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Help Your Teenager be Successful in High School

Updated on November 21, 2011
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Start Off Strong

Every parent has experienced the frustrating moment, when you first see your child after school and you ask, "How was school today? What did you do?" Only to get the same colorless answer, "Fine, nothing?" It can feel impossible to stay in touch with what our children do for those seven hours a day. Here are a few ideas of how you can stay better informed on how your child is doing in school and how to help them be more successful.

High school is a time when teenagers should be forming constructive habits that will help them organize their life and reach the goals they set. Start the year off strong by making sure your student has the supplies he needs to be organized. Make sure he has a place to record assignments and encourage him to do so at the end of each class. In fact, even though talking and texting during school hours in prohibited, most teachers allow students to use their phones to record assignments and set up reminders for themselves. This is a habit students need to form to ensure they can be organized through high school, college, and on into adulthood. They will always have assignments and deadlines to meet and the sooner they learn how to organize themselves the better.

Quick Laugh

What do you call someone who keeps talking when no one is listening?

A teacher...

Be Actively Involved

Because these years are still very much a time for learning, parents need to stay very involved in their teenagers education. The wonderful world of technology has made this easier then ever. Schools now have programs where your student's grades, attendance, and conduct are securely posted on line. You can check your child's grades as often as you want, you can even set it up so the program emails you if your child's grades drop below a certain percentage. It can also notify you of missing assignments, absences, etc. This way you know what is going on in your child's classes.

As a teacher, I encourage parents to stay very involved, however, give your child the opportunity to handle things on their own first. If you notice an assignment is missing, wait a day or two to give him the opportunity to make it up on his own. However, if he doesn't take the initiative, you will need to remind and prod a little to make sure it gets done. This does need to happen sooner then later. If a student is absent, they only have a limited number of days to make up the work. If the work was simply forgotten, and therefore not turned in on time. Teachers are often willing to take late work soon after the due date. Even if they only give partial credit, it is better then a zero. However, if work is not turned in for weeks, even months, until the day before grades are due and a parent calls begging the teacher to allow their child to turn it in, the answer is often "No". This is not an effort to be difficult or disagreeing, it is simply an effort to teach responsibility.

Obviously there are exceptions to every rule. If there is a student who is working hard in class but has fallen behind for whatever reason, of course teachers are willing to work with him and help him be successful. However, if there is a student who skips class often and doesn't do the work even when he is there, he is less likely to get a second chance. If your child is losing interest in school and not putting forth their best effort, then by staying informed on their grades, you can catch this behavior early and hopefully help them correct it.

Just Joking

Little Girl: Mom, today at school I was punished for something I didn't do.

Mom: That is terrible, I am heading up to the school right now. By the way, what didn't you do?

Little Girl: My Homework...

Don't Bail Them Out

One of the biggest injustices we do to our teenagers is when we constantly bail them out of trouble. I have 3 children and I know I would do anything to prevent them from having to experience anything unpleasant in this life. However, I do want them to understand there are consequences to their actions. As little children they have to sit in time out, or lose a toy, etc when they do something they aren't supposed to. Why should that change once they become teenagers?

If a teen forgets to study for a test in his Biology class and as a result his parent writes him a pass to leave school during that period so he dosen't have to take the test. This allows him to study and make it up at a later day, but what is the parent teaching this child? The parent thinks he is just helping his child out and surely the teen has learned his lesson and won't do it again. But what he really learned, and I know this because I over heard him discussing it in the hall after class, is that he dosen't have to worry about anything because his parent will always bail him out.

I understand that life happens and no one is perfect, least of all me. But if you notice a pattern with your child, and feel the problem is getting worse, not better. Then it is time to put a strong foot down and allow your child to answer to the consequences that accompany his actions.

Parents worry about the long term effects of that one poor test grade. We know it will pull down their average, then their overall GPA, and could eventually effect which college they get into. However, I suggest that if we allow these teenagers to face the consequences, it will only take them one time to learn the importance of organization. Also, if they want college and a career badly enough, they will find a way to raise that grade back up and reach their goals.

We can't force our children to reach the goals that we set for them. We have to give them the opportunity and tools to learn and grow, to set their own goals, and to do what it takes to reach them. This is how we create strong, independent adults.

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