In this lesson you are going to learn why your teenager is having problems at school and what you can do about it.
In it you will learn:
- Why so many teenagers hate school
- Why teens are unmotivated and how motivation works
- What you as a parent can do to support your teen
- Why it’s important that parents change their approach
- How the old school system is failing our nation
- The reason why smart kids are not excelling
- Your child has a very unique gift waiting to be unlocked
- How to teach your teen that school is everywhere
There are generally three reasons why kids struggle in school:
1. They are bored and unmotivated.
2. They are struggling with some emotional issues and it’s affecting their ability to focus.
3. Their attention span has been drastically impaired from spending too much time on social media, the Internet, or playing video games.
I am going to start with numbers 2 and 3 first as the solutions provided on this page are much shorter. Then I will expand on boredom and motivation.
2. Emotional Issues
If your teenager is struggling with emotional or mental health issues, then this will make it hard for them to focus or be interested in school and you will need to help them deal with these problems so that they can move on with their life.
See the related articles:
- How to deal with an angry teenager
- How to handle teen depression
- How to talk to your teen about drugs
- How to talk to your teen when they are out of control
- How to handle a rebellious teenager
Or, you can try getting them some counseling.
3. Short Attention Spans
If you believe the main reason your child is having problems because they have very short attention spans and the cause is technology (Internet, social media, smart phone, video games, etc.) then visit my lesson on technology addiction.
But if your teenager is just bored or unmotivated, continue reading…
Boredom & Motivation
“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.
Motivation is a very simple mechanism…
We are always motivated to move towards pleasure and move away from pain.
If your teenager is not motivated to go to school or does not want to do their homework, it is because they have not defined their education as being something that is pleasurable.
So how do you motivate them to want to do better in school?
They have to see what is in it for them.
Teenagers live in the moment and have a very short sighted view of the world.
All they can see is that right now, school sucks and it brings them pain. They have not associated any pleasure with it. They don’t see any benefit for them in going.
And because they have such a short sighted view of the world, they don’t see what’s wrong with not going. Their limited worldview leads them to believe that its no big deal if they don’t go or don’t do well.
So if you want them to be more motivated to do well in school, then you are going to need to help them see the benefit.
Here is something you need to keep in mind…
When your teen was ages 2 to 11, they pretty much did what you told them to do without question because they did not think for themselves. But once a child reaches the age of 12, they begin to take on their own independence. When this happens and they begin to think for themselves, eventually they will begin to fight/talk/push back (rebellion) when they don’t agree or like something.
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.
Some psychologists are calling this ADD or ADHD (Please note I do believe that ADD/ADHD are real conditions for some situations. Unfortunately in many circumstances when kids are just bored at school and not really afflicted by these conditions, they get lumped in there to push their medications/drugs.)
I call it…
“School is boring and teaching kids useless information they will hardly ever use so they become disinterested and unmotivated.”
That being said, I am not saying kids should not go to school.
School can provide a very important role such as teaching:
- Structure & discipline
- How to think clearly
- How to solve problems
- How to be responsible
- How to function in society
So it can serve a purpose.
But 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 or independent thought. They applied the same cookie cutter factory model that Ford used to build automobiles to crank out as many workers as possible in a seamless system.
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 created, it’s causing our economy to suffer because our youth are not as creative at coming up with solutions or thinking for themselves.
The Old System Is Dying
Most parents dread to hear that their kids don’t want to go to school and get a degree. It’s been ingrained in our collective psyche that “We need to go to school, get a degree, and get a job”.
While going to school and getting a degree can benefit some, it may not be the best path for others. Believe it or not, there are other ways of creating a successful life. 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 the lesson on Boredom) they become destructive. This is why so many teenagers are misbehaving at school; they’re bored and don’t have anything constructive to put their energy into.
This is also why teenagers become addicted to technology, video games, and the Internet.
Kids Love To Learn!
The truth is, your teenager does like to learn.
Ever see them figure out a video game?
Does your child create videos on YouTube?
Are they a wiz on social media?
Can they fix their computer, cell phone, and other gadgets on their own?
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 while also preparing them for the real world?
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 (both personally and professionally), 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, wrongful ADHD diagnosis, 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 and Life Purpose lesson of this site, 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.
The mind and soul needs something to focus on.
Having a project or “thing” anchors us to this world otherwise the mind wanders and we “drift”.
“Idle hands are the devils workshop.”
Excitement is the key to life. It acts as a compass needle and tells each individual:
“This is who you are.
This is your path in life.
Go this way.”
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 coach or 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 type of 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:
- What would you like to learn? Is there anything that interests you?
- What do you like about school?
- What do you dislike about school?
- What could your school be doing better to keep kids interested in learning?
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? Or changing majors after X amount of years?
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 have that option. 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” 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 okay 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 and that their life is in their hands.
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. You need to learn how to change the relationship dynamic with them so that they become self-motivated to be the driving force in their life while understanding that you are a resource they can use to support them along this journey.
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 and frustration both verbally and physically. Once it’s all out and transformed, you will see your child become a different person.
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.
Growing up as a child I was a mess…angry, rebellious, did poorly in school, overweight, stole things, etc.
Raised by a single parent (my mom), she was a nervous wreck and almost had me taken away.
But once I found my passion everything began to come into place because I finally had something constructive to put my energy into.
I finally had something that anchored my mind and soul to this world because I had a purpose and reason to do well in life.
When this happened, my mom no longer had to chase after me to do things for myself. I began to do them on my own because I became self motivated.
Here’s how I see it…
What you really want as a parent is to see your child become self motivated, responsible, focused, and on their path towards becoming a healthy young adult and you think school will do that.
And while school might help, it may not be the best way to get your child on this path.
This is why its so important to
A. Change the relationship dynamic with them so that they become self-motivated to lead their own life so that you are not constantly worried and chasing after them.
B. Help them find something they can be passionate about.
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 are Christian/Muslim/Jewish you know that once people find “God’ it changes their life. From my perspective, love, joy and excitement is how God works.
Need Help With Your Teen?
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Want more tips?
Alcohol – How to talk to your teen about alcohol
Anger – How to help your teen address their anger issues
Being Cool & Popular – How to talk to your teen about not being cool & popular
Boredom – How to talk to your teen when they are bored
Bullying – How to talk to your teen about bullying
Career & Life Purpose – How to talk to your teen about building their future career & life purpose
Dating & Sex – How to talk to your teen about dating and sex
Depression – How to talk to your teen when they are depressed
Drugs – How to talk to your teen about drugs
Ecstasy – How to talk to your teen about using ecstasy aka MDMA or “Molly”
Hard Drugs – How to talk to your teen about hard drugs
Hurt Feelings – How to talk to your teen if they have hurt feelings
Lying – How to address your teen when you catch them lying
Money – How to talk to your teen about being responsible with money
Out of Control – How to talk to your teen when they are out of control
Overweight – How to talk to your when they become overweight
Partying – How to talk to your teen about partying
Rebellion – How to address teenage rebellion
Stealing – What to do if your teen is stealing
Technology Addiction – What to do if your teen is addicted to technology