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What To Do When Your Child Is Failing In School

When it comes to your child's academic performance, whose job is it?  Yours or his?  You may be surprised by the answer!

Click => Podcast Excerpt: What To Do When Your Child Is Failing In School

How To Get Teens To Listen (sounds impossible, I know)

"Idunno" becomes the answer of choice for kids from ages 14 to 18. You would almost wonder if perhaps they had lost the power of speech, but somehow they can communicate when they want something.

Most teenagers in a recent study indicated that they want to spend more time with their families and are grateful when their mothers/fathers care enough to make the effort. However, from a parent's view point, the effort is frequently met with a cold shoulder, blank look or the ever ready "shrug of the shoulder."

Here are a few "starting" suggestions to get your teen to listen to you:

Think like adolescents. When I do workshops with adolescents, I ask if they can talk to their moms and dads. Most groan and roll their eyes. I ask them to list their reasons. Here is one list, exactly as they wrote it:
  • They try to make us learn from their mistakes, instead of letting us learn from our own.
  • They keep bringing up the past.
  • If we open up, they will interrupt us and preach.

Whether moms and dads actually do any of these does not matter as much as the fact that many adolescents believe their parents will — so they don’t risk opening up.

Listen to the small stuff. This tests whether adolescents can trust us with the big stuff. Put down what you are doing and give your full attention. Really listen and, at least, nod your head. Then — this is the important thing most of us don’t do — summarize what they told you and how you think they might feel. Do not give advice or ask, "How does that make you feel?" People usually think, "Well if you’d been listening, it would be obvious!" In words that are authentic to you, say something like, "You sound (feeling) because (summarize what) happened."

If they think you don’t understand, they’ll clam up. If you show you are trying to understand but are off-base, they’ll often clarify by sharing more. If you are on the money, they’ll usually keep talking.

Now comes the tricky part. When adolescents open up, they may tell us things we don’t want to hear. We often shut down communication by getting upset, telling them what to do, or minimizing their issues by saying, "It’s not a big deal. Don’t let it get to you. Let it go." It sounds so wise, but to adolescents their issues ARE a big deal and they don’t have much experience in "letting go." Parents, we must realize that if we invite our kids to open up, we have to be ready to handle whatever comes out — and learn how to bite our tongues and not jump in. So what can we do?

The #1 most important skill all moms and dads need to learn is how to ask helpful questions. I’m not talking about fact-finding questions that "grill" adolescents, but questions that "put the ball in the youngster’s court" and help kids think for themselves. Here is an example:

Teen says: "Joey is such a jerk!"
Typical response: "That’s not nice!"
Effective response: "Wow, you sound mad at Joey. What did he do?"
Teen says: "He called me a _____ in front of my friends!"
Typical response: "Well don’t let it bother you."
Effective response: "Jeez, that was hurtful and humiliating! What did you do?"

Now LISTEN – without judging. Decide if he needs to (a) just blow off steam or (b) find a solution. If (b), ask "So what can you do?" Listen to your youngster’s ideas, ask "what would happen if you did that?" and let them decide what to try. If they suggest an unhelpful idea, keep asking, "Then what would happen?" or a leading question that helps them think long-term.

Remember three important points: (1) The quality of the youngster’s solution is not as important as the process by which the youngster reached it. (2) The only way kids will learn to solve their own problems is with practice. Moms and dads can be supportive and helpful by guiding their kids/adolescents through this process without taking over. (3) Some people are internal problem solvers. Encourage them to write down their feelings and ideas.

