Parenting advice: what to do if your child isn't interested in school?
What does this all mean? The question was, should I try to set a high bar for my teen's academic performance. I say, yes. Though setting a high bar, in my mind, really means believing that your teenager can do anything they set their mind to. Saying this to them is splendid. This is a good belief to give your child. Now, how you do it is another story. Do you do this with loving/kindness and compassion? Or, if you child does not do well academically do you take away things they enjoy? Or, threaten to take away? I suggest loving/kindness and compassion, always. Remember, often your frustration and anger is about meeting your needs, not the needs of your teenager. The needs of your teenager maybe quite different from yours and must be explored.
The other part of the question was, is he already a formed human being in charge of his own destiny. There are really two questions here. Is he already a formed human being? Is he in charge of his own destiny. First, is he already a formed human being. No. He is not. We are never fully formed in my opinion. If one looks at neuroplasticity, neurogenesis and epigenetics one quickly realizing we are constantly changing - both body and mind. Thus, your teenager is not a formed human being. Neither are you as a parent. This is critical to understand. This is what you need to communicate to him.
Both you and your teenager are evolving human beings. Whatever he focuses on will change his brain. Also, what ever you focus on as a parent will change your brain. The more attention he gives something the stronger the neurological changes in the brain. For better or worse, of course. He has control of this. You have control of this for yourself. Second, is he in charge of his destiny. Yes. This is wonderful for a teenager to know. This is what they want to hear, though this is likely what worries parents the most. It is the truth and we must try to be in comfort with it. The more we are comfortable with this, the more we can observe them with compassion and loving kindness. This is also what the teenager wants.
My two teenage boys are on their life journey. Yes, I worry at times about their academic performance. When this happens, I remember my life journey and core understanding of human beings. That, I believe in their capacity to do well academically. I know that they are also developing an awareness about themselves. There interests, their passions, their goals and that this might shape their academic performance. Good grades, poor grades. I know it is up to them, not me, to focus their attention and achieve whatever academic results they feel necessary for their happiness. What is up to me as a parent is to treat them as evolving human beings that are engaged in a process of self-understanding and self-exploration. That this is not easy for them, or me, at times, and I respect this fact. In the end, I communicate this to them with loving/kindness and compassion. I am not the life of my two teenage boys. I am their mindful advisor.
Recommended blogs for further reading:
- The Genius In All of Us
- Dr. Robert Brooks: Resilience, Motivation, and Family Relationships
- Mindful Parenting
For more from the author about school and learning, please visit Howard Eaton's blog.
What are your questions about parenting? Ask us in the comments below.