Kids' Choices In School

Teen adolescence counselor Ask Mike CBS/AP

Sometimes it can be difficult for parents to decide how much to intervene in their child's education.

That's what some parents had on their minds when they emailed our family and adolescence counselor, Mike Riera.

Riera answered the following letters:

Teacher/Child Relationship

Dear Mike,

My daughter thinks that her reading teacher is mean. Her grades are usually As and Bs, but her reading grade is slipping away ... to Cs, Ds and Fs. The teacher is not able to motivate her to write ... and for four days, my daughter refused to do her work. I have scheduled her to do extra credit, but I can't seem to help improve her grade. Any suggestions?

Mike's Response:
Your daughter is in the midst of teaching herself a difficult but important lesson: You don't have to like your teacher to work well.

In many ways, she is shooting herself in the foot to prove to the teacher that, "You can't make me read." But she's only hurting herself. And the sooner she learns this, the better. Point this out to her.

Also, I would not sign her up for extra credit. Instead, I would mention the extra credit option but let her initiate it.

And here is the difficult lesson you are facing: "One of the best ways kids learn is through failure, as long as they have support along the way." That is, if she is bound and determined to not read, let her suffer the natural consequences. Don't be too quick to save the situation. Trust that she can fail and pick herself up.

Q: It's awfully difficult to watch your child fail at something. But once you've let them experience failure, what else should we be prepared to do?

This doesn't mean you abandon the child. Instead, you stay alongside her and simply point out how she is only hurting herself. Then, when she gives you an opening you ask something along the lines of: "Would you like some help in trying to figure out how to work with your teacher?" And, as good measure, have a story from your life prepared to share: A teacher or boss that you didn't like but still worked hard for.




College for the Wrong Reasons

Dear Mike,

My daughter, a high school senior, has good grades and can attend any college of her choice. Her boyfriend attends a two-year community college. She is following her heart and enrolling in the same college for all the wrong reasons. Her explanation is, "(Once) I decide what career I want to study for, then I'll go to a four-year college." We feel she isn't being honest with herself. How should we handle this?

Mike's Response:

Enlist the aid of the teachers and counselors she respects. Ask them to talk with her about her college choice. Often these people hold a different kind of sway over our kids that can make a very real difference.

Not only talk with her about her decision, but take the time to write her a thoughtful letter about why you want her to reconsider. Make it positive in tone -- not a lecture on paper. This allows her to read and re-read your thoughts in privacy and with her defenses down.

In both cases, when teachers talk to her and you write to her, be sure to point out that most kids go to college not knowing what they are going to study or do for a career, and colleges are designed to help their students figure this out. In short, this is not a reason to attend a two-year community college instead of a four-year college.

Q: If the daughter sticks to her decision, should her parents go along with it?

If she refuses to change her mind, still support her as once a kid has made a fully conscious decision they will often go to great lengths to make it work, i.e. she may transfer after two years to another college.
  • Rome Neal

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