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teen school

Teen, these big reasons are why you’ll like trying hard in school

Inside: Is your teen struggling in school? This heartfelt explanation could help you explain why school is so important for teens. (And, no, it’s not about the grades.) 

To my teen about school, 

I could see that you felt loved. 

A Chipotle beef burrito bowl does that. Between ‘hurry up the bus is coming’ and ‘did you finish your schoolwork’ and ‘I’m working late tonight,’ it’d been a long week for the entire family. It felt good to share salty chips and queso, then settle in for a family movie. 

As your mom, I love loving you through creating a relaxing Friday evening. I also enjoy showing care through hugs and road trips and birthday cakes and Christmas gifts. It makes me feel good to love you in those ways. 

However, there’s something else that is love that’s not fun.

Lately, we’ve had fewer sweet family moments and more situations where I’m checking your grades and quality of work and making you finish missing homework and redo poorly executed assignments. It hasn’t been a savory Chipotle burrito bowl.  


But, hear my heart… 

I want you to do well in school, not because I don’t think you’re “good enough” and school will validate your worth. No way. I promise – you were good enough the minute you were born. 

Instead, it’s more that I don’t think you see yourself with the same wide-eyed marvel that I do.

You, lovely, you – you’re just what the world needs…your thoughts, your talents, your light. School helps you see your own beauty and gives you tools to walk into adulthood with confidence. 


Let me explain… 

School unlocks your mind.

As you discuss poetry, learn history, ponder literature and graph parabolas, your brain expands and your thoughts deepen and light bulbs turn on. You’ll experience contributing to classroom conversations in meaningful ways, and you’ll continue to discover how bright and clever are. 

School unearths your gifts.

As you join clubs, try out for teams, volunteer for activities and engage in class, you’ll learn what you like, don’t enjoy, and naturally have a knack for. The journey uncovers your strengths and interests, and you’ll start to see arrows pointing to how you might want to use your talents in your big, bright future. It’s exciting. 

Is your teen struggling in school? Here is a tangible way to help. Read more in the description.

School is where you’ll learn to be part of a community.

You’ll meet lots of people, many like you and many not – school is a place to learn about others and share who you are. Your social-skills will sharpen, and you’ll find yourself making friends and feeling connected. I know this area can be tough – but, I promise there are students who need a friend just like you. Your school is so happy to have you.

School is a place to grow believing in yourself.

When you take something hard (a school task) and figure out how to use your resources to conquer it, wow, just wow – it builds your confidence and self-pride in powerful ways. Then one day when a dream swirls in your gut that you have to follow (Start a business! Try a venture!), the confidence you built in school will, often without you even realizing it, accelerate you into taking the first needed step.  

School sharpens your life-skills.

The world needs your talents and your dreams. But a part of effectively sharing those gifts is knowing how to get organized, get stuff done well, be timely and communicate with others. School is a safe place to grow those skills, surrounded by teachers to cheer you on. 

School teaches you to reach for help.

Education isn’t easy: the social scene, curriculum, organization, and deadlines can all be tricky. But, my son, I am here for you. Your whole family is. As so are your teachers and counselors and coaches – they all choose to work with students as a career because they want to support you. In school, the challenges teach you to reach out – we’re all happily waiting. 

And, I could go on and on, because in my 20+ years teaching high school over and over I’ve watched students grow in confidence, skill, wisdom, maturity, joy, and purpose. It makes me proud; students are amazing human beings.  

Is your teen struggling in school? Here is a tangible way to help. Read more in the description.

But education is like a bank, you have to put something into it, to get something out.  

So, we’re going to make some deposits by continually making school a priority. You’ll keep concentrating on completing all of your assignments, turning in quality work, and studying before tests. We’ll focus on effort over grades. And yes, I can imagine – based on past experiences they’ll be some conflict over this, including screen time being taken away – but it won’t be because I don’t love you. 

Quite the opposite. 

It’s because I love you more than anyone else; I will always look at you with star-eyed wonder for the gift that you are. And I will always believe in you – forever. 

