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Developing A Teenager's Interest To Study

by Nabarun
(Kolkata)

How to handle 17 year old teenager who is intelligent but not putting in efforts to score good marks. He is over confident, casual and arrogant.

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Teenagers and Good Grades - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Nabarun,

It is very hard for parents, who clearly want the best for their teenagers, to know what to do when their teen doesn't seem to be living up to their potential.

Your son is at the age where he is pulling away and wanting to make his own decisions, and it is really hard to step back, if it appears they are not making good ones! But actually that is what you need to start doing. In some ways, the more you push him to succeed academically, the more he will resist.

He will respond better in the long run, if you can let him take responsibility for his actions. And yes, this may mean that he get terrible marks at school for 6 months until he decides HE wants to do something about it. But you can't force him conform to your expectations.

We place such a high value on educational success being the most important thing for a child to achieve. Of course we want our kids to have the
opportunities that a good education can offer, but we tend to only focus preparing kids for the world of work, and forget that the biggest learning for a teenager is about relationships and how to get on in the world - regardless of
educational qualifications.

If you can switch your tactics a bit, and give him more trust, he will start to respond differently. Nagging a teenager just does not work. Instead, start telling him that you know he understands how important you think a good education is, and that you trust him to make good decisions. This means he can think it through and make his own decision, instead of feeling like he has to comply with your expectations.

You also have to be prepared to let him make mistakes, or bad decisions. He will not learn to deal with the consequences unless he is responsible for his own mistakes. And it may be that he is not seeing getting good grades as
being the top priority for him.

I know it seems to you that should be his priority goal, but just think for a minute, if it really is as important as you think. His success in life, is really more about his ability to learn, to think for himself, and to follow his dreams and passions.

He might not do that in the way that you would prefer. The world is changing very fast, and educational institutions are not keeping up with it. He clearly is intelligent, has plenty of confidence (even arrogance you say) so he will do well no matter if he gets good grades or not.

Teenagers and Good Grades - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Many many of the top entrepreneurs in the world dropped out of school. That doesn't mean they stopped learning, in fact, they were so motivated to learn they got frustrated with a school system that does not cater for kids thinking for themselves. Even people like Bill Gates, who did go to college, generated a lot of his success by breaking rules and thinking outside the box.

On the whole a great deal of what we learn in school, is about conforming, and absorbing facts - that can now very easily be found on the internet. What kids need most is a questioning mind, the ability to read, and the ability to research, and to be computer literate. Then people can learn ANYTHING they need to reach their goals.

The majority of people who go through university are not working in the field they trained in. Very few people are still working at the same career they were in 5 years ago. Things are changing very rapidly, and you really don't need to be so concerned that he will be disadvantaged if he doesn't get great grades.

Of course there are exceptions, for example, if he was wanting to go to medical school, or to train in some vocations that have restrictions for entry based on good grades, then he does really need to think about if his study habits are going to get him where he wants to go.

Most teenagers don't know what they want to do in life. Only a small percentage of kids have always wanted to be a doctor, or vet, and know they have to succeed at a certain level at school to reach that.

Give your son a bit of space to work out for himself where he is heading, and how important good grades will be. He may even do what I did, I dropped out of school at a very young age, and started working in interior design. I didn't end
up going to University until after my marriage ended, and I was a single Mom of two. I think going to University as a mature age student was so much more valuable, than many of the young kids around me, who really had no idea why they were there.

Yes a good education opens up some doors, and if those doors are really important, then getting focused on getting the grades to get through those doors is a good idea.

Teenagers and Good Grades - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Your son is at the age, where you need to trust that you have done a great job of raising him, and offering him the values you think are important. He may be rebelling at present, but those values will have shaped him, and he will most likely lean towards them by himself if you step back a bit and trust that he is an intelligent bright young man, and is capable of making decisions that are in his best interests. Even if he doesn't make the decisions you think are best for him, he needs to test that out for himself.

Of course your guidance is important, and he is far more likely to listen to you, if he feels you respect and trust him to think for himself and learn from any mistakes he makes. We all make mistakes, there is nothing wrong with that unless we keep repeating it. If we look at a mistake as an opportunity to re-assess, and maybe change direction or re-focus, then it is all just a learning opportunity. The teenagers that learn to test things and try things out go a lot further than kids who just conform and do everything according to the book.

I know it is very hard when he doesn't seem to be respecting you, or taking his education seriously, but he is learning a lot of other things about living successfully in the world, and finding out about himself. If you start treating him differently, I guarantee he will start behaving differently to you. The more you are going head to head with him the more you will push him away. You are getting to the stage where you can start relating more as adults instead of parent-child.

He may not be acting like an adult in lots of ways, but part of that is because he is still trying to pull away from the childlike role of being told what to do.

The most important thing now is to keep the communication flowing between you, give him your trust and believe in the parenting you have done, that he will be a fine young man. Change your vision of him as failing in school, or not
succeeding, and instead build a vision of him being successful, no matter what he does, even if he doesn't choose to do it the way you would like. Focus on his strengths and keep the door open to him being able to come to you to discuss
things he is not so sure of.

Your concern for your son shows how much you care, but he may just see it as you not believing in him or not letting him shape his own future. Focus on letting him know you love him and care deeply about him, and build on the positive aspects of your relationship. In the long run, that will have a much better outcome than pressuring him or disapproval and disappointment in his academic achievements.

Teenagers and Good Grades - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

Of course different cultures value educational grades differently, and it may be more critical for getting those doors open in your country. Find out from your son, what kind of support he needs to be able to focus better. He may want reminders, or accountability from you to keep him focused, or he may work better when he is able to ask you for help or support in his own time. Some kids study really well with music playing at the same time. Some kids study better in a group, some prefer to be alone.

Rather than being the police person who ends up frustrated with him, see if you can help him to work out how he gets the best results, and what he needs from you to help motivate him. You really want to be encouraging him to be self motivated. I know some parents have big bribes for their kids to achieve good grades, but I think in the long run you are helping him more when you encourage him to be self motivated and plan his time and be responsible for the outcomes.

Good luck with him, it can be a challenging age, but also one of lots of change and growth. I'm sure he will be fine, you have done a great job with him.

All the best,
Annie Desantis

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