Nearly every parent wants their teenager to achieve their best at school.
Perhaps you have a particular “dream career” in mind or maybe you would be happy simply knowing that your child is reaching their full learning potential.
Well, believe it or not, most teenagers do actually want to do well at school for themselves, as well as to make their parents and friends proud.
However, “doing well” at school can mean many different things to different people. Some parents will be happy if their child passes, while others will be satisfied with Bs and Cs. And then there are those parents that will settle for nothing less than straight As!
But what many people don’t realise is that the best way to motivate an adolescent is to set expectations that are in line with what they are actually capable of.
And it’s vital to communicate your expectations clearly and to listen to your child’s opinions regarding grades and future career prospects.
Setting unrealistic expectations for your child can cause several negative outcomes:
1.Your teenager will probably be aware that your expectations are beyond their reach and will know that nothing they can do will enable them to meet these expectations. This is likely to cause them to lose motivation and reduce the amount of effort they invest. They will think, “Well, Mum and Dad aren’t going to be proud of me whatever I do, so why bother?”
2.Your teenager may become resentful that you are putting so much emphasis on grades and (apparently) don’t value them for who they are. As a result, they may begin acting out and displaying problem behaviors.
3.Your teenager may desperately try to live up to your expectations. They may spend every waking hour studying (and, don’t get me wrong, their grades will definitely improve to a degree as a result!). But they will constantly feel as though they are still falling short. Emotional difficulties may ensue, such as low self-esteem, anxiety or depression.
Let’s assume you have now established what you believe are realistic goals for your son or daughter. How do you communicate these without creating conflict?
Here are a few ideas to try:
1.List all the evidence you have for why you have the expectations you do. For example, “Based on the fact that you got Bs in English at the start of the year but fell off throughout the year, we think that you are capable of getting Bs for the whole year with some extra effort. What do you think?”
2.Discuss why it is important to create short and long-term goals.
3.Allow them the opportunity to tell you what they think is realistic.
While your teenager may have the potential to get into a particular university course, it may not be the same as the one you have in mind. They may want to be an artist, or a musician, or learn a trade. Ask yourself why it is so important to you that they follow a particular ‘fixed’ career path.
Lastly, remember that balance is important for all teenagers.
Do you really want your teenager to get straight As at all costs? Even if it means no social life and no exercise?
Have a think about the potential costs versus the benefits and discuss these with your child before you agree on some goals and expectations together.
Good luck and feel free to get in touch if you feel that you or your child would benefit from some independent expert help with goal setting and motivation.