Love, Your Mom 

Is your teen struggling in school? Do you need a tangible way to help?

My 13yo struggled 1st quarter, so I figured it was a chance to put my (slightly over-sappy) thoughts together on why I think education is so important, and how it’s not about getting perfect grades.

Thankfully, 2nd quarter was much better because of one simple trick we tried that clicked.

You can read more about that and the sources of the books that helped me the most in the description here. 

Join this community of moms raising tweens and teens

You just dropped one kid off at practice, picked up another, and are trying to decide what to make for dinner. Your days are filled with work, parenting, and waiting for password reset emails.

You are parenting tweens and teens.

It’s an amazing life-phase, but also challenging in unique ways. In it all, you’d love a little encouragement to help you laugh, grow in faith, see parenting hacks, get ideas to connect with your kid, and celebrate the awesome momma you are. 

I got you, friend. Sign up for Empowered Moms and Kids monthly emails and get encouragement in your inbox geared for someone exactly in your life-chapter. It’s totally free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Plus, you’ll get instant access to all the great resources in the freebie library. Join our community here or below. 

Shopping for your family?

Best Booklist for High School Teenagers

Best Booklist for Middle School Tweens

Inspirational Books Moms Will Love to Read

Gift Ideas for Moms of Tweens and Teens

Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

Gift Ideas for Teenage Girls

45+ Inexpensive Stocking Stuffers for Tweens and Teens

Easter Baskets Stuffer Ideas for Big Kids

And so many more great lists of must-haves built just for families of big kids on Empowered Moms and Kid’s specialized Amazon Affiliate Storefront…

Read the full motivate your teen to thrive in school series…

As a high school teacher for over two decades, I love, love, love watching kids learn. It’s okay if there are struggles in their educational journey. Not just okay – normal, even. We just keep stressing the importance of education and giving them the tools for success. And then we encourage our kids and love them well.

I hope you enjoy these articles.

Help Your Teen to Thrive in School Series

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PARENTS
Parents, Help Your Kids Thrive in School By Asking These 4 Questions
Why I’m Not Freaking Out that My Struggling Reader Has Low Reading Scores
A Mom’s 1st Day of School Wishes
Moms, You’ll Better Enjoy the End of the School Year Remembering THIS
*My Teen Was Struggling In School (With Distance/Hybrid Learning), So This Is What I Did

GETTING ORGANIZED
Kid’s Morning Routine Checklist: Get Your Kids Out the Door Happy and On-Time
A Simple Way to Motivate Teens to Be More Responsible

BOOKLISTS
146+ Best Chapter Books for Tweens that Will Also Build Character
Compelling Books that High Schoolers Will Want to Read

motivate teens

A simple way to motivate teens to be more responsible

(Inside: Motivate teens to thrive even when they are tangled in the normal struggles of being a teen. Here’s a simple way to encourage and motivate your teen.)

Are you struggling to daily motivate your tween or teen? 

The milk sits out – again. The clothes are scattered across the bathroom floor – again. The online grade book displays a zero – again.  

It’s frustrating because you know the things your tween/teen is choosing to neglect will always be a normal part of a human being’s daily responsibilities: your kids will forever have to pick up after themselves, complete work for their career, and file their taxes. It’s important they learn to complete responsibilities even when they don’t feel like it now. Grit is a valuable life skill. 

Yet, in trying to teach this, you hate how much it feels like you’re fussing at your tween/teen. And you see your child not responding – the approach isn’t working.   

I hear you. I’ve been there too.  

I had such a discouraging parenting season with my middle schooler, I checked out a stack of parenting books and plowed through. My solution ended up being super simple. I’ll save you the reading… 

 

motivate teens
Grab the checklist here.

Motivate teens: recognize the root of the conflict

It wasn’t that my 13yo didn’t know what to do, but rather, that we were like passing ships when it came to me sharing daily expectations and my teen expressing what best sets him up for success. We needed to figure out a better way to communicate.

