age, we did…” argument is truly irrelevant here.


Of course, you should try to give your child advice but only where you think you are qualified to give it. A good method is to not tell your teenager what you did when you were their age but instead tell them what you would do if you were in high school now. Finally, make sure that it is clear to your child that just because times have changed doesn’t mean that you are not still knowledgeable and capable of helping him/her.



Be Proactive

Getting through to a teenager usually takes more than a few stern warnings or even some gentle encouragement. As a parent, you need to take an active role in making sure that your teen not only knows the importance of getting back on the academic track but also is constantly taking steps to improve himself/herself.


This means that you’re going to have to first sit your student down and explain to them that you’re not seeing them doing their best in their academics and that you’re just looking out for their well-being. Then, in the next few weeks, you need to constantly motivate, encourage, and work with your student to make sure they’re getting back on track. This can include looking at and helping them with their homework, proofreading their essays, or even setting up a reward system for getting good grades.

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The fact of the matter is that you are your teenager’s parent, not a cool teacher or a counselor who your teen may feel comfortable sharing their struggles with. It’s important for you to try and break down that communication barrier by presenting yourself as someone who is here to help rather than rigid old Mom/Dad with impossibly high expectations.


A great way to try and break down that communication barrier to start by assuring your teen that it is okay for them to make mistakes as long as they learn from them and that you are always there to help them if they need it. You need to also stress that when he/she talks to you, they are in a no-judgment zone. Your only goal should be to help your teen, not criticize them. If your teen knows that you are serious about that, they will be more motivated to share their life with you.


Hopefully, by creating this safe environment for your student to talk, your student will be able to open up about his/her academic struggles. From there, you two can work together to find the root of the issue and start working to get your student back on track.



Encourage Asking For Help

It’s not that easy to get back on the right academic track by yourself, especially as a busy high school student with a host of other responsibilities that have nothing to do with academics. Thus, it is often necessary to bring in others to help fix an academic situation in need.


It is up to you, as the parent, to make sure your child has all of the tools that they need to succeed. Be sure to stress to your teen that you are there to help them succeed academically, whether it be helping them with their homework or getting them some school supplies to be more organized. You can also tell them that you’re more than willing to outsource the help to a professional like a near-peer mentor, counselor, or tutor who can better relate to them and understand their academic struggles.


If your teen knows that there are all of these resources at their disposal and tons of people who are rooting for him/her to succeed, they may start to get the sense that academics are important. It may even motivate them to start improving their grades on their own.



Be Tolerant

Teens are often in an emotional state while they’re in high school, and can you blame them? The high school environment is not always kind, what with the prevalence of bullying, cliques, and other social pressures in many high schools. Try to put yourself in their shoes for a moment and understand what they might be going through emotionally. Their emotional state and their school environment all factor into their academic performance.


If you create an open, loving, and tolerant environment for your teen to share what their experiences in school are like and overall what is going on with them, your teen may be more open and honest with you. They may also respect you more and be more likely to take your advice on getting their academics back on track.



The Takeaway

When it comes to eliciting change from your student, it’s important to create an open, non-judgmental conversation with the sole aim of helping your teen. Let them know that their problems are your problems and that you are only interested in their success. From there, you can foster a positive relationship that will lead to your teen’s academic improvement.


For other helpful advice for the parents of high school students, check out these previous blog posts:


Parents: 10 Tips to Prepare Your Teen for Sophomore Year

Parents: Tips for Teaming Up With Your Student on SAT & ACT Prep

Parents: What To Do When Your Child Wants to Take a Gap Year

Parents: 10 Easy Ways to Help Your Teen Become a Better Writer


Does your teen want access to expert college guidance — for free? When they create their free CollegeVine account, they will find out their real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve their profile, and get their questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Encourage them to sign up for their CollegeVine account today to get a boost on their college journey.

Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!