Smart kid bad grades. No parent wants to hear this label used to describe their child.
You know what your child can achieve, yet they keep coming up short.
You may be frustrated that while you are worried about college admissions, scholarships, and financial independence, your child is more interested in video games, talking with friends, and having fun.
You may not realize that your child is likely more frustrated than you are with their poor academic performance and that your encouragement, although well-intentioned, is hindering your child from reaching their academic potential and straining your relationship.
The constant reminders, micromanagement, and arguments disincentivize your teen from working hard academically and make those visions of scholarships and university acceptance less likely.
Thankfully, it is not too late to get your kid back on track, and the good news is that it will be less stressful and require less work and oversight from you.
I’m going to share some secrets you can use to motivate your child and make their bad grades a thing of the past.
Smart Kid Bad Grades – Why Does This Happen?
There are many reasons for bad grades. The situations I’ve described below typically impact intelligent kids.
Smart Kids Feel the Pressure of Effortless Perfection
Teenagers are under a lot of pressure to succeed. They see it in the media, their peers, and their parents. Everywhere they look, they see the polished exteriors that people have learned to present to the world.
What they do not see are the trials and tribulations, the mistakes, and the long hours of hard work that it takes to be successful.
Your teen may have a skewed perception of what it takes to be successful. They may not understand that it takes mistakes to become successful.
The desire to perfect and become successful without making mistakes can be paralyzing and may stop your kid from working hard and trying to reach their potential.
Even worse, it may lead to stress and anxiety, negatively impacting their mental health.
You can help your child overcome the pressure of effortless perfection by being open and vulnerable with them. Talk with them openly and honestly about a bad day or a problem you are struggling with at work.
Distractions Are One of the Reasons for Bad Grades
It is hard to stay focused. Everywhere you look, there are distractions.
Are you checking messages on your phone? Watch out for Instagram and all the photos posted by your friends, family, your favorite sports team, and your favorite actress.
Are you writing a paper on your laptop? Stay focused despite the millions of games that are at your fingertips.
We have never had access to so much right at our fingertips in the history of man. You likely grew up without technology in your hands and learned how to moderate your use of these distractions.
Young adults have had phones in their hands from the beginning. The allure of instant gratification can be overwhelming, often derailing even the most gifted students.
To help your child overcome these ever-present distractions, help them create a study space that is free of distractions. Allow them to make the study space a welcoming environment they feel comfortable.
Lack of Interest is Also A Reason for Bad Grades
What do you do for work?
If you took advantage of the academic opportunities you want your child to take advantage of, you probably got into a good university, studied a topic you are passionate about, and are now working in that field.
It is easy to go to work every day when you are passionate and interested in your work.
Imagine how much more difficult going to work would be if you had no interest in it.
That may be your child’s daily experience when they go to school.
Children are expected to learn topics in school that they may have little to no interest in. They may not even see the relevance of what they are learning.
A lack of interest in education is one of the most complicated challenges to overcome because you do not influence the curriculum taught in school. You can encourage them to focus on what they do find interesting. You can also validate their feelings.
If your child expressed a lack of interest, acknowledge and validate those feelings before reminding them that it is their responsibility to stay engaged and focused. Sometimes this acknowledgment is all a child needs to regain focus.
Smart Kids are Stretched Too Thin
There is a lot of pressure for teens to be involved in every extra-curricular activity possible. Oh, and they should have a part-time job in addition to completing chores at home. And how could I forget that they must also get their homework done?
Many teens are overwhelmed by the number of commitments they have throughout their day. Add in the fact that they are still learning time management, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Instead of learning to manage their busy schedules, it can be much more appealing to escape reality by playing video games, watching movies, or simply ignoring their assignments or responsibilities.
Ask your child if they are overwhelmed by the number of responsibilities they have. If they are overwhelmed, let them prioritize what activities they will continue participating in.
Poor Academic Fundamentals Negatively Impact Grades
Work hard, study for the test, and take good notes. These are all common expectations for teenagers in school.
Unfortunately, many teens do not learn these academic fundamentals. Schools expect them to know these skills but spend little time teaching them.
