February 22, 2013

When Good Kids Get Bad Grades

I work with teenagers and often, when a parent brings their son or daughter to consult with me it’s because of a battle over bad grades. A common story is that Mark was a terrific student until middle school or sometimes high school. The parent tries threats and punishments that don’t seem to help, the grades continue to deteriorate and so does the relationship between the teenager and Mom and Dad.  If a teenager has always struggled in school, it is not surprising when the higher grades become more of a challenge.  When bad grades come in a child who was previously a good student it is more of a puzzle.


Peer relationships become much more important and often, much more challenging in adolescence. Kids are trying to figure out who they are and what their place is in the world and the easiest shortcut is to assume a pre-formed identity such as jock, or math whiz or rule breaker.  Teenagers, who are less secure in general than adults, take rejection hard so they tend to follow the rules of whatever group they are accepted in and take rejection with greater intensity. Balancing all this while trying to seem cool is stressful and for many kids academics can easily take a back seat to maintaining social acceptance.

Adults tend to feel that teenage crushes are not that serious  but they are of central importance to your son or daughter. Kids mature at different rates and some aren’t that interested in romantic relationships until their upper teens. When those hormones do kick in, however, they are enormously powerful. It may be fine to tell  your teenager that his relationship with his girlfriend is less important than getting good grades but it will not be advice that is heeded. These relationships are very serious to the persons who are involved and you only antagonize and alienate your child when you belittle these intense attachments. If you are able to remain sympathetic and supportive you will have a better chance of helping your child to balance out the demands of their social needs with their often hard to perceive financial and career future.


Another overlooked but unfortunately common cause of bad grades, especially seriously failing grades in smart kids is adolescent depression. Depression in the teen years is not too uncommon.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers and may actually be higher because reckless driving leading to car accidents (the number one cause) may also be related to depression and suicidal thinking. Depression, suicidal thoughts and feelings occur much more frequently than actual suicides. Older people tend to scoff at this or think, “When I was a kid we didn’t have time to be depressed.” This may actually be true. For the generation of WWII going to work or going to war were much more a part of every day reality. While we don’t wish this type of difficulty on our children, it gave our parents or grandparents generation an immediate purpose and focus in their life. Having real responsibilities and day to day obligations is a support to good mental health. Yes, school IS an obligation for the teenagers of today but it is one they can easily avoid.

Teens, like adults who suffer from depression, feel bad about themselves and can feel hopeless about the future. A parent’s anger or criticism about poor school performance can just add to the teenager’s sense of failure and futility. Loss of motivation is also very common in depression so keeping up with demanding academic schedules becomes more and more of a struggle. When a parent’s anger and criticism gets added to that in only makes the depression and poor performance worse.


Drugs are rampant in schools. The drug culture is pervasive and even good kids from good families will find ample opportunity to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Baby boomer parents who experimented in their youth or who may still feel comfortable using marijuana tend to avoid much criticism of drug use to their teens, implying acceptance. Boomers tended to try drugs when they were in college when they had a little more maturity and accomplishment to fall back on. This level of drug use has moved to down to high school and even middle schools. The teenagers I talk to in affluent Boca Raton, Florida speak quite casually of drugs and alcohol being easily available and abundant in social environments.

Marijuana is not a benign drug. One of it’s most well known effects in regular users is to cause apathy. This can be very detrimental to teenagers who need to maintain motivation to succeed when the rewards seem far away and poorly understood. A fourteen year old doesn’t worry about getting a good job or going to a good college. The pleasure drugs provide is immediate so there is always a risk of losing control of the level of use.Many teenagers whose grades have deteriorated greatly are using drugs or alcohol at a level vastly underestimated by unsuspecting parents.


There are many possibilities for what is causing YOUR child to be doing so much worse at school. Don’t assume it is just obstinance or defiance. That is sometimes the reason but there can be other, more serious problem of which poor grades are just the evidence. To help your teenager to do better, it’s important to understand what is causing the problem because different solutions are required in different circumstances. Most parents know their children and the type of people they are. If your child has been highly motivated in the past, look underneath the surface to see what is going on. Deliberate failure is actually pretty rare.


