So Many Friends, So Few School Hours

I received this email from a parent:

I have been concerned with the amount of social activity my 7th grader seems to be having at school, but don’t know how to control that.  She loves her friends, and I think that is the main reason she gets up in the morning for school.  I don’t know how to get her to understand the importance of these learning years.  I sound like a broken record with her.

My reply:  “Got bad news for you – she’s perfectly normal!”

At this stage of development, friends are pretty much everything.  We need to celebrate with a teen who has so many, because for some kids this age is a nightmare of not fitting in.

However, that doesn’t mean she gets to play all day and fail her classes.  Ask her why she thinks she has to go to school, or why grades matter, or some version of that question.  Don’t prompt her, and don’t disagree with her answer (don’t let her get away with shrugging and saying, “I don’t know,” either – just calmly repeat the question).  Hopefully you can get her to admit it matters for her future.

Then re-state how important it is to you, and ask her what it would be worth to her to get A’s (or B’s?) on her report card.  Be prepared to negotiate until you can arrive at an incentive that you both like.  Make it – or part of it – attainable with the very next quiz.  For example, if there’s an expensive pair of shoes she wants, offer to put $5 or $10  toward them every time she hits the agreed-upon score.

For most middle schoolers, school is where they can hang out with their friends, and homework and classroom lessons interfere with their social lives.  A wise parent will understand and accept this but still hold the line on giving a good effort in school.

(This also might be a good time to point out that “Number of Friends” is not a question asked on a college application.)

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