As your child gets older and the workload becomes increasingly complex, they may fall behind simply because they don’t have the tools to engage with the content.
Thankfully, poor academic fundamentals can be easily corrected. Working with a study coach is a great way to improve your teen’s academic fundamentals and give them the tools they need to succeed in a rigorous classroom.
8 Solutions for Smart Kid Bad Grades
These solutions are a great place to start if you are ready to help your child get back on track.
1. Ask your Smart Kid Questions
One of the most effective ways to motivate your child and motivate them is to ask them questions. You might be thinking, but I already ask my teen questions, and they do not respond well.
It is not about what you say. It is about how you say it.
Teens know when their parents are fishing for a specific answer. They can also tell when a question is a segue into a lecture.
Your child wants to be heard and have their perspectives validated. You can accomplish this by asking them open-ended questions with no agenda other than curiosity.
Some questions you might ask are:
- What did you do well today at school?
- What are you proud of accomplishing in the last month?
- What is your most challenging class, and why is it hard?
When your child responds, it might be tempting to give them advice immediately. Instead, listen and validate any feelings or emotions they might have expressed.
If you have some advice you want to share, ask them if they are open to it. Ask them, “Would you like some advice?”
Allow your child to give their consent to hear your advice. If the answer is “no,” walk away without tension or negative emotions.
Asking your children questions can empower them and give them the agency they desire while improving your relationship with them and their academics.
2. Give your child more Ownership over their Grades
As I’ve mentioned throughout this article, teenagers seek increased freedom and independence. It may seem counterintuitive, but their academic performance may improve if you give them more ownership and autonomy.
Slacking off in school and getting poor grades may be their way of controlling their environment. The more you restrict and control them, the more they will find a way to gain control in other ways.
So let them be independent. Ask them what they think the expectations should be. Ask them what they think they need to do to succeed in school. Then walk away and let them do it on their own.
You want your teen to be a motivated and hardworking adult, so start treating them like adults.
3. Be Authentic and Vulnerable
You have worked hard your entire life to be the person you are today. It took hard work, mistakes, and overcoming obstacles to become successful. Your teen sees this polished product but cannot see all the mistakes you made along the way.
Instead of learning the value of making mistakes and learning from them, your teen may feel the pressure to be perfect.
You can remedy this by being open and honest about your challenges and struggles. Tell them about the mistakes you make and the struggles you face at work or in your career.
Sharing the challenges you face normalizes making mistakes and demonstrates that it is okay for them to make mistakes. Changing your teen’s attitude towards mistakes can decrease their stress at school, empower them to work harder, and help them feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them.
4. Give Your Kid Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful tools to motivate your child and help them improve their grades. Far too often, we focus on the negative and what is wrong. This focus teaches your child what not to do but does not teach them what they should do.
Several studies show that the ratio of positive praise to negative praise should be 5:1. Not only do many children not recessive this much praise, but parents often overestimate the amount of recognition they give and underestimate the frequency of their criticism.
By giving more praise and positive reinforcement, your child will know what behavior they should continue to practice. Additionally, they will be more receptive to your negative reinforcement or feedback.
5. Praise the Effort, Not the Outcome, to Improve Grades
If you apply one piece of advice from this article, it should be this one. You can empower your child to live up to their potential by focusing on the journey, not the destination.
It can be easy to focus on the desired outcome: good grades, getting into a good university, scholarships, etc. However, those outcomes are hard to control. That lack of control creates stress and anxiety and can cause children to check out thoroughly.
Instead of focusing on the outcome, think about what behaviors will likely lead to the desired result. These behaviors might include:
- Working hard
- Staying focused
- Turning in assignments on time
- Asking questions in class
- Seeking out a mentor
If your child practices all of those behaviors, the desired outcome becomes more likely. Your child also has control over whether they do those behaviors or not.
Giving your child praise for the effort rather than the outcome will empower them and help them feel they have more control over their environment. It will also make achieving their potential a more manageable task. Getting straight As might seem overwhelming if you currently have Bs and Cs, but working hard for one hour per day is far more manageable and attainable from their perspective.