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62 Responses

  1. Layla says:

    Hi! I am a junior who is in the top 10 of my class. I have been dealing with anxiety and depression for quite some time, but have been able to control and suppress them up until recently. Recently, I experienced a traumatic event, which has intensified my anxiety and depression. I have always been an excellent, high-achieving student, but now I find it hard to even get my homework done and spend most of my time when I’m not in school (when I’m at home) resting and sleeping because I feel so fatigued, or trying to distract myself from negative thoughts that seem to fill my mind when I try to do homework.

    I have severe trust issues and find it hard to see a doctor (therapist), or even talk to my counselor or school psychologist, about it. I believe it is very important for me to have a connection with someone as I talk about my thoughts to them. As a result, I have mainly been relying on my close friends for support, as some of them have also struggled with either one or both of my conditions. I have notified my teachers about my struggles, asking them to be patient as I try my best with school, and I have received positive feedback from most of them (one teacher whom I thought would provide the most support to me still hasn’t approached me about my situation after I sent the notifications out, which was several weeks ago). However, I feel horrible and embarrassed about my grades and performance at the moment, to the point where I have avoided checking my grades for the past two or so weeks while I used to check them at least two or three times a day. Although I can’t seem to complete my homework at home, I still try my best at school during classes, actively participating in class-activities, discussions, and lectures.

    I have brought up my depression and anxiety to one of my parents, but he/she tells me that everyone gets extremely sad/depressed at one point in their life, and that I am just going through a sad phase. The problem is, depression doesn’t affect everyone, and I know I’m not just going through a common “sad phase” for various reasons. I was hoping to ask my parent to take me to see a therapist, but seeing how much they understand my condition and for other private reasons, I don’t think I will be able to get their support for that. My other parent simply doesn’t know that I have these conditions, and I would like him/her to focus on his/her work since he/she is the main provider of the family. One of my friends state that another option could be for me to go to my counselor and ask if I could contact a therapist without parental consent, but my counselor doesn’t know I’m going through these conditions and I do not feel comfortable telling her about it. I am afraid that she will tell me that I will have to drop classes because I can’t seem to handle my rigorous school schedule (I have four AP classes). I know I can handle my classes, but I can’t perform as well as I can anymore this school year because of how I’m feeling. I can’t be expected to perform at the same level as when I was feeling better. I have also talked to my school psychologist, but I did not feel a connection with her, and she did not offer as much help as I hoped.

    I realize that you will most likely say that I should see a professional about my situation, but are there other alternatives to that? Could I resolve my grades issues with my classes without the help of a therapist? If so, how? I am worried that any grades less than an A would bring my GPA down, thus pulling me back in the class rankings, which I have worked so hard for before this situation happened. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Yes, your issues with grades could be helped by seeing a psychologist and figuring out why you are struggling these days. If necessary, try a few to find someone with whom you feel comfortable. There are also support boards online that might be helpful if you are too uncomfortable to speak in person. Search for depression support online.

  2. Josh says:

    I’m 17 and in the 11th grade. My first in 7th grade my grades were horrific. I used to be an academically stable student but now I’m bombing everything. I fail open note tests, if that helps any. I used to want to be a doctor but there is no way I can do that. Not any more. I feel like I have nothing left. I don’t want to see anyone like a psychologist. I just don’t know what else to do

  3. monika says:

    I used to be a girl who was always cheerful and excelled in both studies and extra curricular activities. now, i cant seem to find the motivation as i keep getting thoughts of how worthless and pathetic i am. i cant help it at all, im not able to concentrate on anything i do and nothing interests me. whenever i try to be happy, i get negative thoughts about myself. my school counselor told me to seek a psychotherapist but as of now, ive my exams and i dont have the time. there’s a drastic increase in the urge to self harm, the most i’ve gone without self harming is 5 days. i have no hope in life. worst thing is i can’t even see myself being happy. everyone thinks im a happy person but i guess im good at putting a mask on my face. i also feel very guilty ’cause i cant appreciate anything in my life and i feel like i dont deserve anything..

    • That certainly sounds like you are suffering from depression. Make time to seek help. Self harm is a serious sign of trouble. Please get professional help.
      Dr. Robin Goldstein

  4. Brishti says:

    I always had good grades but recently my grades are falling probably because too much addiction with anime and manga. This is my final year in high school and I have entrance exams too. I’m so depressed and sad. I feel like quitting my studies..I can’t concentrate any more. I want some valuable advices.