Motivate teens: operate from a place of hope

Also, I needed to adjust my attitude. Before I even approached my teen, I reflected on what I know from 20+ years of teaching high school: teens want to thrive. They do. 100%. They just can get lost in peer pressure and hormones and impulsive decisions and procrastination and shutting down. I knew my son wanted to succeed, so I shifted my temperament and chose to operate from a place of hope. 

Join this community of moms raising tweens and teens: get monthly inspiration here.

Motivate teens: try a new approach to communication

My son and I agreed that things needed to change, already a hopeful start. So, I asked him to list his daily responsibilities. We examined his agenda and made some adjustments.

We then decided our communication would be through the list: he checks off the tasks as he completes them and that’s how I see his progress. We’d discuss any issues at the end of the day. One time. That’s it.  We’d set up a routine, boundaries, and a new form of communication – things were already looking up.

Motivate teens: honor the boundaries you just set up by sticking to them

And because I really needed this checklist to work, I listened to what the parenting books1 said about the importance of setting up routines and boundaries, then honoring them by sticking to them. You hold those boundaries using what Dr. Henry Could and Dr. John Townsend call “reality consequences.” (Boundaries with Kids, page 58) 

This means, that I needed to use the logical consequences that result from my child’s actions to help him learn about the realities of life. In “real life,” choices we make don’t come without some sort of outcome, whether the result serves us well or does not serve us well. For example, if I’m kind to the people in my life, I end up with some really great friendships – a choice with an outcome that serves me well.  If I don’t switch my laundry, I end up with moldy clothes – a choice with an outcome that doesn’t serve me well.
 

It’s not about trying to turn my teen into a robot, but rather help him understand the realities of life and control he has over many of his choices and outcomes. If my son peers out his window before school, he can see the line of cars driving past filled with people on their way to work. If those employees consistently choose to do their jobs well, they get a paycheck in the bank – an outcome that serves them well. Of course, the reality of continually choosing to skip work would be losing that job and paycheck – an outcome that does not serve them well.   

So, we decided (him unenthusiastically) that just like all those workers he daily watched drive by, he needed to finish his checklist before he got to play his video games, something that highly motivates him. If the checklist wasn’t done, I wasn’t going to get mad about it – I’d simply hang onto his gaming devices, and we’d try again tomorrow. Then, we did our best to stick like glue to that routine allowing him to be in control of if his choices and their outcomes served him well or not.  

(Side note:  I’m not a fan of taking away activities that surround him with positive peers like co-curricular activities or youth group.) 

The checklist gives your teen control

By the end of week one of the checklist, I could already see a noteworthy improvement. I had stepped back and tried hard to hold my tongue, while he stepped up and got through the list his way. I could see that with this new strategy, he felt more in control. 

Was it perfect? No part of raising kids is flawless, and yes, I had to let some things go, but we both liked this framework of routine and communication.

Be consistent

We know how hard consistency can be in parenting; however, I found checking in once at the end of the day much more manageable (and enjoyable) than asking 1.1 million times if that flip grid for band got turned in.

Grab the checklist here.

Do we use this checklist forever?

Please, no – just to get over the hump. The goal is always to raise independent teens.

Praise your teen’s effort big-time

And then this is the best part: we praise our teens a ton. We notice all the effort they are putting in and tell them so, as much as possible. Ignore the eye roll, they are letting it soak in. They crave words of affirmation like we all crave chocolate cake.

Save time – grab the checklist here!

Mom-friend, because I know how valuable your time is, I made a downloadable checklist for you. The checklist covers the basics in: 

  • Morning routine, including making sure everything is ready for the day 
  • School routine, including verifying assignments are done 
  • Other healthy habits, like exercise, reading, and being creative 
  • Picking up and helping around the house 


It’s a one-page, printable is with realistic, healthy, and manageable expectations for tweens/teens. It’s also in word document form so you can tweak it to fit your child exactly. Grab the checklist and as a bonus, you’ll get monthly(ish) encouraging raising tweens and teen emails. They’re free and you can unsubscribe at any time.

