You have tried everything, rewards, private tutors, parent-teacher conferences, meetings with the administration, rewards, consequences, and everything in between. Without your teen’s buy-in, you have become increasingly responsible for their academics. You are even considering letting your teenager fail in school.
I understand your desire to help your teenager avoid failure in school. As an educational coach who has worked with hundreds of students, I’ve witnessed the marathon parents have to run to keep up with their children. I have tremendous empathy for the challenges that you face. Your concerns about their future are authentic and valid. You want your son or daughter to have the opportunity to go to a good university, earn scholarships, and get a good job.
Avoiding failure is counterproductive to these goals.
Letting your teenager fail in school is a step in the right direction. Teenagers thirst for independence and autonomy. Constantly being redirected and avoiding the consequences of their actions can lead to apathy and indifference toward their academics. It can also have serious long-term consequences.
Experiencing the consequences of their actions will teach your teen many important lessons about life and will help prepare them for a successful future.
Letting your teenager fail does not mean you should leave them without support. I’ve developed a list of six tips to help you and your teenager navigate failure. These tips embrace a hands-off approach while giving your teen the support and guidance they need to succeed. The balance of independence and indirect support is a combination that helps many teens find their footing, motivate themselves, and reach their potential in school.
The Long-term Benefits of Letting Your Teenager Fail in School
It can be tempting to help your teenager avoid failure, but this has negative consequences in the long run. Your teen will learn valuable lessons by experiencing and learning from failure.
Letting Your Teenager Fail in School Prepares Them for the Future
It might be tempting to rescue your teenager from an assignment they left at home or a test they haven’t studied for.
Is it more important that your child get a good grade now or be an independent, motivated adult?
While a good grade is always nice, what’s more important in the long run is that your child learns how to deal with challenges and setbacks. If you constantly remind your teenager to study for a test or bring their forgotten homework, they will never know how to do it independently.
Your teenager will face many obstacles in the future. Learning how to deal with failure will set them up for later success.
Learning from failure and mistakes is a short-term loss but a long-term gain. It can be helpful to remind yourself of your long-term objectives when you are tempted to rescue your teenager.
Let your Teenager Get Comfortable being Uncomfortable
As a parent, you know exactly how uncomfortable life can be. When they are older, teenagers face awkward conversations with their boss, upsetting their partner, or dealing with a demanding customer.
Your teenager must get comfortable being uncomfortable now. If you always step in to save them, they will never learn how to cope with difficult situations.
Letting your teenager fail in school is one way to help them get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Your teenager will not always have you there to save them.
Avoiding Failure In School Causes Entitlement
Protecting your teen from failure and discomfort can teach them that they shouldn’t ever experience negative or bad feelings. Learning to avoid these types of emotions can lead to a sense of entitlement.
A sense of entitlement will teach teenagers that they are not responsible for their actions. A sense of entitlement can harm their academic, personal, and professional life.
It is important to remember that your teenager is not entitled to a good grade. They are responsible for their actions and should be prepared to face the consequences of their actions. In the end, your teenager can learn to overcome failure through acceptance, responsibility, and action.
Learning from Failure Teaches a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is one of the most important things someone can learn. It is the belief that they can continue to grow and surpass their current ability level through hard work, effort, advice, and learning from their mistakes.
A growth mindset will empower your teenager to make the most of their natural abilities, reach their potential, and motivate them to do the necessary work. Achieving this mindset is impossible without accepting your mistakes and learning from them.
Six Tips to Help Your Teen Navigate Failing in School
Watching your teenager fail is not easy for any parent. However, letting your teenager face the consequence of their actions doesn’t mean you have to walk away entirely. These tips can help you support your teenager while they learn from their mistakes.
1. Embrace a Question-Based Approach While Letting Your Teenager Fail In School
One of the best ways to support your teenager as they begin to take responsibility for their mistakes is to embrace question-asking. Question asking is far more effective than being prescriptive.
Asking questions demonstrates interest in your teenager’s perspective and opinion. It can also teach them that they hold the answers and solutions to the problems that they are facing.
For example, asking the following questions after your teenager makes a mistake can support their growth tremendously:
- What went wrong?
- How can you improve in the future?
- What did you learn from this experience?
Don’t expect a specific answer when you ask this type of question. Teenagers can tell when they are fishing for a particular answer. If your teen gives a solution you don’t like, that is ok.
An answer they are forced to give is the “illusion” of a win. It might sound good, but it doesn’t mean anything.