  5. Nate says:

    I don’t even know why I feel like this. I’m getting anxious at even a 91 on my test. My parents do expect a lot from me, but that’s common. The problem is, I’m scared of what they are going to say. It doesn’t matter to me what kind of grades I get. I have always been called smart by people around me, expect my parents. They have never praised me and criticize even if I get a 99 in math. They themselves aren’t that intelligent. I have had many suicidal thoughts but I am too afraid to actually die. Can you please tell me why I feel like I am having a heart attack even when I get a 95? Why am I forging signatures when my grader are A’s? Why…

  6. Elise says:

    I am currently in 8th grade and having some trouble. I’m failing my writing class and my parents are furious. I’m constantly in fear of coming home and having them scream at me for the rest of the day, and I feel like at school and online with friends are the only places I can actually talk about it. My parents have continuously taken devices away, which along with the screaming haven’t helped my grades in any way. My parents tell me that my grade is unacceptable and that it’s disgusting, and that they ought to just take me out of the class altogether, and that just makes my feel worse about it all. I’m afraid to bring it up with my parents because I don’t want to get yelled at again, and I know that they will just brush it off and say that they’re doing what they “need to do” to help me succeed.

  7. Carrie says:

    I am in 6th grade and I failed Latin my parents keep telling me to get them pulled up and that only causes more stress and they said if I don’t pull them up they will make me drop out of cheerleading and that is the only thing I do thathink distracts me from my problems at home. I have had suicide thoughts and I just feel it piling and piling on my back.

    • If you are having suicidal thoughts it is essential that you seek professional help as soon as possible. Tell your parents or a school counselor or teacher that you need your help.

      Dr. Goldstein

  8. Kat says:

    I’m doing bad in school, and I’m failing my french class, and having C’s in other classes. I want As and Bs. I might know why I’m not doing good in school, but I don’t know. I want to try to bring my grades up, but I find it hard and my grades keep getting worse. I think Technology distracts me from my work but like I said, I don’t know.

    • There are so many possibilities as to what can cause a good student to get poor grades so I can’t assess your personal situation. Counseling can help you figure out what is going on and what is causing the problem. Let your parents know you are concerned.

  9. Brittain says:

    Im in 6th grade and my gpa is 1.8 i have 3 U’s and ive been trying to get them up and ive been feeling sad and depressed and i just want help ;(

  10. Mareeha says:

    Hi I’m 13 and I got my math result with a percentage of 85, my goal was 90% and so were my parents because that’s how much I get everytime. The disappointment and guilt is taking over me and I can’t tell my parents or concentrate on my next exam. I am too pressured by my parents but they just don’t understand how do I concentrate on the next one?

    • Concentration doesn’t sound like the central problem-perfectionism does. That’s a lot of distress over a narrowly missed target. It’s great to have goals but not so good to make yourself miserable when you don’t reach them.

  11. Dave says:

    Hello, I am a 17 year old boy, I used to be since i was in grade 1 honor rolled and the first in class with the highest grades. And now that a new student came to my school, it appeared that he’s getting better grades than mine. And now i feel depressed because i used to get nice comments about my grades from teacher, parents, friends… And now all the attention is on him. It is not jealousy, i just feel so sad with no control of it.

    • Some commpetition is healthy, too much is not. Try not to make grades the centerpiece of your life-they are just part of who you are-and you are still an outstanding student. Luckily, the rest of life is rarely as clearly evaluated as school. Who is the best teacher or doctor or engineer. Let your parents know you still need their encouragement!

  12. Meghan says:

    Hi! I’m currently a sophomore in high school and I would really like some advice. I’m an honor student and I’m currently taking 1 AP and 3 honors classes. I usually get A’s in all my classes, but so far I’m getting 2 A’s (one’s a sport), 2 C’s, and 2 D’s. I’m really having a hard time. From things that go on at home, how I see myself in the future, and stress that comes from too much work, I’m not the person I used to be. I now have no interest in doing my school work, can’t focus on anything I do, procrastinate on every asssignment, skipping classes, and sleeping during class. Im also not turning in a lot of assignments. I’ve always loved school up until now and I don’t know why this is happening. My mom also gives me a hard time on my grades, as she knows how well I can do. I’ve just lost all my motivation to do well and couldn’t care less about what happens. Please help???????