 

Momma, you’re doing a great job raising your tweens and teens

We all know there’s no magic formula to raising tweens and teens, and sometimes kids just make poor choices despite our best parenting efforts. But we also know that hearing each other’s stories of tangible ways we found a parenting win can be a great starting place when we’re trying to nail down our own solution.  

Maybe this checklist-solution will land your family at the end of the rainbow. Or perhaps it won’t…yet an introduction to the idea might spark a conversation where your teen eventually says, “Mom, I have an idea that I think will motivate me better than the checklist…”  

And that’s a win for everyone.  

Motivate Teens Sources:

[1] The parenting books that impacted me the most with their research, experience, and stories of when you’re trying to overcome a parenting challenge, connecting expectations with rewards and consequences that you see in real life were (affiliate links):

Have a New Kid by Friday: How To Change Your Child’s Attitude Behavior & Character In 5 Days (Dr. Kevin Leman)

Parenting Your Delinquent, Defiant, or Out-of-Control Teen: How to Help Your Kid Stay in School (Patrick M. Duffy, Jr., PsyD)

Boundaries with Kids (Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend)

Shopping for your family?

Best Booklist for High School Teenagers

Best Booklist for Middle School Tweens

Inspirational Books Moms Will Love to Read

Gift Ideas for Moms of Tweens and Teens

Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

Gift Ideas for Teenage Girls

45+ Inexpensive Stocking Stuffers for Tweens and Teens

Easter Baskets Stuffer Ideas for Big Kids

And so many more great lists of must-haves built just for families of big kids on Empowered Moms and Kid’s specialized Amazon Affiliate Storefront…

Join this community of moms raising tweens and teens

You just dropped one kid off at practice, picked up another, and are trying to decide what to make for dinner. Your days are filled with work, parenting, and waiting for password reset emails.

You are parenting tweens and teens.

It’s an amazing life-phase, but also challenging in unique ways. In it all, you’d love a little encouragement to help you laugh, grow in faith, see parenting hacks, get ideas to connect with your kid, and celebrate the awesome momma you are. 

I got you, friend. Sign up for Empowered Moms and Kids monthly emails and get encouragement in your inbox geared for someone exactly in your life-chapter. It’s totally free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Plus, you’ll get instant access to all the great resources in the freebie library. Join our community here or below. 

Read the full motivate your teen to thrive in school series…

As a high school teacher for over two decades, I love, love, love watching kids learn. It’s okay if there are struggles in their educational journey. Not just okay – normal, even. We just keep stressing the importance of education and giving them the tools for success. And then we encourage our kids and love them well.

I hope you enjoy these articles.

Help Your Kid to Thrive in School Series

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PARENTS
Parents, Help Your Kids Thrive in School By Asking These 4 Questions
Why I’m Not Freaking Out that My Struggling Reader Has Low Reading Scores
A Mom’s 1st Day of School Wishes
Moms, You’ll Better Enjoy the End of the School Year Remembering THIS
*My Teen Was Struggling In School (With Distance/Hybrid Learning), So This Is What I Did
Teen, These Big Reasons are Why You’ll Like Trying Hard in School

GETTING ORGANIZED
Kid’s Morning Routine Checklist: Get Your Kids Out the Door Happy and On-Time

BOOKLISTS
146+ Best Chapter Books for Tweens that Will Also Build Character
Compelling Books that High Schoolers Will Want to Read

My teen was struggling in school, so I did this…

(Inside: Teens in school can be a challenge, especially when we’re in a pandemic and the hybrid/distance-learning is not clicking for them. My teen was struggling in school, so this is what I did…)

There’s nothing like sending messages to my high school students’ parents to let them know their kids need to turn in missing work, then looking at my own teen’s grades and my eyes bugging out like a 1980’s cartoon character.

Motherhood is humbling like that.
 
“What happened?” I asked my middle schooler about his poor grades, “This just isn’t like you.” (School doesn’t necessarily come easy to him, but he works at it and usually does well.)
 
My 13yo shrugged.
 
I waited
.
And waited some more.
 
