Your Teen’s GPA Isn’t Worth Damaging Your Relationship: Powerful Tips to Be Supportive (Without Hovering)

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Your Teen’s GPA Isn’t Worth Damaging Your Relationship: Powerful Tips to Be Supportive Without Hovering

Written By: Jessica Manning

Every. Single. Day. There’s laundry to be washed. It’s perpetual, with no end in sight, and it keeps on coming no matter how on top of it you are. In addition to washing and drying the clothes, they then have to be folded, (heaven forbid ironed), and put away.

As a Mom, I’ve come to terms with this reality, but it doesn’t stop me from absolutely dreading it every time I see the laundry basket overflowing.

I’m guessing many of you are with me – we know the laundry needs to be done, and we know we’ll get it done. We’ve done it before.

But imagine this…

Your Teen’s GPA Isn’t Worth Damaging Your Relationship: Tips to Be Supportive Without Hovering


What if, every single day, someone asked us if we had finished the laundry and continued by asking if we had tried our best when we did it, if we did all of it, and if we’re certain we did it correctly? 

Imagine that a short while later, that person asked us again if we’d done the laundry and if we were sure there weren’t any other clothes that needed to be washed. And then maybe that person wanted to see proof that the laundry was done well and wanted to examine it and ask us several follow-up questions about the process. 

You know the questions are coming again the next day, and the next day, and the day after that; it’s perpetual, no end in sight, and they keep on coming no matter how on top of it you are. Imagine how annoying that would be, especially if you were actually quite adept at doing laundry. Imagine…

My guess is, this is how our teens feel when we ask them about their homework and grades time and time again. 

“Did you do your homework?”

“Are you sure you did all of it?”

“How much did you have?”

“You didn’t rush through it, did you?” 

“Did you get it right? You can’t afford another bad grade in that class.” 

“You’re going to turn it in this time, right?”

They know you’re going to ask; they’re waiting for it (and dreading it) and quite possibly avoiding the barrage of questions by hiding out in their bedroom, going to a friend’s house after school, or working extra hours at their job.

They don’t want to hear it day in and day out. Do you blame them?

Instead of over-asking or, worse, nagging them, there’s a much better way to keep up with your kids’ “laundry efforts.” 

As a high school counselor, I’ve found that when you’re in conflict over grades or your teen’s GPA, it helps if you set up a specific weekly (or perhaps nightly) meeting time with your teen to discuss upcoming homework, assignments, and tests and review past grades, etc., so your teen can anticipate when you’re going to ask about school. 

If they’ve proven responsibility, meeting once a week is plenty to look over grades and discuss upcoming assignments and tests. If they’ve shown a pattern of missed work or failure to prepare for tests, maybe meeting nightly is more appropriate until they can prove independence.

Remember too, even if you’re tracking your kids’ grades, don’t feel the need to bring it up every time. Save those discussions for your designated time. That will allow you to focus on having conversations about other aspects of their life besides school.

Here are a few suggestions to keep your “school meetings” with your teen positive and productive:

1. Set Yourself Up for a Good Conversation

The meeting with your teen should be face-to-face and without distractions.  

2. Make Sure The Conversation is a Two-Way Street

Here’s the agreement –  your teen has to be willing to have a genuine conversation during that time, and you can ask questions during the meeting. But you have to agree not to ask school questions outside of your meetings (unless, of course, it’s critical). Trust me; this will ease tension for both of you, but it will be more difficult for you than for them. 

3. Questions Should Be Open-Ended and Non-Accusatory

Try not to start questions with the word, “Why?” because it immediately puts them on the defensive. Instead, use phrases such as, “Tell me more,” and “Help me understand.”

4. If You’re Given Unclear Answers, Dig Deeper

If you’re given unclear, vague, or “I don’t know” responses, ask them to rephrase their answer or to take a guess; be patient, and see if you can master wait time before answering your own questions. 

5. Remember, There Are Some Things You Don’t Know

There are some things your kids might know that you can’t see on the school’s communication system. You might see a missing assignment, but your teen knows the teacher gave extended time to complete it. Don’t let your assumptions affect the tone of your questions. Your tone is everything! 

6. If There’s a Pattern of Irresponsibility, Ask for Proof That Homework is Done

It’s OK to ask for proof of their work. It’s not unusual for kids to lie about having finished all their homework because it’s easier than getting into it with mom and dad.

7. Be Transparent with Teachers About Your Teen’s Homework Struggle

If you do need proof, consider emailing their teachers and being transparent about the homework struggle. Many teachers use Google Classroom, so students and parents can see assignments. Don’t be afraid to ask the teachers to help you navigate their sites and/or brainstorm ideas to help work with your child together.

8. Praise Them for Their Efforts AND Progress

Every child is different. Every child learns differently. Just because your teen may be struggling in a traditional classroom setting doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of learning (beyond anything you can imagine) with the right support. And, a little “Great job! I knew you could do it!” validation goes a long way with a teen who may lack self-confidence in their abilities.

Remember, in the scheme of things, your teen’s GPA isn’t worth damaging your relationship. When you harp on your teen and perpetually over-ask about school, you’re sending them a strong message.

In your mind, you’re asking out of love and concern because you know their potential and want them to feel empowered with the self-satisfaction of meeting their goals. You simply want what’s best for them.  

But what if the message your teen hears is, “My parents care more about my grades than anything else because that’s ALL they ever talk about.” Or, “My parents don’t trust that I can be successful on my own.” Or, “My parents say they just want me to try my best, but they actually expect perfection.” 

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to misunderstand our intentions. But we have to accept that their perceptions are their reality.    

Also, sometimes parents do have unrealistic expectations when it comes to school. Your teen truly could be trying their hardest…and be receiving  “Cs.” Try not to make your child feel as though their best is still not good enough

Don’t give your teen the feeling that you’re interrogating them about school. Your teen’s GPA certainly isn’t worth tarnishing your relationship. It sucks the joy out of school and learning and has the potential to do the same in your relationship.

Empowering your teen to take ownership of their efforts and grades will have a much more positive long-term effect than you owning it for them. Plus, no one wants to be bothered about their laundry every single day, right? 

About Jessica Manning

Jessica is a high school counselor with over 20 years of experience working with teenagers. She earned an M.A. in school counseling and a B.A. in English and secondary education. Jessica is married to a high school principal and has three teenage boys; her current life revolves around all things teen. When not working or following her sons’ sporting events, Jessica appreciates any opportunity she gets to veg at home with her family and her dog, Phyllis. 


If you enjoyed reading, “Your Teen’s GPA Isn’t Worth Damaging Your Relationship: Powerful Tips to Be Supportive Without Hovering” here are a few other posts you might enjoy reading:

Disorganized and Distracted: 6 Tips to Help Your Teen Tackle Homework with Confidence

School-Related Anxiety: The Real Reason Your Teen Might Be Refusing to Go to School

Straight-A Study Skills for Teens to Kickstart the School Year Right

25+ Study Stations That Take the Stress Out of Homework

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