The tween years really don’t come with enough warning signs. When your kids were babies, everyone seemed to be all up in your business, offering advice like they were Dr. Phil – except you literally never asked for it.
And there’s plenty of warnings about the teenage years, too. But the tween stage, that God-awful interlude to teenagehood, can do a real number on you if you’re ill-prepared for all the joys it brings.
Suddenly, your once sweet kid is rolling their eyes at you, has a giant chip on her shoulder, and won’t listen to your advice no matter how gentle you try to be.
It’s frustrating and even infuriating at times.
While this behavioral change can be difficult enough on its own, bad grades at school can further complicate the situation, especially if your tween has adopted an I-don’t-care defeatist attitude.
Still, there are ways to help your tween to become an A grade student, just make sure to arm yourself with patience first. Or pinot grigio. Whatever works.
1. Talk to the teacher
Even though you’ve probably been listening to a lot of “Mr. Peterson is so stupid, mom!”, chances are that the exact same Mr. Peterson isn’t so stupid after all and actually has a pretty good idea of what your kid needs to do to improve their grades.
Make sure to not only talk about academics but also to ask the teacher whether they have noticed any behavioral problems.
Maybe your son or daughter is being bullied by someone in the class, and as a result, has trouble concentrating during the lessons.
The experience I’ve had so far with my kids’ teachers is that they are quite observant and can help you get a complete picture of who your child is while at school, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.
2. Make realistic goals
I know that we’re talking about A grade students here but it’s also important for you to understand that it’s quite difficult to go from a D on one test to an A+ on the next.
When a student has fallen behind in their schoolwork, getting up to speed can take some time.
Demanding that your child gets an A on their next quiz will only make the pressure worse and cause them to lose focus of their work.
Instead, have a calm conversation with your child about their grades, how they can improve them, and what you can do to facilitate that.
Ask about when their next quiz is and whether they have any projects due. Can they ask the teacher for extra credit?
Could they aim for a B on the upcoming quiz?
Agreeing on a more realistic goal makes it easier for your child to accomplish it, which will give them a huge confidence boost and motivation to do even better next time.
Since these discussions can get heated very fast (especially if you have a particularly defensive tween), going for ice cream together can help keep the tension out of the conversation.
Most importantly, emphasize that you want to help them get back on track, and not attack or reprimand.
3. Draw the line
While I’m all for advocating a gentler and more understanding approach to parenthood, you’ve got to know when and where to draw the line and start implementing boundaries.
Tweens are all about testing how far they can go, and if you keep walking all over your own rules, it only opens doors to more trouble in the future.
After all, how is your daughter ever going to finish her book report if she spends the entire afternoon scrolling through TikTok?
So, get that phone out of her hands and make it known that she will just have to live without it until she’s done studying.
On the other hand, make sure that she has a comfortable and quiet studying area where she can focus without getting distracted by other family members – doing homework at the dining room table with other siblings running around is hardly a good learning environment.
4. Don’t make doing homework a living nightmare
When your kid is falling behind in a class, making sure they’re on top of their homework game is really important.
Doing homework together can be a good step towards understanding what the heck they’re doing wrong, and you can also help explain concepts your kid is struggling with.
But when you decide to do homework together, remember this – don’t catch an attitude.
No, I’m not talking about your 12-year-old, I’m talking about you.
No huffing, puffing, yelling, getting frustrated, and asking questions like, “How is it possible that you still don’t get what photosynthesis is?” (Let’s be real, you probably don’t, either.)
Be patient, use a calm voice, bring some snacks out, and listen more than you talk.
Chances are that your child is already anxious enough over their grades, and doesn’t need their parent adding to the stress.
If you know that you can’t be of any help during studying sessions, then don’t push it and just hire a tutor. Even an online one will do!
5. Accept their best
Growing up, I did so well at school that my parents barely batted an eye at my straight-A report cards.
I’m not trying to brag, but I was something of a dream child, at least academically speaking.
My attitude, however, was that of a full-blown bratty teenage girl from an early 2000’s teen comedy – you win some, you lose some, right?
Still, while I was acing AP Calculus, my younger brother was struggling to figure out what the heck fractions were all about.
One quiz after another, his grades never quite made it past a C+, despite me and my parents’ best efforts to help him out.
Thankfully, my parents were cool with the fact that their son wasn’t a carbon copy of their daughter.
Now, this doesn’t mean that they would have accepted him failing, but they were okay with his best. And his best was a C.
I tend to believe that there’s a helicopter parent hiding in all of us, so you should call yourself out whenever you find yourself trying to helicopter all over your kids’ grades.
Yes, we should do what we can to help our kids excel at school but it’s also important to recognize the limitations of what your kids can do.
And you definitely don’t want to be a codependent parent, over-manage your child’s life and burden them with your own unfulfilled ambitions.
So, instead of forcing my brother to spend the entire weekend completing math worksheets, my parents encouraged him to spend time doing things that he was actually good at – and he was thankful for it.
The bottom line is that you sometimes won’t be able to help your child in the way you want but in the way they need you to at that moment.
If you are trying to help your son or daughter to study but you end up talking about life and things that fulfill them and make them happy, you’re doing great, trust me.
The most important thing is that you actually listen to your child and that you learn to read between the lines, because sometimes, that is all that really matters.
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