It’s unspoken in that statement that the parents’ feelings about school performance are primarily anxious. And it’s incredibly hard not to feel that way. We start developing a sense of stress about school performance as soon as we enter the system—at age 5 or younger! And with all of the rhetoric about how college is more competitive than ever these days and students must do well in school (meaning, get good grades) in order to do well in life, it’s no wonder parents are stressed! So what should you do with these very defensible feelings about grades that may also be negatively affecting your kids? Find out in this episode.
- The Good Housekeeping article
- The School Without Suffering Toolkit
- Leave a review
In December of 2021, Good Housekeeping published an article that I really appreciated. You can find a link to it in the show notes. The article’s bottom line was “Students pick up on their parents’ feelings about school performance, and experts say it doesn’t help them in the long run.”
It’s unspoken in that statement that the parents’ feelings about school performance are primarily anxious. And it’s incredibly hard not to feel that way. We start developing a sense of stress about school performance as soon as we enter the system—at age 5 or younger! And with all of the rhetoric about how college is more competitive than ever these days and students must do well in school (meaning, get good grades) in order to do well in life, it’s no wonder parents are stressed!
So what should you do with these very defensible feelings about grades that may also be negatively affecting your kids?
I’m going to share what to do along with the real results a School Without Suffering student achieved when his parents did exactly what I’m going to share. I’m even going to read you the transcript of my intake interview with the student so you can hear exactly what was going on in his head.
All that after the break.
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Imagine your teen or tween getting a handle on their school-related anxiety (and no longer adding to yours).
We see it all the time: Procrastination, Staying up way too late doing homework last-minute, Falling grades due to missed assignments, School-related meltdowns…These behaviors are often directly related to anxiety. And I can confidently tell you that these DO NOT have to be a part of your life this school year.
The School Without Suffering Toolkit equips students with concrete strategies and exercises that they can learn step by step and then revisit whenever they need to during the school year.
With the Toolkit, your child will be able to re-evaluate stress that’s negatively affecting them, initiate and execute academic tasks with ease, foster a growth mindset, manage their time effectively and healthfully, and complete their most anxiety-inducing homework with confidence.
AND, with the option to meet with an expert, empathetic School Without Suffering academic coach when they need some extra support, students will always be able to use the tools in their toolkits how they need to, when they need to to do and feel better.
Visit schoolwithoutsuffering.com/toolkit and use discount code PODCAST at check out for 10 percent off your purchase.
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So, you understand that your stress about their grades may be negatively affecting your kids. But you are legitimately worried about them, and you want the grades to go up.
So what do you do?
One thing: Stop Focusing on What the Grades Are so that you can focus on Understanding Why they are what they are
As hard as it is, if kids are struggling, the answer is to do your best to manage your stress about the low grades so you can shift your focus to understand what exactly it is about the task of going to school (which is really thousands of tasks) that is causing the performance issues.
Then, the energy that was once fueling the grades anxiety can be funneled into solving those problems.
That means stop thinking about the scores themselves. Stop looking at the online grade book. Don’t think about the GPA. Don’t spend any energy thinking about transcripts or score reports. You know what the grades are. Continuing to look at them will not change them. It will only spike your blood pressure and make it harder for you to manage your own anxiety. And as with anything, being in a state of fight or flight is going to make it nearly impossible to do anything that can actually make a positive difference.
The Good Housekeeping article put it very well: “For instance, adults can struggle at work for many reasons: inadequate support or training, emotional or relationship struggles, being in the wrong job and so on. A good boss will have faith in your capabilities, dig deeper to grow curious about your struggles, listen with an attentive ear and offer resources to help. Children need the same.”
A major challenge of course is that the manager-employee relationship is not the same as the parent-child relationship. And in many cases, whether our kids are too young to really explain what’s going on or too deep into their teenage sullenness, “listening with an attentive ear” is unlikely to be entirely fruitful. It’s certainly much easier said than done.
And that brings me to a student who’s been working with us for about a year and a half now, since about the middle of the Fall semester of his Junior year.
When his parents first called us, they, as so many are, were desperate to start seeing their smart, talented teenager finally show his abilities in his school performance. His grades had been mixed ever since middle school, when he made the jump to advanced mathematics, and things seemed to unravel from there. By the time they called us, he was failing three of his five classes, despite having had continuous support from tutors. He was perpetually frustrated by what he perceived as his parents’ “nagging” and therefore not willing to discuss anything about school sincerely with them. And the only explanation they could see for all of it was that he just must not care.
But when I interviewed this student during our first 1:1 academic coaching session, as I do with every new student, this is how it went:
School Without Suffering: What are you most focused on achieving right now?
Student: Catching up on late work and then after that trying to bring my grades up in Math and English and Spanish
SWS: If you could be anything, do anything, or have anything in the next 3 months, what would it be?
Student: Consistently working out, be more comfortable in class, have more free time, and have better time management
SWS: What do you think are your biggest obstacles to getting what you want?
Student: Myself—getting tired and not having the motivation to keep going
SWS: You’re in the School Without Suffering Student Membership! What would you like to get out of it?
Student: I’m not too concerned about grades, more wanting to change my mindset because my mindset issues are carrying over to everything in life.
What stood out immediately was that these were not the answers of a kid that doesn’t care or isn’t motivated. So that was a worry that his parents could and should let go of right away.
No longer focused on this student’s level of motivation, we could now get down to the work of determining what was really getting in the way of his success.
As I got to know him, I came to understand that he cared deeply about his grades and by extension how he was perceived by others. In fact, he cared so much that it was causing intense anxiety (which he masked well from his parents) that was stopping him from asking for help from his teachers, from completing work, and even from turning in the work that he did complete.
This is what was causing the failing grades.
Once we pinpointed the real reason for this student’s academic struggles, both he and his parents were able to let go of all of the concerns they had about other potential causes for the problem and focus clearly on the right solutions.
The student’s mind space was finally free to learn the strategies he needed to complete his missed assignments and turn in all subsequent assignments on time. By the end of the semester, he had brought all of his grades up to Bs—not easy to do when you’re starting from failing with only half a semester to go!
He started the Spring semester that year AHEAD in all of his classes. This year he’s a Senior and he’s been accepted to his first-choice college. And whenever I check in with his parents, they tell me they don’t even think about his schoolwork anymore.
Because of their son’s success, this same set of parents had their daughter start working with us as well. About a month into her Junior year of high school, she was getting her work done, but she was staying up all night to do it. Her Calculus grade was really suffering, and she wasn’t responding well to working with tutors. Her mom was getting very worried about her health–not to mention the amount of time she was spending on her phone every day after school.
In our next episode, I’m going to share this student’s story to illustrate how your family can work effectively with outside academic support when stress and anxiety rule.
Be sure not to miss it.