Arguing over grades?

aaaaahYou know the routine:

“Do you have any homework?” : “No.”

“Really? Nothing?” : “Already did it.”

“But you have a math test tomorrow?” : “Oh, yeah. The other kids weren’t ready, so the teacher put it off for next week.”

When the discussions over homework and grades become two-way traffic on a one-way street, the one complaining and badgering, the other deferring and dodging, it’s no longer a functional, working relationship. And all we’ve got left is anger.

So what can a parent do?

First of all, why are you upset about it in the first place? It’s not the end of the world, is it? I mean, really? Well, it can be. Bad choices in high school can destroy a child’s future — and life. That’s what we parents are so afraid of: we want things to be okay for our children.

When our children were young, we faced a different set of dangers that scared us terribly. That coffee table: danger! danger! Its corner could take out an eye from a toddler learning to walk. That electrical socket? It’s enticing our children, forks extended, to their doom.

Come high school, the dangers are different, and no more or less irrational. Exaggerated, perhaps, but these dangers are real: driving, dating, drugs, popular culture… these are real dangers that challenge our children and our families.

And with grades, well, here’s how it works:

Low grades = bad or no college = no job = drug addict = jail = ruin or worse, adult children moving back home. Scary stuff.

Trouble comes when we express these fears through anger. The reason is that anger destroys the opposite side of our fears, our children’s fear of disappointing us.

A Child’s Worse Fear

Kids want to please their parents. They do, and as much as they drive you nuts for not doing what you want, for not listening, for making bad choices, they truly do want to meet your expectations.

And we let them off the hook when we’re angry because it gives them an easy excuse for not meeting those expectations. Here’s the equation:

Kid doesn’t meet expectation = kid defers, lies, or hides the poor outcome = parent expresses (fear based) anger = kid blames parent

See how easy it is to be your fault, parent, not mine?

What can kids do?

Kids need to learn — and be taught — that parent anger, parent frustrations are based on love. If we didn’t love our children, we wouldn’t be angry about the bad grades. Who cares? But we do care, because we love our children, and we want the best for them.

This isn’t easy for a child to learn or act upon, but it is an important element to the value system we want for our children, and letting them know that we love them may, maybe, may… just…  help them appreciate our frustrations. (They may not fully appreciate it until they have their own children, at which point we’re just happy grandparents watching payback.)

We are going to get angry, just as our kids are going to get angry with us for getting angry. We can, however, halt the downward spiral by being clear that we are angry not at the child but at the grade, not at the choice, but at the outcome. And then, of course, we need to work on corrective steps.

When a child can excuse his and her failures on us, we’ve got something truly to fear. Our job, then, is to help, guide, and lead students to owning their outcomes. Remove those excuses, then we can remove those barriers. To get there requires removing the emotions and anger that are getting in the way.

How the A+ Club can help

We hear it all the time from our parents how helpful our service is in this regard. Check out our testimonials and you’ll see the relief and gratitude from our parents for the help we bring them.

Our monthly student support service does not replace parents. It removes the authoritarian oversight from the parent and places accountability upon the child directly. When the oversight comes from a positive, third-party, there’s nothing for the kids to get angry with. We’re only relaying information, and we’re doing it without the emotions of a scared parent.

We also deliver this oversight daily, something for which many parents don’t have the time or ability. Now the information flow is going, now the awareness is raised, now the fulfillment and correction can come without the parent nagging and the student lying.

– Michael