Trouble at School? How Parents Can Respond

Posted November 7, 2016 by

Trouble at School? How Parents Can Respond

School progress reports have arrived and it doesn’t look good. Your son is missing multiple assignments and his grades are dropping fast.

You know he can do better, but every time you try to talk about it, you get angry or frustrated.

How can you effectively respond to trouble at school?

Now that we’re through the back-to-school season, academic concerns and school struggles are starting to surface. We’re hearing from a lot of parents about these issues. It’s tough to know how to tackle behavior or academic concerns at school when you aren’t there to see them or address them.

Here are two effective ways to respond to your child’s school troubles:

1. Pause before jumping to action.  It’s a natural response for us to jump to action. You see a failing grade and immediately start worrying about what this means for your child’s future, so you ground him for the rest of the semester until his grades improve. Or, you hear about a fight at school and march in to confront the principal, who, in your opinion, has never been fair to your daughter.

These are serious issues and they do require action, but just pause for a few moments before you take the next step. Pause and take a deep breath.

2. Ask yourself: What’s my part here?  School issues often push our buttons. Perhaps you had some hard experiences at school and you don’t want the same thing to happen to your child. Whatever the situation, it’s important to remember that this is your child’s experience at school–not your own. These missing assignments are his to complete, not yours.

Try to separate your feelings and reactions from your next step. Ask yourself,

What part can I play in responding to this without doing my child’s work for them?

  • Your role might be to hold your child accountable and make a plan for him to make up the missing assignments.
  • You might decide to meet with teachers or school counselors about getting your child some extra support at school.
  • Maybe your role is to be an advocate for your child and bring your concerns to the principal or superintendent.  Make a plan for how you can be involved.

If you are feeling stuck with what your role or plan should be, try reaching out to the school. Ask who is available to help you and your child. See if you can meet with your child’s teacher or school counselor to talk about what is happening and how you can help find a solution.

What happens next will depend on the situation! But starting with these two steps can help you find your way forward.

Remember, additional support is available from the Empowering Parents Coaching Team. We provide 1-on-1 online coaching to parents worldwide. Click here to learn more.

For additional tips on how to handle school challenges, check out this article by Janet Lehman: When Your Child Has Problems at School: 6 Tips for Parents.


When you need guidance through a specific situation, have questions about your program or just need someone to listen when you’re overwhelmed, our professional 1-on-1 Coaches are waiting to help. Each is highly experienced with our range of learning programs and dedicated to personally motivating and supporting you. Learn more about Empowering Parents 1-on-1 Coaching.

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  1. Lisa Report

    Help! My 13 almost 14 yr old dauvhter is over the line in everything! Rude, disrespectcul, lazy, she just has no motivation for anything. Leaves clasz or skips, talks bad to teachers, principal, family. Has the its ot fair, madison always gets but ot me, everyo e hates me, im fat,ugly etc. Attitude. Its scrraming matches daily with her. Now, ill have to admit ive never been a big disciplinarian either. Thought i could be her frie d. So i am payinh for that mistake. I still need help though. Can you give any advice?

    • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

      I hear how much you’re struggling with your daughter’s behavior right now, and I’m glad that you’re here reaching out for support. Many parents have difficulty with effective discipline, and have a hard time setting and enforcing limits, so you’re not alone. Recognizing that what you have been doing isn’t working is a positive step toward change. Rather than trying to change everything at once and giving her numerous new rules to follow, it tends to be more effective to pick one area to focus on at a time. This approach helps you to be more consistent in your responses, and helps to avoid becoming overwhelmed. You might find some additional tips in It’s Never Too Late: 7 Ways to Start Parenting More Effectively. Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your daughter. Take care.

  2. tracy.mades1 Report

    I am at the end of my rope. My (just turned) 18 year old is not attending school and when he does go, he has no concept of time and is always late. He is a FULL year behind in credits for graduation. What do parents do? I have tried and done everything. I know legally I can not do anything any longer, but he is setting himself up to fail.

    • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

      It can be so frustrating when your young adult child is making poor choices which can impact his future. You are correct that, because your son is an adult, he is legally entitled to make his own decisions, whether you agree with them or not. He is also responsible for dealing with the outcomes of those choices, such as consequences from the school if he is not there on time or at all, or not being able to graduate on time. What you can control is how you choose to respond, and the boundaries you choose to set with him. You can find some helpful tips in Throwing It All Away: When Good Kids Make Bad Choices. Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.

