Every child is not going to get straight As and that is okay. We live in a very competitive society and parents and students often brag about their grades or where they are going to college. Some teenagers are academically inclined and others are physically inclined. Therefore, instead of being a surgeon may be they will be a plumber. The question is what’s the difference? The amount of money they are making? Is how much money they make the most important thing about your teenager and their life, as an adult? What about being happy and what type of person they are? Does that matter?
I often do Career Days and the first question I usually receive is how much money do I make? Followed by what type of car do I drive? My answer is, what does it matter? Most people today are working 60 hours a week. If you are working that hard, it’s more important that you enjoy your career instead of being there just for the money. If you are there for the money, you most likely will find yourself unhappy after a while. At Career Days I tell high school students that I would be a psychotherapist if I was making $300,000 or $30,000 a year because I really enjoy what I do and I am happy to go to the office every day. Money makes paying the bills easier, but it doesn’t make you happy.
In addition to money not guaranteeing happiness, I hear many teenagers feel like their parents are disappointed in them because they are not getting As. Some of the teenagers are getting poor grades because they choose not to study and not to do their homework. They are letting themselves and their parents down. However, some teenagers have learning disabilities or other interest such as music or art and they have difficulty learning in a standard classroom. Therefore, they may be trying their best but they can only get a C. It is nothing to be ashamed about. If a student is trying their best and can only get a C, they are successful as the student who tries their best an gets an A. They are both trying their best and they both should be acknowledged for doing their best.
As I said I see many teenagers who feel like failures because they are not getting As. Typically they hide their issues from their parents and this can cause arguments about grades. While researching this article, I found a blog from a parent who listed how she approaches her teenager who gets Cs. Using her approach helps a teen who is getting Cs to feel good about themselves and to know that their parents are proud of them too. It is very important that teenagers know and feel that their parents are proud of them. Otherwise, they look for attention in other ways such as getting into trouble. Here is the way the parent approached her teenager so he felt celebrated and that his parents were proud of him:
1. Your child’s achievements are not a reflection of you or your parenting.
Even though we often judge other parents based on how their child behaves or performs we need to remind ourselves that our teens are their own person. My son is not an extension of me. As an overachiever who works with children and families this was difficult for me to come to terms with.
2. Do not make comparisons.
It seems like this should go without saying, but we can’t compare our C student to their siblings, neighbors, or friends. I struggled to not compare my high school years to my son’s. I made good grades and got involved in school activities. School was my favourite place to be, and I spent much of my time with my nose in a book. Seeing the years go by with my son never touching the books on his bookshelf were hard.
3. Your child likely does care about their grades.
They might pretend they don’t care about school in order to protect themselves from feelings of failure and embarrassment but, chances are, they care very much. Our son cared about doing well in school and he wanted to achieve and make us happy, but regular classes moved too quickly for him and even accommodations could only take him so far.
4. Find out what your child is good at and get them involved in it.
Our son was extremely interested in skateboarding, so we encouraged him to do it outside of school. He excelled at it and we saw his self-esteem skyrocket. We then worked with the school to find classes that were more hands-on. Help steer your child to a future career that fits with their abilities and aptitudes. Throughout the pandemic, my son has been able to finish his high school diploma through co-operative education. He has also been working with a union to earn his apprenticeship hours in the construction trade. Best of all, he already has a good paying job lined up for when school finishes this year.
5. Celebrate your C student the same way you’d celebrate an A student.
My son has always struggled to achieve in school, but he has so many other amazing qualities that have nothing to do with a letter grade. He is proud of his achievements and so are we. After years of trying to figure out how to help him do better academically, we have learned to celebrate every C that he gets because we know how hard he has worked for it. No matter what grades he earns, my son—and every C student like him—deserves to feel accepted, understood and loved for who he is.
The above last line is very important. We live in a society that tends to see success in terms of money and job titles. Some teenagers are not academically inclined and others are more interested in fixing cars instead of being a lawyer. Every teenager deserves to be celebrated and to feel respected. They may choose construction, but it’s an honest living and they are being mature enough to take care of themselves and their families. You raised them to be an independent adult and that is exactly what they are doing. How much money someone makes should not be how we value people. Instead we should look at how they treat others and are they happy with their lives. Being a caring, compassionate person is more important than making a lot of money in my opinion. Parents hopefully you will find this helpful.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.