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Teenager Lacks Interest in School

Question:

I have a 17-year-old son that we have probably spoiled. In his younger school years, he easily got good grades. Now, he doesn't think school is important and is letting his grades slip. I gave him some rules. To continue to drive our car to school, he must maintain a B average and receive no grades lower than a “C.” He received an “F,” so I took back our car and took away his cell phone. He is extremely angry with us and always in a bad mood. How can we help him see school is important and that he must respect his parents?

Answer:

It's common for parents to encounter power struggles with their teens. It sounds like your expectations are reasonable. Sometimes teens see things as rights, but driving is a privilege and not a right; it's important to instill in them that not everyone gets the same privileges in life. If you find that your son is having difficulty with this perspective, some parents have found it helpful to have their teen volunteer at a local homeless shelter or food pantry.

When parents administer a punishment or implement a new strategy, it's common for the teen not to like it. If you have tried to speak to him about the consequences, but he’s not able to have that conversation with you, that's fine. Say something like, "Let us know when you have calmed down and are ready to talk. The longer it takes, the longer your punishment could be." This is not a threatening statement; it's letting him know that he is in charge of his behavior and what your expectations are.

Help him succeed in school by getting involved in his school life. Ask him about his school day, volunteer at the school, attend the school's sporting events to show him that you think school is important. Creating a central location in your home for study and completing homework, keeping that designated area quiet and free from distractions. Explain and enforce the school rules by familiarizing yourself with the school's code of conduct. Praise your son for his good behaviors and work with his teachers by attending parent-teacher conferences. Give it time and be consistent with your approach, and you will see positive changes in his behavior.

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