6. Work with a Coach
Bill Gates said, “Everyone needs a coach…We all need people who give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
If your child is not receptive to your suggestions and their lack of performance creates tension in your household, then an outside perspective might be exactly what you need.
An academic coach can give your child the support they need as they strive towards their educational goals while providing structure and accountability. It is a win-win. Your child improves their grades, and their relationship with you improves.
I’ve worked with hundreds of students to help them find intrinsic motivation and reach their academic goals.
Let’s talk if you think this is the right kind of support for your child. I’m passionate about my work, and I would love to help your teen undergo a positive transformation.
You can also find teachers, family friends, and teachers to coach your child. What matters is that your child finds the right mentor for them.
7. Set Reasonable Goals with your Kid
I get it. As a parent, you must keep your eyes on the bigger picture. You are concerned about your child’s options for university, scholarships, and a job. Unfortunately, your teen might not care about these bigger-picture goals and might feel overwhelmed by them.
To make success more accessible to your child, set intermediate goals. Avoid discussing college, scholarships, and a career, and focus on working hard this semester.
These goals should propel your child toward the larger one, but they are more relevant and accessible to them.
Additionally, ask your child what their goals are first. Empower them to select their own goals before giving your perspective.
8. Set up a Reward System
Your child is not likely to be motivated by getting good grades. Let’s be honest. How inspired for work would you be if you didn’t get paid?
I am not encouraging a “pay for grades” system but finding a reward that motivates your child can be an easy way to motivate them to take their schoolwork more seriously.
A reward system is a more formal version of positive reinforcement. The rewards should be directly tied to the goals that you have created with your child. The expectations and requirements for earning the rewards should be clear and understood by you and your child.
Let your child choose their reward. The reward is not suitable if your child doesn’t want it.
If you implement a system like this, the measurement and enforcement must be consistent. Your child must meet all the agreed-upon requirements to eat the reward. Getting a reward without meeting expectations sends the wrong message.
What about Negative Reinforcement for Bad Grades?
After reading all these positive reinforcement solutions, you might wonder about punishments for bad grades.
I think it’s a bad idea. Negative reinforcement can be one of the reasons for bad grades.
You want your child to embrace certain behaviors, and punishments teach them what to avoid. I believe that this is counterproductive to the end goal of meeting their academic potential.
Furthermore, many teens have a reason why they are struggling. Punishment does not solve their challenge if your child struggles with anxiety or lacks motivation. It will likely push them further down that hole.
The Next Step to Avoid Smart Kid Bad Grades
Your child’s journey to achieving good grades and reaching their academic potential won’t happen overnight. It will require patience, hard work, kindness, and empathy.
If you replace arguing, micromanaging, and nagging with the tips in this article, you will be on the right path. Over time, your child will learn the behaviors and find the intrinsic motivation they need to succeed in school and life.
Don’t hesitate to work with a coach if you think you and your child would benefit from some additional coach.
I’ve created a program to help students turn their grades around in one quarter. Let’s talk if you think your child would benefit from this program.
About the Author: John Hyde
I am an educational coach specializing in teaching students academic fundamentals and a growth mindset.
After graduating from Duke University in 2015, I taught at a public middle school from 2016 to 2019. Although I loved working with students in the classroom, the public education system was not teaching students the skills essential to academic success.
I left the classroom in 2019 to start Academic Empowerment Academy. Since then, my coaching program has helped hundreds of students realize their academic potential by assisting them in building confidence and empowering them with the skills and mindset to meet their goals in school and life.
If you’d like to discuss how I can help your teen be more motivated, foster good habits, and improve academic organization/performance, Book a Complimentary Discovery Call Here.
Hi I’m John, author of this blog, academic coach, and founder of AE Academy.
I help teens reach their academic potential by empowering them with academic fundamentals, a growth mindset, and critical thinking.
If your teen is struggling to reach their academic potential, or isn’t learning the skills they need to succeed in school, we should connect.
It’s on me – Book Your Free Call Here