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My Freshman Daughter's Grades Dropped

By Joe Connolly, Consulting Educator

Question:

I am a single parent and the mother of a freshman. My daughter's first progress reports have been horrible. I am attributing some of her lack of attention to "Snap out of it. The summer's over."

The other problem is that she is text-messaging a lot to the point where she has gone over 300 messages in a month. If I don't see improvement, I'm taking her cell phone away during school hours. What's going on with my freshman?

Answer:

As a parent myself, I understand how alarming a bad progress report can be. I also want to reassure you that you're dealing with some pretty common issues for a parent of a freshman.

The transition to high school is often challenging and scary. Couple that with normal behavior of teens this age, i.e. wanting to be with friends all the time and it's easy to see how grades can slip.

My first suggestion is to help your daughter with her priorities. Establish some priorities that your family can embrace. Let her know that you understand how important it is to spend time with friends, but that she has other responsibilities as well. For instance, you might suggest the following priorities: family first, then academics, extracurricular activities and then friends. Talk with her about your feelings and come to an agreement with her on these priorities.

Make this a part of your regular discussions with her. If the agreement is that academics come before her friends, and it is a regular message from you, it will make it a little easier to keep her on track with her grades. She makes decisions each day about doing homework, talking with friends, watching TV, etc. Help her make good choices by helping her set priorities.

Regarding the 300 text messages, it's helpful to understand that friendships and communication are vitally important to teens, especially girls. Text-messaging is a way of communicating that we never had as kids. It is one of the many ways teens communicate today, almost like teens passing notes in our day. For her, 300 text messages may seem very low. That could mean she's only sending five each day and receiving five each day. "Five a day mom. That's nothing!" she might say.

I would start by finding out the school's policy on cell phone use at school. Many schools will not allow cell phones to be used during school hours. If this is the case, it makes your job easier. Simply reiterate your agreement about the importance of academics and let her know that you'll be helping to enforce the school's policy.

If the school does not have this policy, then I would suggest talking with her about the cell phone use, trying to come to an agreement that you can both live with. Her cell phone use may or may not be linked to her disappointing progress report. If, after a few weeks, she has shown she cannot keep her end of the agreement, then you could always take the phone away during school hours.

The main message, however, is helping her understand the importance of priorities and to have her be part of the agreement the two of you make about those priorities.


Joe Connolly is the author and creator of 3 STEPS to parenting teens and the One Minute Rule. One of the founders of Good Parents, Inc., Joe is a sought after speaker of family topics and is widely known for his expertise and powerful speaking on parenting. Joe has been a featured speaker at Stanford University's "Stressed Out Students" conference, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, California State Senator Jackie Speier"s "Girls Day" and at corporations including Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Genentech. Joe is the dean of students (K-5) at the Harker School in San Jose, CA. You can learn more about Joe and the services he provides at joeconnolly.org. Joe can be reached at joe@joeconnolly.org.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

01/9/2009:
"I am a freshman and I got my cell phone taken away last February just because I had a boyfriend. I thought it was really stupid of my parents to do that because I'm really smart and they think that having a boyfriend is going to make my grades go down. They also noticed that by taking away my phone my grades dropped. They dropped so bad that I almost didn't graduate the 8th grade! I went from having a 4.0 GPA, with a cell phone and a boyfriend, to having a 2.5 GPA, without a cell phone or a boyfriend. Now all I'm saying is that parents need to understand that when a teenager had a cell phone, and when they know that they will get it taken away if they have bad grades, they tend to keep their grades higher so that they can keep their cell phone. I believe my grades dropped because I had nothing to work for. Oh and taking away a cell phone during school hours makes no sense. Most teenagers don't even use their phone during school hours because if you get caught using your phon! e, your teacher or security takes it away, and use of the phone is almost always used outside of school. As far as texting goes, you can't go wrong with an unlimited texting plan, you won't have a suprise bill of about $700 from going over a 300 text message plan. Teenagers need their friends around them whenever they need them. When I had a question that had to do with school or anything in general, it helped to have a cell phone right there with me to call or text them about it. But yeah..thanks for taking the time to read this, bye :)"
11/5/2008:
"i am a freshman and its totally not smart to take their texting away. if someone doesnt have texting.... well lets just say people dont bother to include them in parties and hangout session because they dont wanna bother calling them. i would know. i had my texting taken away for a year. Socializing is very important and a lot of times we are texting each other about school. for example 'wats homework for history' or 'help me study for spanish' or 'can you tutor me with math'. Just tell your daughter/son that you think texting is cool as long as they arent getting obsessed. this is annoying for everyone when one of my friends gets odsessed and then its time to tell the parent to step in. Just dont be a totally bummer and crack down on them and say 'no texting' cuz then there grades wont improve AND they will slowly become anti-social. Plus NEVER EVER judge your second or third born on what the previous child has done. Every kid is different and you need to know that. well th! anks for reading. bye :)"
10/24/2007:
"This is an excellent article. I am so incredibly identified with this mother, she just has no idea. But know this, you are not alone, as I have the comfort of knowing that neither am I. I am going through the SAME EXACT thing with my daughter, same age, same problems with school, phone, etc! Thank you Joe for your advise. I will be looking out for your book as well!"
05/24/2007:
"Great suggestions. I have a freshman son. There is another angle to the issue of falling grades for me. Freshman are told 'freshman grades don't count' when it comes to their GPA for college apps. etc. This is a very negative and tough to counter."
05/23/2007:
"I have two teenage boys, both are freshman and I think you are right on the money!! Thanks for those words of encouragement! Friends are SO important at this age! "
12/4/2006:
"I started the text-messaging problem with my son on 11th grade so I canceled that service in my cell phone plan. Now I don't have that problem with my daughter. She is a freshman too."
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