How to Talk to My Teen About Bad Grades

Most teenagers are smart, yet many are not working up to their academic potential. How can you talk to your teen about bad grades without deflating their self-esteem to get them back on the right path?


Are you dealing with an intelligent teen that is underachieving?

Are they skipping classes, or possibly school refusal? Were they once an honor roll student or used to get A’s and B’s and now barely passing? Are you concerned they will make it to their high school graduation?

Especially when high school students fall behind in their classes, catching up can be difficult, as their grades begin to plummet, many teens give up. It is important to address bad grades as quickly as possible.

3 Tips to Talking to Your Teen About Bad Grades

1. Approach the discussion with concern, not anger. Getting mad, yelling, or screaming will not change your teen’s behavior or their grades. It is likely your teen already knows your disappointment, so now it is time to get to the root of the problem to determine what is happening in your child’s life that is causing the shift in their academic performance.

  • Peer pressure (offline or possibly online).
  • Sleep deprived. Are they not getting enough sleep?
  • Technology addiction? Do they spend too much time on social media or gaming?

2. Identify the problem. It is time to sit down and discuss the possible reasons that are causing your teen to fail or get bad grades.  Some students start out strong and get sidetracked with their peers or other activities, while others are simply not motivated to stay on track.

Let’s examine some possible issues that can contribute to bad grades or failing:

  • Are the classes too hard?
  • Are they not doing their homework or turning it in (on time)?
  • Are they skipping classes?
  • Low test scores?
  • Are they struggling with school stress?
  • Could there be mental health concerns? Depression, anxiety?

3. Solving the problem. Now that you have an idea of why they are getting bad grades and failing, it is time to sit down with your teen and solve this problem. Sometimes helping your teen create simple solutions can make a big difference.

  • Organization: Maybe it comes back to your teen needing help with organizational skills and time management. Establishing a scheduled homework time can help and a designated area in your home.
  • Does your teen forget what they had for homework assignments? Teens who are disorganized often misplace their papers or forget to bring their work home. Identify strategies to help your teen get more organized.
  • Does your teen forget to write down their assignments? Some teens try to remember all their assignments without an assignment book. Other teens forget to write their assignments down. Having your teen write down their work and asking the teacher to initial it after each class can ensure that their assignments are written down.
  • Do they need extra help, possibly a tutor? Many teens are afraid to ask for help because they are embarrassed or they just do not understand, even when the teacher tries to explain the concepts again. Staying after school for extra help, meeting with a tutor, or joining a homework club can be helpful strategies for many students.
  • Lack motivation for school or that subject? Sometimes teens just are not all that motivated to complete their work. They may have lost interest or are just bored with a particular subject. Discuss strategies that will help motivate your teen to get their work done.
  • Is the class too hard for them? Is it possible your teen is academically struggling with the subject or class? If they are in AP classes, maybe they are not quite ready for them yet. You may want to speak with the teacher to find out more.

Working together to develop a plan to address the failing and bad grades will get your teenager on the right path sooner. If they continue to struggle and not able to pass the class, talk to the school counselor about alternative options such as summer school or adult education classes. If you believe your teen is suffering with teenage mental health issues, see a professional as soon as possible.

Read: Why Therapeutic Schools Work When Home Therapy Fails.

Read: Why Teens Need Curfews.

Read: 5 Benefits of Therapeutic Boarding Schools.


If you have a good teen making bad choices, smart yet continuing to fail in school, contact us for a free consultation to learn more about how therapeutic boarding schools can benefit your family.


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