More tips to get adolescents to listen—
  1. Make a list of all of the things that your teen gets to do such as talk on the phone, spend time with friends, attend sports, go shopping, play video games, drive the car, etc.
  2. Make a list of all of the things that you expect from your teen such as chores, homework, attending school, being respectful, honest, and dependable.
  3. Make a chart with both the privileges and the expectations listed with a place for every day of the week for an entire month.
  4. Let your teen know that for every expectation they ignore, they will lose a privilege. You have to follow through with what you tell them. You cannot back down. Make sure your lists are correct so that they cannot manipulate you.
  5. If you are past the chart and have an extreme problem (e.g., drugs, cutting school, having sex), you will need to take extreme measures. You can still make a chart, but in addition to that you should remove everything from their bedroom except for a mattress and clothing for the week. Let them know that you are only required to provide the basics and therefore that is all they are going to get until you can depend on them again. If they squawk about their stuff being gone, you can let them know that as a minor they own nothing and everything under your roof belongs to you.

Points to consider—
  • Create teachable moments— Adolescents communicate best with food in front of them or when they don't have to look you straight in the eye. Use drive time to bring up subjects without being judgmental or trying to pry. If you see an incident of violence on TV, you may want to ask your youngster what they think. You then may offer different ways of solving problems. Play "What-if" and don't be surprised at their answers.
  • Don't lecture, listen— This is the time in their lives when they are learning to be independent. When you are always ready with advice and answers to problems, you are training them to be dependent on you. You can assist young adults in brainstorming alternative solutions, without sarcasm, nagging or ridicule. If the problem is the youngster's, then allow her to solve it. It is only your problem when the behavior interferes with you. Express confidence to the young adult through words, gestures, and tone of voice.
  • It takes a village to raise a youngster— If you are having difficulty communicating, be patient and enlist the assistance of other caring adults who want the best for your youngster. Encourage her to find a mentor and friend such as a grandparent, coach, teacher, clergy or older relative. Adolescents should not rely solely on their peers for important information, conversation, guidance and advice. They need you in their lives, so keep talking. Even though they say "I dunno", they do know you love and care about them. So, hug them when they will let you and most of all, listen to what they have to say, especially when they say, "I love you."
  • Parents get frustrated— There are a number of tough subjects that simply must be discussed in a rational, calm and cooperative setting. For instance; school, drinking, drugs, guns, violence, curfews, chores and attitudes are all necessary dialogs that need both sides to share in and listen to. Moms and dads become frustrated and angry and tend to set down the rules, standards and consequences without discussion. If the only time your family talks is when there is a crisis, it will be hard to have cooperation and respect, both of which are necessary to build a true and lasting relationship. It is only through regular calm and open family dialog that parents get to know what their adolescents are feeling and adolescents get to know where their parents stand on issues.

==> Parenting Strategies for Strong-Willed and Out-of-Control Adolescents

The Importance of Fathers

It's no secret that parenting a youngster is one of life's most challenging endeavors. And in the four centuries since George Herbert praised the power of paternal influence, more than a few cultural observers have called into question the value (and, in some cases, the very necessity) of a father's efforts on behalf of his kids.

But those critics are arguing in the face of considerable scientific and sociological research, the bulk of which points toward a common conclusion: Fathers matter – and good dads offer a world of benefits to their sons and daughters.

The Many Benefits of Effective Fatherhood—

The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) doesn't leave much room for interpretation when weighing in on the many benefits of effective fatherhood. Research literature supports the finding that a loving and nurturing father improves outcomes for kids, families and communities. Kids with involved, loving dads are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors including drug use, truancy, and criminal activity.

Citing information from a National Fatherhood Initiative publication titled “The Father Factor: How Father Absence Affects Our Youth,” the NRFC notes that dads who play an active role in their kid's lives can significantly increase the quality of their kid's lives, and decrease the threats to their healthy development:
  • Kids who live with their father and mother are less likely to engage in problematic behaviors that result in their being suspended or expelled from school.
  • Kids whose dads live with them are less likely to be either abused or neglected.
  • Females whose dads are not involved in their lives are at considerably higher risk of early sexual activity (and are seven times more likely to become pregnant) than are adolescents whose dads are involved with their upbringing.
  • Having a close relationship with one's father has been identified as a significant protective factor against adolescent drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Research indicates that kids are more likely to be healthy when they have dads who are involved in daily efforts to ensure their health and safety.