Finally, if you have some relevant advice you would like to give, ask your teenager if they would like to hear it. Allow them to turn down your offer. You will be surprised how differently they respond to your advice when you ask for their consent first.
2. Let your Teenager Set up Clear Expectations and Boundaries
As much as teens seek independence and autonomy, they also want boundaries and expectations. Working with your teen to set these can give them a sense of ownership over their actions and behavior.
To set clear expectations, meet your teen first and ask for their opinion. The following questions can be helpful:
- What are reasonable academic/behavioral expectations?
- What do they need to do to meet those expectations?
- What is the reward for reaching the expectations, and what is the consequence for not achieving them?
If they are unsure, offer some suggestions. However, don’t make the mistake of offering too many suggestions.
These expectations and boundaries must be realistic and achievable. For example, if your teenager is failing a class, it might be unrealistic to expect them to get an A.
It is also essential that these expectations and boundaries are clear. Vague expectations only lead to frustration on your part and your teenager’s.
3. Focus on A Specific Problem While Letting Your Teenager Fail In School
As a parent, it can be easy to see all the challenges facing your teenager. You might be worried about their college opportunities or if they can show up to their job on time. These concerns can result in nagging and other unhelpful behaviors that will not motivate your teenager.
Instead of worrying about a dozen different things, take some time and identify the areas you want to help your teenager the most. These areas of focus might be:
- turning in homework on time
- completing responsibilities at home
- writing down assignments in their agenda
Once you have identified the problem(s) you want to focus on, prioritize it and let the other concerns slide. You can get to those in the future. Presenting a consistent and focused message to your teenager will help them stay on track without overwhelming them.
4. Establish a Routine with your Teenager
Establishing a routine with your teenager is one of the best ways that you can help them succeed while allowing them to take responsibility for their actions. Like setting boundaries or expectations, this should be a collaborative effort.
Start by sitting down with your teenager and asking them what a typical day looks like for them.
Then, ask them to identify any time blocks that could be used more effectively. Finally, ask them what they need to do to meet their academic/behavioral expectations.
Use the answers to these questions to help your teenager establish a routine. Be sure to include extracurricular responsibilities and family events.
The next step is helping your teenager stick to the routine by holding them accountable.
You can do this by checking in with them at regular intervals. You can also model this behavior by working at the same time they are. For example, if they decide to do homework from 5:00-7:00 pm every night, bring your work, sit in the same room, and work alongside your teenager.
Demonstrating to your teen that you also follow a routine is an excellent way to get them to buy into the concept without forcing them to do it.
As your teenager sees success following this routine, the following steps are asking them if they would like to make any adjustments or tweak to their schedule. Eventually, you will not need to hold them accountable, and they will follow the schedule because they see its value.
5. Hire an Academic Coach for Your Teenager
Giving your teen the space to fail and learn from their mistakes can be stressful for both you and your teen. Hiring an academic coach is an excellent move if you want to facilitate this process and make it easier for you and your teen.
An academic coach can help your teen develop the skills and habits they need to succeed in school. A coach can also give your teenager accountability and support from a 3rd party.
Support from a third party can be an invaluable resource for your teen as they work to improve their grades and take responsibility for their academic future.
Additionally, an academic coach can help you and your efforts to create a home environment that supports your teenager as they make mistakes and learn from them.
You and your teenager don’t have to go through this process alone. An academic coach can be the exact kind of support needed for all parties involved.
6. Succeed or Fail in School: Praise the Effort Rather Than the Outcome
Praising effort is one of the most important steps you can take to support your teen as they learn to grow from their mistakes. Your teenager is going to make mistakes. It is inevitable. What matters is how they handle these failures.
Praising your teen’s effort rather than the outcome will help them see that you value their hard work and determination. It will also help them understand that you are not just focused on the result.
Your teenager cannot guarantee success. They cannot ensure they will get an A on a test or achieve a certain GPA. They might become deflated and discouraged if they fail to meet these goals.
However, if you praise their effort and hard work, your teen will understand that even though they didn’t reach their goal, they were still successful. They can use this critical lesson in other areas of their life, such as in their future career.
Letting your teenager fail and take responsibility for their actions is a huge step. Giving your teenager the independence and autonomy to own their actions can teach them many valuable lessons. The tips I’ve outlined in this article can help you support your teen as they undertake this journey.
If you want additional support for you and your teen, let’s talk. I am an academic coach that has helped hundreds of students reach their potential.
Every child is different, so let’s discuss how we can work together to get your child back on track – schedule your free consultation.
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