    • This is certainly beyond the scope of an online email to address but I would encourage you to seek counseling. You definitely sound depressed and could benefit from professional help to sort out what is going wrong for you. Ask your parents to find a psychologist for you to talk to.

    • G says:

      I’m in the same boat. I’m taking 4 APs and 1 Honors course. I did well first quarter, but my grades dropped this quarter. I had all A’s and A+’s first quarter, but with my sport and club obligations, my grades started to drop to B’s and I feel like I just don’t care anymore. What I would advise you to do is to just try your best for the rest of the year: study hard and remind yourself that it’s not the end of the world; things will get better from there. The same thing happened to me during my sophomore year too: I stopped caring about my grades and doing homework. But I fixed up my schedule and stepped up to the plate to get my grades back in order. Sadly I have to do the same thing again this year. Best of luck to you Meghan.

  13. High school student says:

    I was always doing well in school until now. My grades have been slipping badly this year. I am currently a sophomore in high school. My parents are constantly yelling at me about my grades and it just adds to the stress and the way I feel. I go to a therapist who always gives me good tips for what is going on. My mom always says that the depression is not what is affecting your grades so don’t use that as an excuse. I have no motivation to do anything no matter how much I feel that I have to do. I am constantly stressing over grades and friends. Now I am just in a state where I want to give up. Sometimes I think of suicide but I don’t act on those thoughts because I always tell myself that it will get better even though I feel it isn’t. I always feel that my parents don’t really care what is going on with me. Other people in my life just don’t understand. It just makes it hard on me. I have trouble focusing in school. Sometimes i have to leave the room because of a panic attack or because I am going to cry. Everyone thinks that I am just not committed and they practically call me a failure and I just keep going cause I am hoping that it will all get better.

    • Try writing out your thoughts in letter or an email to your parents. Take some time. Wait a day or two and re-read and change what you’re saying. Sometimes that is a better way to get your points across than in the heat of a verbal confrontation. If you are having suicidal thoughts that is serious and if your parents won’t listen, speak to the school counselor or a local help line.

  14. michal says:

    im in grade 6 and ive always done really well at school.im always top three in my grade but today i got 73% for a math test. i was very dissapointed and upset and me and my teacher spoke about it but now my parents want to punish me. i am depressed and i already see a psychologist and i have tried to kill myself before .
    what should i do

  15. John says:

    I am 16 and currently a Junior in high school. My grades have been slowly slipping and have gone from a majority of A’s to a majority of high C’s. My parents blame it on videogames and claim I’m addicted (which I’m pretty sure that I’m not it’s just a hobby and a way to talk to friends), and punish me over and over again because of my grades. I have trouble staying motivated because of this and tend to just want to sleep or distract myself with videogames. I have tried to tell them how I feel and that punishing me is and has not been effective but is usually ends in arguments. Any advice?


    • Try showing them my article and see if that helps them to understand better. You can also try talking to another family member or trusted adult friend and ask them to help with your family. Try writing out your feelings in an email. Wait a day and re-read it and see if you got your points across well. That may avoid arguing with your parents.

      Hope things start improving for you.

  16. Victor says:

    Hello. I am 13 years old and currently in 8th grade. I am having trouble focusing on school and probably have a disorder of a sort. A couple months ago I have been contemplating suicide but of course, with the little sanity I have left, I can’t go through with it. my parents have sold every electronic I have, (Xbox, phone, tablet, laptop). I am typing this from my school computer, and I am worried about what is going to happen to me and my grades. Before my parents sold my electronics, my parents started taking away my electronics for small times, however it doesn’t work. I try taking away my electronics, which works, but i find other ways to get distracted. I am not doing any drugs, alcohol, or in a relationship (but do have a couple crushes).

    • I urge you to let your parents know how badly you are feeling and to find you professional help. If they are not supportive asking a teacher or counselor at school to help you talk to your parents. Please take good care of yourself and thank you for reaching out to me.