What finally tumbled out is that 5 weeks into hybrid-school, it’s sinking in that this is the new norm. And he’s over it – he wants to be in school full-time. He likes learning the lesson and being able to start the homework in class, so if he has questions, he can ask his teacher or classmates. He’s finding it increasingly harder to self-motivate to sit in front of a screen on his distance learning days and crank out assignments – for hours. The novelty of education from home (like in the spring when he did well) has worn off.

He’s not alone.

In my high school grade book, I’ve noticed a dip in students turning in assignments on their at-home learning days. Some students are acing homework completion (as always), but some are – well, having a moment. Or two.
 
Even though, as a professional, I know my son isn’t alone, still in mom-life, my kids’ grade plummet pushes a sensitive button. Education is crazy-important to me, so if my child isn’t doing well my brain instantly entertains the worst-case scenarios: What if this means he’ll never do well again? Will he get into college? Or get hired? How am I failing as a mom in this area? (I am never dramatic or hard to be around at all.)
 
Then, I want to fix it all. All of his struggles, all of his disappointments, and for-the-love…all of his grades.
 
But, I can’t. School is on him.
Join this community of moms raising tweens and teens. We’re all guiding our teens to find success in school. Join here.

And he is capable – all of our kids are.

Our kids are capable of getting organized and figuring out what class to do when.
 
Our kids are capable of navigating this updated technology.
 
Our kids are capable of reading the directions closely and following them.
 
Our kids are capable of producing quality work.
 
When they get stuck, they are capable of using their resources (notes, videos, materials, classmates, teachers, tech staff, The Google) to figure out how to understand the course content and complete their assignments well. Their schoolwork is age-appropriate, and they can do it. Even if they don’t feel like it or are struggling with distance learning.
 
(Side note: I’m painting with a broad stroke here. Teens struggling with mental illness or other serious challenges during this pandemic might need to pay attention to their personal lives first. The schools have many resources to help with this!)

However, even though I know my child is capable, my inner compass told me that my kid needs additional support right now. So, here’s what I did…

Together, my son and I went upstairs to examine his workplace. Talk about the aftermath of a category 5 hurricane – who can work in this chaos? Together, we straightened his room and desk.
 
Then, we looked through Campus (grades) and Schoology (calendars and assignments) and made his to-do list for the next day. Also, we agreed (him unenthusiastically) that I would need to check in more to make sure he’s both doing quality work and turning it in. We decided our method of communication would be through this checklist. (Read more in the description here.)  Of course, all with the goal of him reclaiming his independence.
 
 
I know my teen and I will probably clash over homework as he labors towards getting back on track; I don’t expect life to be flawless. However, I refuse to say that a struggle in school is telling the story of my kid. Or that I’m failing as a mom because he’s not producing top scores right now. This is just a normal part of mom life.

And then, as moms of teens so often do, I said a prayer and took a step back, leaving the responsibility of the next day’s schoolwork on him.

We had a plan and that felt good.
 
But if it doesn’t work (or only works for a short time), then we’ll next try something different. After all, problem-solving, resourcefulness, and loving our kids through it all is a mom-raising-tweens-and-teen’s superpower.

Join this community of moms raising tweens and teens

You just dropped one kid off at practice, picked up another, and are trying to decide what to make for dinner. Your days are filled with work, parenting, and waiting for password reset emails.

You are parenting tweens and teens.

It’s an amazing life-phase, but also challenging in unique ways. In it all, you’d love a little encouragement to help you laugh, grow in faith, see parenting hacks, get ideas to connect with your kid and celebrate the awesome momma you are.

I got you, friend. Sign up for Empowered Moms and Kids monthly emails and get encouragement in your inbox geared for someone exactly in your life-chapter. It’s totally free and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Plus, you’ll get instant access to all the great resources in the freebie library. 

Join our community here or below.

gifts for moms

Teens in school can be a challenge, especially when we’re in a pandemic and the hybrid/distance-learning is not clicking for them, as I talked about in this article. But school can be hard even in the best of times. Be encouraged by reading the full “Help Your Teens Thrive in School” series.

