Ahhh, new beginnings. It’s the start of a new high school year and things are fresh and perfect. Your teenager’s starting over with great grades this semester (ok, sure – no real grades yet, but no bad ones, either). There’s a sort of light feel around all of this.
And then we get deeper into the fall, and things get a little…contaminated. Homework piles up, quizzes and tests are held weekly. And I find that this is when the wheels start getting a little loose.
As a mom of two teenage girls, I want to help them out. And of course I care deeply that they’re successful in school. At the very first sign that they might be faltering, I tend to go into mom-mode and freak out with them, just a little. Which isn’t the best way to react with your kid when you want her to be on the right track. The mom-daughter dynamic gets all mussed and it’s stressful for everyone.
If this sounds like you at all, my personal advice to you is this:
Get a tutor for your kid. Outsource it. For the sake of Pete.
Although teens are becoming more comfortable with the idea of having tutors than they have in the past, you still might have to do a little convincing. I did. Teenagers don’t like to be labeled and often don’t want others to think they need help. And the last thing that they want is another adult telling them what to do.
But tutoring isn’t like that, and it’s your job to enlighten your kid to it.
I’ve taken some effective steps in convincing my girls that getting a tutor to help with schoolwork is the way to go. It’s helped tremendously with grades and in finally achieving an incredibly peaceful family life at home.
And I think these techniques will be useful for you, too.
First, clarify what a tutor actually is. It’s not what your kid might think.
Teens often view the idea of a tutor as having yet another adult telling them what to do. It can conjure thoughts of a stereotypically stuffy, bun-wearing professor-type who will make boring material even more tedious to review, just in a one-on-one setting rather than in a classroom. Which is kind of worse.
Fortunately, that’s not at all what good tutors bring to the table. They’re collaborative, great listeners and create a casual learning atmosphere. They’re engaging. Good tutors are advocates for students and offer support to help them through some tough stuff, easing them into challenging work. Teens feel relief in knowing they don’t have to take it all on on their own.
Helping your teenager to understand the difference here is an imperative first step in helping her open up to the idea.
The best of the best get help. Remove the stigma that getting tutored means your kid isn’t smart.
I tell high schoolers who are hesitant to invite a tutor into the fold to think of the tutor as a coach rather than a teacher. This works very well especially if you have an athlete on your hands: Explain that no great athlete has ever gotten there without an excellent coach. Likewise, few successful people in any industry have gotten to where they are without being coached in some way by folks at a higher level.
If you want to be really good at something, you need support. And really, wouldn’t it be kind of silly not to take advantage of that?
Going it alone isn’t noble – it’s kind of irresponsible when you think of it in this way. Many of the best students in school receive coaching of some kind, and it makes sense that your teen would do the same.
Let your teen make decisions in the process.
As human beings, we need to feel as though we’re in control of things that happen in our lives. Teenagers have a particularly independence-driven mindset, and they want to know that their opinions and feelings about even the smallest things matter. Being a voting member in family matters rather than be dictated to by parents is key right now.
To be more receptive to the idea of using a tutor and feel ownership in the process, involve your kid by asking questions about her thoughts along the way. From checking out free and paid tutoring resources together to choosing a specific tutor to work with, your teenager should have a say in how this all goes down.
Let your kid know that you realize she’s the one who has to spend the time with this person, not you. And it’s good to know that there’s a freedom in choice in who she picks rather than feeling “stuck” with someone, like she would with a teacher at school for required courses.
One of the best motivators for my own daughters was to allow them to review the bios of multiple tutors and choose the one that resonated most with them. Now they work with an awesome gal at PrepNow, a tutoring company whose tutors meet virtually online using a shared whiteboard and Skype. They both chose their tutor (the same one!) and look forward to meeting with her each week – they’ve developed a terrific relationship with her. (Full disclosure: PrepNow is a company I work with. Sure, I’m biased – but it’s so true that they’re amazing.)
Emphasize the kinds of stress that tutoring will relieve for your kid.
The one thing that all teens can agree on is that school is stressful. From friendships to homework to exams, there’s a lot going on that can cause anxiety and worry.
Knowing that a tutor is there to explain a tough concept or to help develop a time management plan in order to study for tests and complete projects on time can be a huge benefit that teens can feel incentivized by.
So, empathize with your teen about the stressors that school puts on her, and show how tutoring can relieve much of the day-to-day school worries and burden.
Point out that tutoring will allow you to ‘lay off.’
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that trying to discuss school work with your teenager can be one of the toughest, most stressful strains on your parent-kid relationship. That awesome bond you have at other times somehow doesn’t transfer to the times when your teen feels like you’re breathing down her neck about school.
Just letting your teen know that you’ll be able to stop checking in so often about school work or getting upset about faltering grades might just be the key that allows her to open up to the tutoring idea.
It also shows that you’re giving your kid the reigns to take on more responsibility without your involvement, which every teenager craves.
So, ensure your teen understands the multiple ways in which she’ll benefit from tutoring. By investing in a good tutor for your teen, you’re committing to maintaining your own parental sanity and your family’s close relationships. Not to mention your kid’s success as a student.
It’s a pretty big win all around, wouldn’t you say?
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