In this lesson we are going to explore teenagers having problems at school because they are disinterested. In it you will learn:
Did you like school? Did you enjoy going to class? Did you respect and appreciate your teachers? Do you wish they had taught you other information? Or maybe they could have taught you in a different way? Think back to when you were in school and take a moment to write down what you liked and disliked. Then write down what you wish they had done differently.
There are generally two reasons why kids struggle in school:
1. They are bored.
2. They are struggling with some emotional issues and it’s affecting their ability to focus.
If your teenager falls into the second category, struggling with emotions, then you need to help them deal with these issues so that they can move on with their life. But if they are bored or “for some reason not doing well”, then read on as this is what this module focuses on.
“My kid is very smart but for some reason is not doing very well in school.”
Does that sound familiar to you? I hear this from parents all the time. If your teenager is having problems at school when it comes to studying and staying focused, you’re not alone. Millions of parents around the world are experiencing the same issue. Our psychologists are calling this ADD or ADHD. I call it: School sucks!
I’m sorry to tell you mom and dad but most schools, not all, are terrible at educating our youth and here is why: Public school systems were developed by financiers and banker’s in the 1930’s. The factory industry was booming so they needed to create a bunch of carbon copy people who thought and acted the same way. Students were being prepared to work in the factory so they didn’t encourage critical thinking.
As we know, China has most of our factory work now. And India and the Philippines is the best place to outsource remedial jobs such as admin work and phone clerks. What does this mean for those of us in the rest of the world? It means our strength is going to be dependent on our creativity and critical thinking. The issue here is that our school systems have not changed to reflect this. Because of how our school system was established, it’s causing our economy to suffer because our youth are not as creative at coming up with solutions or thinking for themselves.
Most parents dread to hear that their kids don’t want to go to school and get a degree. It’s been engrained in our collective psyche that “We need to go to school, get a degree, and get a job”. As I type those words I already feel less inspired. Just by looking at how miserable people are in their lives it’s amazing that many would want their kids to follow suit. It’s almost as if parents feel that because they had to suffer their kids should too. Believe it or not, there are other ways of creating a successful life. And by the looks of how many adults in the world are having mid-life crises, it shows that the old system is dying. However, because this is really the only “game” in town, it’s understandable that most parents get nervous when their kids don’t want to follow suit. So what is the real problem with school?
Kids Are Bored At School
Our public school systems, generally speaking (there are exceptions), are one of the main reasons why our world is struggling today because they’re not teaching anything interesting. When your kids go to school, they’re bored out of their mind because what’s being taught is not relevant to whom they are, nor is it creative or engaging enough to keep them stimulated. When they become bored and don’t have anything constructive to put their energy into (see module on Boredom) they become destructive. This is why so many teenagers are misbehaving at school; they’re bored.
Kids Love To Learn!
The truth is, your teenager does like to learn. Ever see them figure out a video game? Facebook? Fix their computer, cell phone, and so on? It takes a smart person to figure some of those things out. In fact, chances are your teenager taught you some things about your computer or cell phone. It’s not that your kids don’t like to learn, they just like to learn things they’re interested in. The real question we should be asking ourselves is this: How do we create an educational system relevant to what teenagers want to learn, and that keeps them engaged and productive?
Unfortunately because most parents have to work, they need their kid to be doing something during the day. This means that what most schools provide is babysitting. And from my experience in the public school system, I can easily say that they barely even do that. I know its tough for most parents to have to not only work, but also help their teenager learn something so that they can be productive. The challenge here is that if we leave it up to the public school system, well, we will continue to see high dropouts, low attendance, poor grades, ADD, and the destructive behaviors we see due to boredom.
Your Child Has A Unique Gift
So many parents are concerned because of the lack of motivation their child has in school. Remember, we all move towards what brings us pleasure and move away from what brings us pain. If your child is bored at school and has “issues”, it is because school brings them pain. Unfortunately most parents try to force their kids to like school and that is not going to work. The only way to motivate your teenager is to help them discover what’s in it for them. What is going to bring them pleasure from doing their schoolwork?
As outlined in the Career module of this course, every one of us has a unique gift to offer the world. It does not even have to be a major invention or business idea. It could just be as simple as “how” that person provides their service or does “their thing”. If you truly want to empower your teenager and see them become very proactive in their education, the first step you have to take is help them explore and discover what it is that they’re passionate about in life. They need to find their one “thing” that they can sink their teeth into that keeps them driven and motivated. Just look at any person who loves what they do and you will see that you never need to motivate them.