As a high school teacher for over two decades, I love, love, love watching kids learn. It’s okay if there are struggles in their educational journey. Not just okay – normal, even. We just keep stressing the importance of education and giving them the tools for success. And then we encourage our kids and love them well.

I hope you enjoy these articles.

Help Your Teens Thrive in School Series

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PARENTS
Parents, Help Your Kids Thrive in School By Asking These 4 Questions
Why I’m Not Freaking Out that My Struggling Reader Has Low Reading Scores
A Mom’s 1st Day of School Wishes
Moms, You’ll Better Enjoy the End of the School Year Remembering THIS
My Teen Was Struggling In School (Hybrid/Distance-Learning), So I Did This 

GETTING ORGANIZED
Kid’s Morning Routine Checklist: Get Your Kids Out the Door Happy and On-Time

BOOKLISTS
146+ Best Chapter Books for Tweens that Will Also Build Character
Compelling Books that High Schoolers Will Want to Read

Join this community of moms raising tweens and teens. We’re all guiding our teens to find success in school. Join here.
my teen has low motivation

Frustrated Mom – Your Unmotivated Teen Will Find Success

(Inside: My teen has no motivation. What should I do? Help me gain perspective on this!)

My teen has no motivation

I had a dumpsterfire evening. My middle school son and I battled over his schoolwork and I felt completely discouraged…

The next morning, I went to a student-of-the-year presentation at the high school where I teach. Each teacher picks a student who has stood out over the year. This award is a big deal.

Low motivation in teens is not uncommon

A teacher stood up with a graduating senior I’d had in previous years. She’d both warmed-my-teacher-heart and broken-my-teacher-heart. Incredibly likable, this girl was kind and fun to be around. But she didn’t like homework, or goals…or really doing anything academic at all.

Despite encouragement and talking-to and phone calls home, her mom and I barely dragged her over the passing line in my class. For three high school years, she struggled to find any success at all in school.

Are you tired of nagging your big kid to take care of their responsibilities? I would through a tough school phase with my son, and communicating through a checklist was a game changer. Read more in the description here.

How this teen became motivated

Then something happened – I don’t know really, but her senior year, we all saw a change in her.

She carried herself differently. With more confidence. Like she’d made up her mind to do well and now she was ready to take some steps.

She started making plans for after graduation – her future excited her. She took on more leadership roles in school – her confidence grew. She focused on getting assignments completed and turned in – her grades went up.

And now she was standing on a stage being applauded by a room full of teachers, administrators, parents, and peers.

Her mom beamed as she came over to say hello after the presentation. I asked, “What changed?” She said, her daughter…

Ready for this life-changing event?

This lighting strike moment?

…she said her daughter simply matured.

Related Article: A family connection activity to increase you and your kid’s happiness

Moms, we keep giving our unmotivated teens the tools to success

No big dramatic moment, instead, at the end of her junior year, she quietly began to “grow up.” All the things her parents and teachers said to her finally started to sink in. And because she’d been given the tools to find success over the years, she knew to pull them out and start testing a few. Also, because everyone unconditionally loved her when she wasn’t using her gifts, I imagine she knew she had nothing to lose by simply trying.

This mom’s words were exactly what I needed to hear.

Just because my kid fought me on completing homework well, doesn’t mean he always will….

And just because our kids don’t always make good choices, doesn’t mean they always will… Just because our kids are moody and cranky with us, doesn’t mean they always will… And just because our kids can seem apathetic with no ambition or direction, it doesn’t mean they always will…

Sometimes kids just need time…

to grow…
to let it all sink in…
to be a late bloomer…
and mature.

 

Related Article: How to Get Your Teen to Their Aha Moments (Better communicate with your teen)

Have faith – your kid will find their way

Moms, we stay the course. We keep loving and encouraging our kids through the high moments and the low moments. Even if our kids don’t respond to our “motivation” and “wisdom,” we keep giving them tools. We keep placing in their toolbox life lessons and tangible steps of how to be successful along with a ton of unconditional love.

