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Should Parents Set Expectations for Grades?
Q: My seventh grader is a good student -- A's and B's, if we push her. Do you feel that parents should set expectations for grades and encourage those standards to be met? The subject matter is getting harder, and more time is needed to study, but she is not putting forth the extra effort required to maintain these grades. She has extracurricular activities( track for the school) and enjoys this, but school work is not as important anymore. What do we do to get her to understand the importance of working hard at grades?
A: While I don't believe it's fair to hold your child to a particular standard for letter grades and push/demand that she meet those, I do believe that parents can always let their kids know that that they are expected to give their best efforts in whatever they attempt. This has more to do with the values your family lives by when it comes to what success means. If you, by your own example and words, live a life where you give your all in anything you pursue, then you set the standard for what is expected of all family members. Giving your all becomes the family value and standard, not the final result or grade. This teaching by example method is the most powerful way I know to instill striving for excellence in children. Ultimately, they need to demand the best of themselves.
At her present age, she is being pulled by other strong desires (social and athletic at this point) that have seen her focus less on the more demanding schoolwork. I would have a few open-ended chats (not lectures) with her about your concerns; show her your understanding of how her life has changed by non-judgmentally stating what you think are the challenges (and wonderful opportunities) facing her. Assure her that you believe in her ability to have a well-balanced school and social life and that you will do whatever she thinks would be helpful to achieve success in both realms. This is a very invigorating, confusing stage for adolescents (at all levels); underscore all your conversations with that reality in mind.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.