  17. Joseph says:

    Wow. This article pretty much explains my problem. I’m 17, a senior, and at this point, I’m in danger of failing. 260 credits is required, and since I’ve failed six classes, one more fail will prevent me from graduation. Romantic failures (I’ve been rejected pretty much every single time), along with failed friendships, kept sinking me lower and lower. Ironically, I was a 4.0 student back in middle school, but I never cared for romance, and I didn’t have friends or social life to speak of. Somehow, I was happier without the emotional attachment. I have no practical skills, all the skills I have are mental, like having a good memory or good observation skills. My parents constantly get on my case about grades and it just makes me feel worse. Plus, they get on my case when they didn’t graduate themselves. They pretty much forced me into taking all academic (and some upper class classes) in my first year, when I was made fun of for attempting to take Choir and Drama. Eventually, in my junior year, I just took those classes, and said who cares, but the damage was already done. I had no motivation (my skill set didn’t really give me any sort of merits for a job). I’ve been through many aspirations, but decided on detective, because I feel those are one of the few occupations that would fit me. But since I took inspiration from a fictional character to some degree, my parents will just make fun of me more. I always feel like I’m disappointing someone or I’m a failure or that someone will judge me for my choices in my life. The “easy way out” is a common thought, and I always have this feeling that I somehow deserve to be punished, like I’m always doing something wrong. I know I should probably go to a doctor, but I haven’t been to one since 2012, I have too many body insecurities (my body frame is feminine, I have acne, I’m underweight, and I’m pretty short at 5’8”). I’m pretty much stuck in this depressive rut.

  18. Tess says:

    I’m about to turn 17 in less than a week. I’m a junior in high school and I’ve never had drugs alcohol cigarettes or sex. I don’t have any crushes or social problems. The problem is my grades. I was a perfect student until I started middle school then I started getting D’s and C’s. My grades have been getting lower and lower since then. I failed my first class as a freshman and last year I failed at least a semesters worth.My parents have tried everything except physical punishment to get me back on track. And nothing works. I seem to have no motivation at all. I don’t have any goals in life and I don’t care much about anything. I got a job over the summer and got promoted to breakfast manager after 2 months and convinced my parents to let me home school so I’d have my mornings open and it might help me to get back on track. Well I have such bad grades that the school said I’m only accepted on a trial basis to see how I do and the trial is up this week and I’m about 2 week behind in all my online classes. And I basically just got demoted from breakfast manager when I switched go another store. I’m quitting and getting a new job to make my mom happy. I don’t mind I don’t really care where I work. But I’ve been thinking about just dropping out of school. Getting a full time job and living pay check to pay check. Getting a room mate something like that. I can’t focus and every time I make a plan on how to get the work done I can’t bring myself to do it. I have no motivation at all. I don’t want to die. Not at all. But I don’t care about life. I’m failing and it’s impossible to fix by now. My dad’s going to be furious. And everyone will think I’m just like my drug addict older sister. I need help so much. Please.

    • Thank you for contacting me. Please print a copy of my article and bring it to your father to help him understand that you need help, not criticism. With treatment I’m sure you can be back to feeling like your old self.

  19. Please do ask your parents to send you for counseling so you don’t continue to suffer this way.

  20. Sue says:

    My problem is very similar to you guys. In my entire life I had always been the honors student, I always gets the best grade and always tries to make my parents proud but since I was a teenager my grades are getting lower and lower and nothing I can do about it. The point is I feel like a failure and sometimes I even thinking about suicide, I never have enough energy to do anything, the only thing that I want to do is go to sleep.

    • Sue says:

      This was me. I was an honors student until high school. Our mother raised us by herself. She wasn’t able to do everything and work full time. When a kid hits junior high and high school, they need a ton of academic understanding and support to get through tough coursework without losing their sanity. I made some horrible grades in high school as well as early college. I put grades and education last behind my multiple part time jobs and friends and partying. By the time I hit 21 I suddenly realized if I didn’t want to work at the gas station and at the grocery store and fast food, I needed to graduate with a marketable degree. When I eventually put grades first, it changed my life. Nothing teaches a kid that academics are important like having multiple jobs they don’t want to do for the rest of their lives. Also, having an educated parent helps. I used my own education to supplement and assist my own kid and niece through their educations, and those two are doing fantastic! Their high school and college transcripts are flawless. And unlike myself at their age, they understand the importance of GPA’s and scholarships and dodging having student debt. But their academics have had a lot of support. I even FaceTime and skype to help long distance with the late night study sessions before big tests. Our kids are almost juniors in college now, still doing very well with school and GPA’s. They do work, but they understand that academics are their first job and priority and that if it comes down to it, they should quit any part time job if it means sacrificing their grades, until they graduate from university. Their jobs aren’t easy either! One is a fitness instructor, RA, and waitress in biology/pre-dental and the other is campus photographer in comp sci. But they definitely need support: emotional, mental, nutritional, financial, and academic support all throughout junior high, high school, and university. I encourage them constantly about getting rest and proper diet, exercise and supplements to maintain healthy bodies and minds. And you have to balance all that work with a little fun so you don’t get burned out! That’s my advice.

  21. Thora says:

    I believe this is true. Growing up I was a minority in my al white school district and I went from honor roll at my old school and having friends to having no friends, failing, acting out and getting pretty much only C’s up until I graduated. I was extremely depressed and did not believe my parents cared or took the time to even consider my feelings. I was punished, my mom beat me constantly and I was given a suck it up approach so what your called n**** and other stuff. I hated my parents and I hated the school as well. I wish my parents would of took the time out for me and considered alternatives.

  22. Shelby says:

    I’m almost 16 years old, next year I’ll be a senior in high school. I’m a girl, if that matters at all, and my dad constantly pressures me to get all A’s in school. On my freshman year, I got almost all A’s, I only got a couple B’s. In my sophomore year, things started to go downhill. I started getting C’s and even a D or two. I had developed depression and thoughts of suicide at the time, and my dad always yelling at me and taking away my electronics every time I got a bad grade, which was anything below an A to him, didn’t help at all. This year I am doing even worse, though I managed to pull out of my major depression. Every time he yells at me about my grades, I just sit there not saying anything unless he asks me a direct question. He’s never physically hurt me, but I’m just very scared to tell him that the punishments he keeps giving me aren’t working, and that I think the bad grades are punishment enough. I’ve wanted to even just give up on my grades, because I feel like a failure. I feel like he cares more about my grades than he cares about me.

    • I would certainly encourage you to at least try to talk to your father. You seem to have a good understanding of why your grades have gone downhill. Why don’t you try telling him? If he really is not able to be understanding and caring then you have to deal with it yourself and realize that you can’t win his approval but do what you need to do for you.

      I would also point out to him that his yelling does not help you to get better grades. He should be able to see that now. Try to help him see that you would like to be doing better yourself?

  23. M L says:

    My 13-year-old 8th grader, honors student, has started acting out (think “class clown”) over the last couple of months and his grades are slipping. He also received a negative citizenship grade in one class last quarter, and has become pretty absent minded about turning in homework. I don’t want to freak out but I’m very concerned. When I try to talk to him about it, he states that he has alot more friends now and I get the feeling he is assuming a “persona” to court popularity, and MIGHT even be doing less than his best work on homework and tests so he isn’t seen as a “nerd.” Any suggestions?? Grounding him doesn’t seem to work.

    • I agree, punishment would probably not be helpful in this situation. The essential thing is to keep the avenues of communication open. Keep trying to talk to him. express your concern and let him know that you are not judging him but that you are concerned about the changes that you are witnessing. Teenagers often put off their parents and act like they don’t want to talk but keep trying-your persistence may pay off

  24. Rimun says:

    I am in grade 8 and my O-levels are near but after changing school campuses and study style I, my grades have been falling. I try but due to lack of concentration(or so others say) I do not have the same grades as I used to.My tutor insults me about this and you know adds spices to the wounds.I feel like I will not be able to improve and get a good result in O-levels and will continue to be a burden my parents with everything(they never state it though, it is just my thoughts). My maths grades are bad and they do not seem to improve at all! I promise them I will do better next time but I can’t and end up breaking the promise which hurts me.
    P.S-I am not in drugs/alcohol nor do I have any crush or is in a relationship.