And then we know – we really know and believe…
…that maturity will happen…eventually.

Shopping for your family?

Best Booklist for High School Teenagers

Best Booklist for Middle School Tweens

Inspirational Books Moms Will Love to Read

Gift Ideas for Moms of Tweens and Teens

Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

Gift Ideas for Teenage Girls

45+ Inexpensive Stocking Stuffers for Tweens and Teens

Easter Baskets Stuffer Ideas for Big Kids

And so many more great lists of must-haves built just for families of big kids on Empowered Moms and Kid’s specialized Amazon Affiliate Storefront…

Join this mom community of moms of older kids

Are you parenting tweens and teens? Then you’re in the right place and I’d love to stay connected. Get instant access to 17+ helpful freebies and monthly empowering emails by clicking here (or below).

Read more in the helping your big kid thrive in school series…

As a high school teacher for over two decades, I love, love, love watching kids learn. It’s okay if there are struggles in their educational journey. Not just okay – normal, even. We just keep stressing the importance of education and giving them the tools for success. And then we encourage our kids and love them well.

I hope you enjoy these articles.

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PARENTS
Teen, These Big Reasons are Why You’ll Like Trying Hard in School

GETTING ORGANIZED
A Simple Way to Motivate Teens to Be More Responsible

BOOKLISTS
146+ Best Chapter Books for Tweens that Will Also Build Character
Compelling Books that High Schoolers Will Want to Read

my tween has low motivation

Parents, Help Your Kids Thrive in School by Asking these 4 Questions

(Inside: Do you want to help your kid thrive in school? These four questions will help your child find success and enjoy his or her educational journey.)

I scanned the array of graduation photos spread out in front of me. Geez, it’s been years since I’ve taught these amazing students in high school.  

I picked up a picture of a former high school senior remembering how – even though life always seemed to throw him curveballs that he didn’t always handle the best – he was determined to get into college and be the first in his family to graduate from higher education.

Then, there was the sweet girl, she beamed in her dress with brunette curls outlining her face. That girl always had drama, so much typical high school-girl drama…I wondered if she’d reached her dream of starting a daycare.

I scanned the photo of the heavy-set, no-nonsense face of the athlete – that kid had goals. College team. Maybe, the Olympics. His focus was always on doing what needed to be done to be the best at his sport, including staying after school and studying with me when he struggled.

Each kid in the dozens of pictures was different…from race to social-economic backgrounds to family dynamics to interests and personality. But, all of them ended their high school career with good memories, hope for the future, and a drive to move forward. 

What commonality did these diverse scholars share that helped them thrive?

I wanted to organize my thoughts around this not as a teacher, but as a parent.  

Because I want my kids – my three very different sons – to be beaming hope and determination in their high school graduation pictures. What can I do now in their elementary/middle school years to get them there?  

So, I begin to untangle my memories, evaluate each student, and connect the dots of what qualities strung these diverse thriving individuals together. In my reflection, I found four qualities/actions these students shared.  

  • Connection – each graduating senior had a friend who had their back, classes they liked to attend, school activities they enjoyed and/or school staff who made them feel important. 
  • Organizational skills – None were perfect, but they all figured out an organizational system that worked. 
  • Progressive maturity – They grew in maturity over the years. 
  • Asked for help – They learned to reach out when they needed help.

As parents, we can grow these qualities in our kids.

Building on the foundation of love and trust we have with our kids, we can ask these questions at the beginning and throughout the school year to find out where our kids are and how we can support them.  

4 Questions Parents Need to Ask to Help Their Kid Thrive in School

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1. Who is the school friend you prefer to hang out with the most?

 Or, who did you sit by at lunch? Who do you like in your class(es)?  Is there a teacher you connect with? Friends and connections can play a huge role in students liking school and feeling self-motivated to do well. 

Dr. Paul Schwartz says:“Friendships contribute significantly to the development of social skills, such as being sensitive to another’s viewpoints, learning the rules of conversation, and age-appropriate behaviors,” He continues: “More than half the children referred for emotional behavioral problems have no friends or find difficulty interacting with peers.”