Because when someone is passionate about what they’re doing, their excitement is what will motivate them. It’s the natural juice in all of us that makes us jump out of bed ready to start the day. Your job as your teenagers guide is to help them explore something that excites them a lot. It may take a few months of trial and error until you find it, but I promise it’s like a hidden gem ready to be discovered and polished. Once they do find it, it will become their “special project”.
Once your teenager has discovered their one thing that drives and motivates them, then you need to help him or her create a relevant education around that. Whether it be having them research it online, reading books, meeting people who do what they want to do, enrolling them in another “outside” course, finding them a mentor, and so on, you need to do the best you can to help surround them with as many “props” that are relevant to what excites them. Once they dive in, it will get the ball rolling so that other opportunities can present themselves through synchronicity.
Although your teenager will be motivated and excited, this does not mean they won’t face some challenges along the way. This is where you need to be their coach and help them overcome these challenges. Because your teenager will be, for a lack of better terms, working “outside the system” to educate themselves, this means they will be in their school alone (unless they are enrolled in another program). If you start to see them taper off with their special project, then do not take this as a sign that they’re not interested. It probably means they hit a roadblock or fear. You need to help them through this so they don’t give up. The first couple of years will be challenging so be ready to become their cheerleader and support them through their challenges so that they learn at an early age how to pick themselves up when they’ve fallen down.
Ask your teenager the following questions:
Once they have answered these questions, you should be able to gage where they’re at mentally with learning and then you will need to be creative with how you support them.
I’m in no way saying that your kid should just drop out of school. Many parents want their teenager to move on to college and that’s fine. But first let me point out something that is VERY relevant for you as a parent. Do you really want your kid wasting your money on college if they’re just going to be slacking off and bouncing around from one major to the next? Do you know how many kids in college come out with their degree and never end up using it? That’s $50 – $100k down the drain. There are many kids in college who have no idea how to apply what they’re learning. This is a waste of everyone’s money, time, and resources.
Find A Compromise
What you really want to do is strike a balance between a “public education” and a relevant “home education”. By acknowledging to your teenager that you understand that, for them, school is not that great and that you do not expect them to become a scholarly student, this will alleviate their pressures, which is one of the reasons why so many teenagers struggle. Ideally you want to find a compromise where you get them to finish high school so that if they want to go to college later on, they can. Tell your teenager they don’t have to go to college right away if they don’t want to, but that they do need to be showing some growth in their “special project” by taking action. And, they need to get good enough grades so that they can go to college if they want.
Maybe later on they will find out that college would be relevant, or not. Maybe they will discover that they just need a vocational school. Or maybe they will discover that they would be best suited in an internship of some sorts. But you need to find a compromise so that they don’t feel like there is no way out. You also need to find a compromise so that they’re motivated enough to want to finish high school. And the only way to do this is to give them “something” to look forward to. Otherwise they will drag their feet and drive you nuts!
If you find that your teenager really lacks motivation and just can’t seem to get it together enough to find their “special gift” (please see the module on Motivation) or put energy towards it, I would recommend that you give them a timeline and say by a certain date, they need to be ready to live on their own and pay their own bills. But let me make this very clear, this should not be a threat. It needs to be said with love and compassion and not using fear as a mechanism to try and motivate them. The conversation can go something like this:
“It’s ok if you don’t want to learn or put time into something you care about and want to do with your life. But I want you to know by the time you are (this age), you need to be ready to live on your own and pay your own way. I’m more than happy to support you in getting started with your life in any way that I can, but at the same time, I cannot be your crutch and just let you get by while living at this house. If you need any help with your education or finding something to do, let me know.”
Also, this conversation should be a last resort. Meaning that you have tried to help them find their “special project” and you have also done the best you can to make sure they don’ have any anger or resentment issues that might be holding them down. If you have truly done your best to support them in a neutral and loving way and they still seem to slack off, then its time that you put reality on their front door so that they know that at a certain point, they need to take action.
The reason you don’t want to use fear as a mechanism is because this can create conflict and send them in a downward spiral. What really needs to happen is that they need to be confronted with reality from a loving and neutral space. Because most parents fear their kids not becoming successful (and that it reflects poorly on them), they come from a fearful place. This is why so many parents struggle with this issue. They use fear to create more fear. You want to use love and compassion to create opportunity, while at the same time, helping them wake up to the fact that they need to become proactive in their own life.