  25. Sukriti Dutta says:

    I am a high school student. I had been an excellent student all through my life but these two years have been horrible. I have been scoring average in math and english. I have been taking coachings but nothing works out for me. On top of that my parents ask me to be the topper but they don’t understand it’s hard in high school. I have not used drugs but i feel depressed a lot. My parents don’t care about my self harm habits even though they have seen my scars and my suicidal behavior. They don’t even let me visit a therapist. They think i am alright, but i am not. I don’t even have a school councillor. Thank you for this post. I can show this to them and talk it out

  26. Luke says:

    Is it normal that a parent seems to only care about grades? I’ll go from the start for you to actually feel me and my situation. I used to go to a school, in which everything was just so easy, the learning, I didn’t need to do homework, to study, and I still got good marks, usually 8-10 (that’s like a B-A I think). But then I had to switch schools, and I transefer to an “elite” school (that’s what they call themselves) and everything is just so much harder. SO. MUCH. HARDER. Even if I try really hard and learn, I still am not able to get similar results, to what I would be getting in my old school. Now to say, my mom freaks out if I get a 6 or a 7 (C) like I got an F. But I can’t get good marks if I’m not good at that subject, and that is most of the subjects, because, as I said, my previous school was not strict enough, I did not learn enough there, but my mom just doesn’t understand (doesn’t seem like she is trying to aswell). She thinks I’m a goddamn genius, getting straight 10’s or A’s, but I’m not, and she doesn’t give a single **** about that, that’s because she cares about the marks more than anything else. It doesn’t matter to her if I don’t like or I’m completely bad at it (like Russian, even though I know I will never need it in the future (if I have one)), she doesn’t see or care that I might be sad, angry, just depressed in general, nope, all about those marks. And just to rub it in just takes away my computer, tv and all that. Not expecting any replies right now, since this topic seems kind of forgotten and dead, but it felt nice to actually get all of that out of me since I have a very limited number of friends or people I can trust with this.

    • I wish parents understood beter that grades are a means to an end, not an end themselves. A little pressure is good, too much is destructive. One doesn’t need to be a genius or get straight A’s to succeed in life.

      Punishment can be useful when someone needs a nudge. Piling it on only depresses and discourages students. It also damages the relationship with the parent at an important time in life. Keep trying to talk to your mother. You sound like a thoughtful and intelligent person.

  27. TypicallyUsual says:

    This year has been especially hard for me. I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know how long I’ve had depression, but it’s just been getting increasingly worse. I probably also have a form of PTSD and anxiety. I find myself constantly contemplating suicide, although I’m not irrational enough to actually follow through with it. I used to be a straight A student in middle school, but my grades have just been dropping ever since high school started. I care so much, but can’t bring myself to care at the same time. I’m in my sophomore year now, and I just don’t remember how I used to be a good student anymore. My mom is constantly mad at me. Sometimes she’ll appear to care, and at others she’ll be screaming at how I am basically a failure, and that it’s my own fault, and that there are so many kids who can do well despite the pressure. We’ve been through some tough times with my dad, and still are just trying to sort things out. She also has a lot of things on her mind. Sometimes, I want to help, but just cannot bring myself to. I never have any energy to do anything, and I just want to sleep all the time. I don’t know what to do anymore.

    • There is help available. You and your mom sound like you have gone through a lot. If you keep thinking of suicide, you need professional help. Ask your school counselor how to get the support you need.

  28. John says:

    I honestly feel this. I’m currently in high school IB, which is incredibly tough and I receive almost no parental support. Last year (freshman year) I had done good in the first semester, however during second semester my dad got an email that I wasn’t doing as good, it was the start of the quarter and I had missed an assignment making my grade looking a lot worse than it was due to lack of assignments. Immediately after that I was grounded and my phone and videogames were taken away for me until the end of the school year about 6 months. I had very few friends at school and most of my friends were outside of school, so I had zero to no contact with them whatsoever. On top of that my dad grounded me from leaving the house, so for an entire semester all I did was go home and to school. This eventually made me depressed due to lack of social interaction and I didn’t care about grades. I went from a 4.0 GPA in first semester, to having B’s and C’s in second semester.

