Setting The School Year Up For Success

The Healthy Family Connections Podcast:

Setting The School Year Up For Success

Episode 032 · Duration: 00:10:58

Setting The School Year Up For Success

Are you anxious that this year will be another battle over school work and responsibilities? Today we’re answering a question from Ernie, of Denver, Colorado.

Setting The School Year Up For SuccessOur son is 15 and beginning his sophomore year in high school. Last year, school was a disaster. It’s always been a struggle getting my son to sit down to do his work. Last year, he asked us to back off and let him handle it on his own. We were tired of the constant fighting to get him to do his work so we went along with his request. When report cards came out, he was failing most of his classes and had lots of work to make up. Even then, he claimed everything was fine, he just needed to finish up a few assignments and everything would be great. We went along with this but eventually it all caught up with him and we needed to get involved and the fighting began once again. We’re tired of the constant struggle but don’t see any way around it. What can we do to stop the fighting and yet have our son do his work?

This is an important and timely question as this is a time for all families with school- aged kids to think about getting back into the routine of school. Ernie, your family is plagued by The Beast, and by that I mean that your relationship pattern with your son has become a constant control battle. Relationship patterns have momentum and if not identified and changed, will just get stronger. Once you have an active control battle in your family, issues will go unresolved and child and teen development will be impaired.

Relationship patterns have momentum and if not identified and changed, will just get stronger.Click To Tweet

Setting Goals & Proper Planning

It seems to you that you have only two choices: fight and struggle, or back off and watch your son fail. Ernie, there’s a much better way to do this. Most kids don’t have good goal-setting and planning skills. Even if your son has the goal of doing well on his own, he doesn’t have the skill set to make and stick to a plan. He’ll need your help.

There are a few principles and behaviors you need to put in place to end the Control Battle, or…as I like to call it, “starving the beast,” to get things moving forward towards success.

  • Stay positive and affirming of your son. Don’t let yourself get drawn into arguing or fighting. Keep giving him the message that you believe in him and know he can succeed.
  • Make sure your son understands that his privileges need to be earned and they’re earned by managing his responsibilities and having a good attitude.

Instead of his way or your way, let the start of this year be a time to teach goal-setting and planning. Very few kids come by this naturally, although some catch on quickly and are great planners. Most kids need to learn these skills, but if you’re in a Control Battle, they won’t learn them.

Instead of his way or your way, let the start of this year be a time to teach goal-setting and planning.Click To Tweet

Implementing Change

So here’s what you can do. Make some dedicated time to sit down with your son and talk about the upcoming school year and establish goals and plans. If you’ve had a Control Battle in place, sitting down and having a quality discussion will be a new behavior so you’ll get resistance and arguing. Stay calm and positive and even if it takes a few tries to get things going. Just stick with it.

To set up goals and plans, you don’t have to be ending a Control Battle. It is a powerful and empowering set of skills for all kids and teens to have.

Here are some things to think about:

When setting goals, think broadly about the school year.

  • Of course, academic goals are an important topic and they can include: grade goals, skill goals such as improved writing skills, or improved study habits.
  • There can also be social goals like make new friends, be more social, or be more of a leader.
  • There can be fun goals, like how to make the new year more fun and exciting than the last.
  • There can also be music, art, and athletic goals. 

Each goal must be accompanied by a plan. What do kids need from others, what behaviors and skills do they need to utilize, and what are the methods to achieve these goals? For example, if your son is upset always being 3rd trumpet in the band, what can he do to set himself up to be 1st trumpet?

Who, what, and when all needs to be included. Consider using apps to help with organization. Kids want to be on their phones; so why not let them use their phones for the right reasons.

Kids want to be on their phones; so why not let them use their phones for the right reasons.Click To Tweet

Periodic Review Required

Setting goals and making plans can’t be a one-time event. Accountability, progress review, and adjusting plans are next. For instance, let’s say you and your daughter agree that she’ll do her schoolwork after dinner, but as it turns out, dinner is often late and so waiting until after dinner to start homework doesn’t leave enough time. After talking about it, you agree that it’s better if homework starts an hour after she gets home from school. That gives her the break she needs and enough time to do her work.

So parents, our children are born into this world totally dependent upon us. An important goal of our parenting, in addition to making them feel loved and safe, is to gradually help them gain the independence skills they’ll need to function properly in the world. Teaching them to set goals and make, implement, and revise plans is a great way to do just that. By including kids in setting this up, they have greater ownership and a stronger sense of where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. It also reduces the likelihood of parent-teen / parent-child control battles.

For a more in-depth look at ending control battles, take a listen to my podcast, Healthy Family Connections. Thanks to Ernie from Colorado for his timely question. Please feel free to come to my website at and sign up for my weekly newsletter where you can stay updated on new episodes and speeches, including my recently released TEDx talk.

If you haven’t already, grab a copy of my book, Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle. Many readers have told me it is the least expensive and best counseling session they’ve ever had.

And if you are already enjoying my podcast, I’d so appreciate it if you would stop over to my iTunes site Healthy Family Connections, click on ratings and reviews, and write me a brief review.

And please, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.

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