But My Kid Is Really Out Of Control
If you are faced with a teenager who is exhibiting behavior that is beyond “normal boredom” from school, then there is something else going on with them. They probably have some unresolved anger or resentment that is keeping them from wanting to learn or being focused. I have come across many teenagers who are so angry and frustrated with life that all they do is create more destructive behavior. The solution is that you need help them get it out. It’s an energy that’s inside them (literally) and it needs to come out. They need to find a way to vent their anger (see module on Anger) and frustration both verbally and physically. Once it’s all out and transformed, you will see your child become a different person.
As noted in my bio, I used to throw rave events for ten years and would see the most angry gangsters come to my parties. These were people who were very destructive mentally, physically, and spiritually. But once they came to our party, took ecstasy, and started to talk through their problems and dance the night away (this is where they got out their anger physically), they seemed to change dramatically. I could see them transform like a butterfly overnight. The most hardcore brut became a silly playful child hugging their friends. It’s quite astonishing to watch this transformation take place right in front of you.
So once you help your teenager to get out their anger and frustration in whatever process you come up with, you can start to explore what it is that excites them and get them more involved with their education.
School Is Everywhere
Asking good questions is the best school anyone can put himself or herself through. Every time I meet someone who is well educated in his or her “special gift”, I ask a lot of questions. From a one-hour conversation I can learn so much more than an entire year at some public school. You want to teach your child how to start asking good questions and pay attention to what is going on in all of life. Every moment we are alive we’re in school. Just by paying attention, listening, and asking good questions we can educate people far more than most schools can. Teach your teenager how to ask good questions and they will always be learning.
I have a friend who went to Stanford (one of the top business schools in the world) and when I asked him about his education, while he did say it was valuable, he said he learned more from a one-hour meeting with a major business executive, where he was allowed to ask ten questions, then his entire time at Stanford. Teach your children how to ask good questions and listen well and they will educate themselves on a daily basis.
I had discussed in the “My Story” portion of the course how I was able to change my life once I found something I was passionate about. I’m not going to go into full detail with that, however, I do want to point something out by using a simple timeline. This will show you the steps I took to transform my life outside of the school system:
Ages 7 – 13: Experienced many hardships because I did not know how to address my emotions and solve my own problems. Because of this, I became overweight, angry, resentful, lost, depressed, confused, and so on.
Ages 13 – 15: Ditched school, drank alcohol, hung out with gangs, took drugs, stole, ran away from home, and was a “troubled teenager”.
Age 16: Found my passion in life and started my “special project” which was producing events. I was still exuding poor behaviors but they started to diminish. I left high school and made an agreement with my mom to take the proficiency test (similar to GED) so that I could leave high school and start college. I recall telling my mom, “It’s not that I don’t like to learn, it’s just that I’m not learning anything in school”. My special project turned into a business and I got my first taste of accomplishment and sense of ownership. My phase of being a troubled teenager started to dissipate.
Age 17: Took some college classes to appease my mom at the local community school. Continued with my business that was doing well. At this point I was still having some troubles, but these were more normal things teenagers go through rather then extreme scenarios.
Ages 18 – 24: Launched my magazine while still producing events. Had a great opportunity to learn about many businesses and learned sales, project management, administration, and much more. By this time I was no longer a “troubled teenager” because I was too busy having fun and enjoying life. I learned structure and discipline, became more health conscious and was no longer a troubled teenager.
I wanted to share this outline because I don’t want you to think that everything is going to change overnight. It took me four years to work through my troubled teenage years. I also want to point out that after 18, even though I was not exuding terrible behaviors, I still had many pitfalls. But once again, these were the more normal and less destructive ones. It’s important that you brace yourself and come to terms with the fact that you and your teenager will be going through a process that can take many years. What will help minimize this phase is if you don’t judge them, add fear or anger and help them to find their “special project”.
I highly recommend you take some time to pay attention to people’s stories about how they changed their lives, overcame certain obstacles and came from nothing to become highly successful (rags to riches stories). There are many people who discuss how they were a mess and that once they found their “calling” everything changed. Even if you’re a Christian you know that once people find “God’ it changes their life. From my perspective, love, joy and excitement is how God works.
Internships – Here is a recent post I wrote on helping your child get an internship.
– Sergio Diazgranados