    • I am so sorry to hear about what is happening in your life. If you are in an IB program you are obviously a very motivated and intelligent student who doesn’t need this kind of a heavy hand from your parents. Have you tried to enlist another adult to plead your case or talked with someone at school who might talk to your parents. Would they be willing to send you for counseling, where a counselor could support what sounds like your very legitimate needs with your parents?

    • Kim says:

      I went through something similar when I was your age. I wished that my parents would not have been so hard on me and that they would trust me enough to know I didn’t like getting bad grades, either and that I can and would improve. The classes were much harder and I couldn’t turn to anyone for help. Eventually, it all worked out. My grades improved (except Chemistry) and my parents were calmer.

  29. maryam says:

    This is a great post!

    I used to get very good grades but now I get average marks and I think it is so because I have a crush on One Direction or I’m a big fan girl or something. And sometimes I feel like just getting out of the house as the teachers are putting too much pressure on students. And my parents also keep shouting at me..just help me out

  30. nardos says:

    Ok so I am a sophomore in high school and my English grade been dropping sense last semester and now on this semester its getting really bad and I don’t know what to do I tried studying but still I am going down hill I just can’t find a solution for it so that’s why I checked out this wed site so at least someone will give me advice, and in case your wondering I don’t take drugs, also I am an A student all my other subjects are all A’s, so because of the bad grade I have in English I am so depressed it feel like the end of the world for me. Do you have any advice you can give me to improve my grade over the summer? I will do anything to at least to a C or B average.

  31. Mary says:

    I’ve got a sophomore in high school who formerly was an excellent student. This year she’s bombing out of math and science. She has decided she can’t do these subjects. However, she puts in zero effort in them, and I (and her teachers) have no doubt she’d do fine if she put in a modicum of work. We’ve been taking her to a therapist, but my impression is that she spends the entire time just whining to the therapist about how mean we are for caring about her future. I haven’t seen any improvement in her attitude, performance or behavior. I think the therapist just reinforces her lack of motivation.

    I wish this article had offered some actual advice for parents of teens in this situation. She’s not on drugs, she’s not depressed. Essentially this article just says pat their backs and tell them it’s just peachy that they are getting crappy grades. Not helpful in the least.

    • I don’t think that is the message I was trying to convey at all! I was trying to say that often when bright teenagers do badly in school it is due to depression or drug use that is not suspected by the family. That may not be the case with your daughter at all and that would be for the you and your own psychologist to determine. If those two things are ruled out then there are many behavioral strategies that can be effective. What has been tried?

      Try talking to her therapist about the lack of improvement you see. A second opinion might be warranted, especially if you do not have confidence in the person who is currently working with your daughter.

      I want to make parents aware that many times when they are absolutely sure their kids are NOT using drugs I find, in speaking to teenagers when their privacy is guaranteed, that they tell me they are using quite heavily. It is easy to hide from parents, even those who feel they are sophisticated about drug use.Depression is something else that is easily missed because teenagers can hide this easily from busy parents.
      I hope you find good solutions for your daughter.

      • A Sophmore says:

        Fist off to the parent please don’t you dare say that your kid was just whining to her therapist. That is a very negative look on things and coming from a depressed teen myself you don’t know what your child is going through. I was starving myself and my parents had no clue, until I bravely told them. I was also very depressed and i felt like giving up. Not because I was lazy but because I felt dead inside, no, dead would of been better then that. So before you assume anything about your kid, maybe you should take a look at yourself because, I am sure your daughter can see that negativity toward that subject that you feel. That makes someone even more hopeless when their parents are negative and not understanding. So in every aspect look at your own action before you assume something about someone.

  32. Sharon says:

    This was a great post! Funny how you saw to learn the cause of what’s wrong before you have to treat it, but I guess many people over look that simple idea. Another thing I wanted to add, from my personal experience, but not a professional, is to try not to listen to family members or maybe close friends who either are studying to be psychologists (getting degree) or close to getting licensed as they tend to think they know the answer to everything. This may sound funny but it’s true. After dealing with a situation such as this myself with my child, I received better advice from a professional, such as yourself.
    Thank you.

    • Everyone wants to give advice and advice is often very helpful. A professional opinion should be neutral and unbiased plus years of experience help us to discern patterns that a lay person can miss. Thank you for your comments.

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