Ideas to help your kid thrive in school through friendship:

It’s absolutely normal for friendships to sometimes struggle. Also, it’s absolutely normal for kids to go from feeling lonely to being connected. Here are some ways to help your students find their people – 

  • Join a school activity – I strongly believe all students need to find one school activity to join. This can be an absolute game-changer. 
  • Be a friend – your child could bless someone else by looking for people who need a friend and reaching out. There are lots of students who need a friend. 
  • Invite someone over…or to a movie, or to online-game. 
  • Read Growing Friendships as a family – There are great ideas to help kids understand the ins and outs of friendships.

 

Related Article: 146+ Best Chapter Books for Tweens that will also Build Character

2. How are you planning on staying organized?

Let your student decide how to best use their strengths and personality to accomplish their organizational goals. Everyone has to learn to be organized to be successful in life, and school is a great place to try and figure it out. A conversation around this can help set your student up for success. 

Ideas to Help Your Kid Thrive in School through organization:

  • Look through Schoology or whatever organizational program your student’s school uses and figure out how to best use it. 
  • Create a routine at home for homework completion. 
  • Decide how you will check in with your student regarding school performance. My middle school son and I had a rough, rough period where I was constantly nagging him, and we both hated it. We decided to communicate through a checklist instead. He’d mark when he’s done, I’d look once at the end of the evening. Total game-changer. Read more here. 
  • Buy a fun planner.
  • Get everything ready the night before school, backpack, lunches…etc.
help your kid thrive in school

3. How do you feel? (Happy? Content? Frustrated? Discouraged?)

Reflection and conversation can help our students mature. What at school didn’t work out and how did it make them feel? How can they improve the next time? What relationships are hard? What do they need to let go of and what do they need to try and change?

Our kids need to feel heard. The conversation doesn’t have to go perfectly, but simply starting it sends huge you-are-heard messages. 

Ideas to Help Your Kid Thrive in School Through Conversation:

  • Make dinner time a sacred place – eat together most nights. (Or if your schedule doesn’t allow, what about breakfast? Or snacks? Or dessert?) 
  • Make the car ride to activities a place to talk. (Your little humans are trapped! With. You. Take advantage of the time to talk.)
  • Make chores a “special time” with one kid. Take a child with you to the grocery store, or to walk the dog…create one-on-one time to talk.
  • Tuck-ins – always do tuck-ins. It’s amazing how faded lights will open up words.
  • Ask your kid what he/she would like to do to connect with you. (Don’t buy into the apathy. My two decades plus teaching high school has taught me, kids want their parents to pay attention to them. Even if they don’t act like it. Keep after it. It means more to them than you know.)

4. How can I help you? (What resources do you need? Or who can you ask for help?)

In our individualized culture, we have to teach our kids to hear that inner voice that cries out for help.

The schools are staffed with resources, some professionals you might not even know about. (At the public high school I teach at we have an on-site social worker helping families find housing, a school psychologist meeting regularly with students, and teachers/ administration always willing to hand out kindness and guidance.)

Let’s encourage our kids to reach for the community.

Then, once parents have discussed these four questions with our kids, we can step back and give our kids space.

We let them grow, let them learn, and let them wrestle with things. Our job isn’t to shield them from all pain and responsibility. Instead, it’s to guide them to grow through the bumps in their journeys.

Then when our kids reach the end of their senior year, we frame that senior picture, and we smile too…because we helped them get there. Our intentional questions helped us raise happy, hopeful, ready-to-move-forward human beings.

Read more articles on school…

I’ve been a high school teacher for over two decades, and I have a passion for helping kids do well in school. I fully believe every kid is capable and wants to thrive in school – you just can convince me otherwise. Here are a few more of my thoughts…

Your Teen’s Maddening Behavior is Age-Appropriate and Here’s Hope
Teen, These Big Reasons are Why You’ll Like Trying Hard in School
A Simply Way to Motivate Teens to be More Responsible

 

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