HomeAcademics & ActivitiesAcademic Skills

Ask the Experts

My Two Daughters Perform Quite Differently in High School

By Joe Connolly, Consulting Educator


I have two daughters in high school: one is in ninth grade and the other in 10th. My girls know that their school is their priority and they know the importance of a good education. Unfortunately we do not have the kind of money that can pay for college. That being said, they know that a scholarship is something that they will have to work very hard for. I explain to them that they only get one chance to do their best and that there's no going back to do it over.

I have rules that I put on the refrigerator and one of them was that there is no going out anywhere until progress reports come out. Well, they came out and I almost died to see my ninth grader came home with D's in health, math and English. Needless to say, she is grounded for the next six weeks until report cards come. My 10th grader came home with all A's . She knows that 10th and 11th grade grades are what colleges look at. And I remind her of that regularly. I don't compare the two and I never say "Look at your sister's grades," but I think she feels it. What do I do?


Knowing what to do in a situation like this can be difficult. We all want the best for our children, but some days are harder then others. Let's take a look at the things you're doing right.

You're absolutely right not to compare your daughters. They are different people and seemingly have different learning styles. I'm sure they have different personalities as well.

It's also good that you are talking to your girls about priorities. I believe we need to set priorities in our lives and it's especially important for teens to have a clear understanding of priorities for themselves in order to be successful and happy.

You're also correct in your statement that colleges focus on grades attained during a student's sophomore, junior and first semester senior year. However, the foundations set during freshman year will go a long way to establishing continued academic and co-curricular achievement.

I appreciate what you're saying about trying to pay for a college education. The reality is that very few parents have the means to pay for their children to attend college without some kind of financial assistance. However, sometimes we make the mistake of thinking it's vitally important for our kids to get a scholarship to pay for college.

In another Ask the Experts response, I discussed college athletic scholarships and how there are many options for parents trying to help pay for college. Getting good grades will certainly help your daughters get into the college of their choice, and may give them more opportunities at receiving a merit-based scholarship.

But your family may also qualify for need-based financial aid. You may be surprised at how many families qualify for financial aid. At most colleges and universities, some kind of financial assistance is awarded to more than 50% of their students.

There are other ways to help pay for college as well. Many students will choose to go to a two-year junior or community college while saving more money to earn their degree from a four-year college. This can save thousands of dollars. Your daughters may also decide to attend a state school instead of a private school, which is certainly less expensive. They will still receive a quality education.

I would suggest having a conversation with your daughter about her priorities. You may recommend to her that academics need to come before hanging out with friends or other activities she likes to do.

On the other hand, grounding her may not be the best approach. If it works for both of you, then I wouldn't change it. But, if grounding does not work, perhaps talking with her and helping her to change her behavior might be more effective.

Help her to understand how to study more effectively. Give her suggestions on time management and study habits. Allow her some free time and time to get together with her friends as well. Guide her through her daily studies, without hovering over her every move.

You may also ask her teachers and school counselor for advice and assistance. Most good teachers love to help students perform better in the classroom and I'm sure they will have some good, specific suggestions for your daughter.

Lastly, you might ask your older daughter to help with the process in a way that is comfortable for her. If they have a good relationship, the older daughter may be able to subtly suggest ways for your younger daughter to improve.

You've still got lots of time, mom. In the end, your daughters will both have good choices when it is time to decide on a college choice.

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 Joe can be reached at

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 readers

"my 11 years daughter has been exclude of their friends because the leader of the class is jealous of her. so she said to all their friend not to talk to hair, so their ignored her all the time, and if somebody talks or play with her, the rest of the group ignore the girl is playing with her, so all decided not talk to my daughter and she has no friends, and the leader of the class is acting mean all the time with her. Even with, I said hi to the classmate and now nobody answers to me because the girl leader said not to talk to me. I talk with the teacher and nothing change, the teacher just put my daughter and the leader to talk each other but nothing happend. I been talking to the leadergirl mother and doesnt believe she thinks her daughter is very good girl. I spoke of one of my daughter's classmate, and he told me that nobody can't talk to my daughter because their loose the privilige to be part of the friends group. Please help I don't know what to do, my daughter does! n't want to go to school. Every time we enter to the school she begs me not to enter to the school. I am sure this girl is jealous of my daughter. Please help me!!!!!!!!!!"
"That is correct its very hard in school but I think that once you ge to the 12th grade your life is almost over just 4 to 8 years in college and you are straight. "