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No More Busy Work: Challenge Teens to See Academic Improvement


Motivating a teen to engage in school is no small task. Rewards for good grades can turn school into a chore rather than an avenue for success, while punishment leads to academic resentment. Parents who want to stoke an academic flame in their teens are better off challenging their students and rewarding effort rather than achievement.

According to the American Psychological Association, students having the mindset that they are smart or not smart has negative consequences for learning and academic success. Offering praise for effort, on the other hand, promotes resilience and the ability to bounce back from academic difficulties.

Rather than setting hard goals, set challenges. And rather than encouraging achievement, encourage effort. Teens will gain a whole new outlook on school.

From a Task to an Opportunity

Students who think no satisfaction can be had from school probably haven't wrestled with and solved a math problem at home by themselves. There's nothing like understanding a foreign equation and finding the correct answer. It's starkly different from mindless busy work, which drags on and offer no internal reward. It's hypocritical to ask teens to motivate themselves for tedious work no one likes to be bored.

No matter how well your teen does in school, a fresh challenge can will give him or her a reason to try. If your student has shown some interest in history. Encourage him or her to enroll in an AP course, but don't worry about the outcome. Focus on effort and reward hard work. That way, when your student checks AP scores at Collegeboard.com, he or she already have a healthy self-esteem based on improvement rather than the score.

A New Self-Esteem

When your child acts out or neglects school work, it's natural to assume that poor behavior is the result of low self-esteem. In reality, aggressive behavior is often the result of students with inflated self esteems. According to a joint paper by Iowa State University and Case Western Reserve University, students with high self-esteem are more likely to feel threatened by criticism and defend there high self image. Students who don't think they're special or superior, on the other hand, are able to learn from criticism and improve.

Again, it comes down to how students receive praise. If parents give encouragement for being smart, students will build their esteem on that idea and become aggressive when someone challenges their intelligence. Encouraging hard work breeds a self-esteem that allows students to fail limiting aggression and negative outlooks on difficult tasks.

Ways to Challenge Your Teen

Instead of rewarding your student for good grades, challenge him or her to attempt difficult classes, struggle with difficult topics without giving up and submit his or her best effort on papers and tests. Encourage revision and double-checking for all work to teach that learning is gradual process and not and natural ability.

Your teen may not become a bookworm overnight, but challenging him or her to constantly improve rather than achieve specific benchmarks will make learning more exciting and appealing.


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Teen Paths is here to help you help your teen even when things like therapy, wilderness programs, self-help programs, boot camps, charter schools, brain-washing or fear tactics have failed
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If you'd like to talk to other parents who finally found solutions to similar concerns, please email us at Caring Parent

True re-enactment about a teen who succumbs to the pressures of girl culture, desires to be popular, and ends up a drug user. She then finds the help and support necessary to change her path, regain her self esteem and make working choices in her life. The script for this movie was actually written by the teen who was lost and found her way back. -- To top it all off, she portrays one of the teens in the movie.

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