Fathers and Daughters—

Historically, the role of dads has been thought to be of primary importance to the development of sons, while the raising of daughters was often believed to be the province of the mother. Today, though, it is becoming increasingly clear that although mothers play a vital role in raising daughters (and sons), a father's relationship with his daughter can result in significant and measureable improvements to his daughter’s life.

For example, a May 27 article by clinical child psychologist and neuroscience researcher Nestor Lopez-Duran described the ways in which a healthy father-daughter relationship can have a significant positive influence on the daughter's relationships with romantic partners.

Writing for the Child Psychology Research Blog, Lopez-Duran reported on a study of 78 teen females and young adult women (average age of 19) in which the quality of the daughters' relationships with their dads was compared to the daughters' relationships with their current boyfriends.

An evaluation of three aspects of those relationships – communication, trust, and time spent together – led the researchers to conclude that daughters who communicated with and trusted their dads were likely to have similarly healthy relationships with their boyfriends:
  1. The amount of time that the females and young women spent with their dads was not associated with communication, trust, or time spent with their boyfriends.
  2. Females and young women who reported having good communication with their dads also had significantly better communication with their boyfriends than did study subjects who had low levels of communication with their dads.
  3. Females and young women who had high levels of trust with their dads also had significantly better communication and trust with their boyfriends.

Quality vs. Quantity—

As is noted in the study that Lopez-Duran described, effective fatherhood is about much more than spending time in the presence of one's kids. Being there, as the old adage advises, may be half the battle, but the true benefits of fatherhood are the results of actions, not mere presence.

In a paper titled "The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Kids," authors Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox established the following seven steps as essential components of effective fatherhood:
  1. Disciplining kids appropriately
  2. Fostering a positive relationship with the kid's mother
  3. Nurturing kids
  4. Protecting and providing
  5. Serving as a guide to the outside world
  6. Serving as a positive role model
  7. Spending time with kids

Though maintaining a presence in their kid's lives is obviously an important concern for dads, Rosenberg and Wilcox noted that " being there" is beneficial primarily as a means of engaging in the activities (such as disciplining, guiding, and nurturing) that ultimately make the biggest difference in kid's lives.

From Theory to Practice—

Expounding upon their seven pillars of effective fatherhood, Rosenberg and Wilcox provided specific examples of ways in which dads can influence and enrich their kid's lives:

Work with your kids. Dads should engage their kids in productive activities such as doing household chores, washing dishes after dinner, or cleaning up the yard, the authors advise. Research, they wrote, indicates that these types of activities promote responsibility, self-esteem, and self-worth among kids – qualities that have been associated with academic achievement, career advancement, and psychological health in adulthood.

Think with your kids. Dads should encourage their kid's intellectual growth, Rosenberg and Wilcox advised. From reading to (and later with) their kids to supporting their academic pursuits to meeting with teachers and attending school activities, dads who maintain an active role in their kid's education can provide specific support while also emphasizing the overall importance of academics.

Stay active with your kids. Dads should maintain an active, physical, and playful style of fathering even as their kids develop into adolescents and young adults, the authors encouraged, while putting an emphasis on "active." Activities such as tossing a football or going to the library are more valuable than spending time in passive endeavors such as watching television, they reported, noting that the benefits of active recreation extend to the emotional health, social growth and physical fitness of children.

Play with your kids. Dads' play has a unique role in a youngster's development, they wrote, noting that kids who play with their dads learn important lessons about exploring the world and keeping their aggressive impulses in check.

Our understanding of family dynamics, social development, and the psychology of father-child relationships has advanced considerably in the centuries since George Herbert extolled the many virtues of fatherhood. But the concept he expressed is as applicable today as it was in the 1600s: Fathers matter!

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