Grades can be a difficult subject to discuss with a teen. After all, if a he knows his grades are slipping, he's likely to have laundry list of excuses ready when you initiate a dialogue. But, if you approach the conversation gently and with a helpful -- not accusatory -- tone, you might get through the talk without either of you raising your voices. Don't just talk to your teen about poor grades. Instead, try to work on a solution together to improve his grades so you don't have to have the discussion again.
Set the Tone
If you ambush your teen with a stern, "We need to talk attitude," you're likely to put her in an immediate defense mode. Instead, bring up the grade talk to your teen when you're already chatting. Make sure there are no other distractions -- and approach the subject gently and organically so she doesn't have time to get angry. For example, you might say something like, "I noticed that your grades weren't as high as usual this semester -- can we talk about it?" Your tone and the atmosphere can make a huge difference in the communication process.
It's tempting to start the conversation with consequences and reminders, but before you revoke car privileges or establish a new curfew, ask your teen why he thinks his grades are slipping and if he needs help. Try to understand his point of view. While it might seem like pure teenage laziness, there might be other causes for the poor grades, like teen depression, peer bullying, or not understanding the work properly. Give your teen a chance to explain himself before you decide the next steps to remedy the situation.
Find a Solution
After you've learned the reasoning behind your teen's current grades, you can work together on a solution. If a lack of understanding has brought her to a low point, you can think about hiring a tutor. Or, perhaps some of your teen's teachers will offer extra credit to get her grades back up again. While you can help map out a few solutions, it's important that you allow your teen to do the leg work, warns professional counselor Ugo Uche in a December 2010 article in "Psychology Today." Your teen should understand that she reaps the consequences for things like skipping assignments or missing homework.
Bring in a Third Party
If you and your teen don't see eye-to-eye on the subject and your teen is getting agitated, stop the conversation and cool off a bit. Bringing in a third party can help when you and your teen have trouble talking about grades. Arrange for a meeting with your teen's teacher or guidance counselor so you can all get on the same page and work together for your teen's success in school. The more support he has, the more incentive he'll have to work harder and bring his grades back up to par.
Finally, you need to set solid rules and standards for your teen regarding homework completion, grades and the consequences of falling behind, according to HealthyChildren.org, a website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you want less of a fight, determine appropriate timelines and expectations, as well as consequences and rewards, so you're working together as a team for school success.
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