  3. Evita Report

    i am new to this site and i have an 11 year old male son who was diagnosed for ODD but I have been very unsuccessful in convincing the public school system he needs help/assistance along with my support. my issue I always thought was him not bringing homework home.  I would try my best to convince him that homework is a portion of your grade and naturally it could bring C’s to B’s and B’s to A’s.  He looks this taciturn look as he always does (neither knowing if he understands or not) . No my issue is lack of respect for me which in turn is why homework, schoolwork anything I promote is what he plans to turn into failure.  I have tried discipline, talking, yelling, consequences/punishment, even through in the Scared Straight Program for youth who don’t respect authority.  NOT GETTING ANYWHERE!  I am a single parent and there is a co parent involved and looking at these symptoms for ODD, I think he has it as an adult…lol.  He didn’t have respect for me either which is why we aren’t together but more importantly, I honestly believe he is teaching/encouraging that behavior. PLEASE HELP!!!

  4. jillian07 Report

    hi. i’m new to this site but so far i’ve found the articles for a parent of a preteen newly diagnosed with ODD very encouraging for me as a single parent. I’m very involved with my son’s school administration and have been pretty effective with cutting off issues before they go to deep. now i’m faced with a new problem at school. My 12 year old son, in 7th grade has made many claims that one teacher is continuously “yelling at him” every class. He says he’s not sure what he’s done wrong, in fact he’s claiming he’s done studying and not goofing off as he’s admitted to doing at other times during her i get involved?

  5. oksana123 Report

    I have a 13-year old 7th grader who absolutely hates homework! I have tried asking nicely, bribing, threatening, but to no avail. When he feels like doing it, he does it, but when I start asking him about missing or upcoming assignments, he is digging his heels in and doesn’t want me in his business. I am emotionally drained. We managed 1st quarter with 3.6 GPA. We have 3 weeks remaining in the 2nd quarter and I am dreading it. He is rude to me, very defiant, claims all I care about is his grades, that I don’s see him as a person, etc., etc., etc. I don’t know how to motivate him and be responsible for his own actions. He wants to be a you-tuber, so does not understand why these grades are important. Argh…..

  6. Rachel J Report

    I am new to this site and am having trouble getting my 17 and a half year old to go to school on time. He only needs 2 credits to graduate and the first class in the morning is and elective and he doesn’t need it so he doesn’t see the big deal in missing the class or arriving late for it. All the school requires is a note explaining the reason for the tardiness. We have tried explaining the importance of obeying the rules and arriving on time but he says mostly all the seniors arrive late and it’s not a big deal. He has a part time job and always arrives on time for that he just doesn’t think the school issue is a big deal. My husband thinks his phone should be turned off even though he pays his own phone bill every month. I think if he has his phone turned off it will only escalate problems and cause a lot of anger. The two of them already have some anger issues between them and my husband usually issues ultimatums and my son feels like he tries to control him. I feel like he is old enough to deal with his school attendance and work and we should leave it up to him to deal with. My husband did make somewhat of a deal with him to put the phone under his credit card and then he needs to go to school on time but it didn’t work and now even my husband believes if he turns the phone off he still won’t go in on time everyday. I don’t know what to do.

    • rwolfenden Report

      Rachel J I hear you.  It’s frustrating when a child continues to behave irresponsibly, even after you have explained the possible impact of his choices.  It’s even more challenging when you and your spouse do not agree on how to handle it.  At this point, it could be more effective to step back from trying to make him go to school on time, and allow him to deal with the  While it’s common for parents to continue adding on consequences in an effort to make their child comply, this approach is rarely effective because it is not teaching your son what to do to meet his responsibility of getting to class on time.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family.  Take care.

      • Rachel J Report

        Thank you for answering my question. I told my husband the same thing you said so I will let him know as well. Hopefully we can try this and it works out or helps somewhat. All we want is for our son to graduate in June and move on to the next chapter.

  7. Michael Rae Report

    Nice article.
    I believe kid only feel like sharing something problematic with parents when there is a trust between the child and the parent. And these trusted relationships can’t be developed in a day. Parents should be more involved in children’ school life end education in general. 
    Thank you for sharing!

  8. captain Report

    I totally agree with you, but if you’ll allow me, I would add one more thing: for children to open up and talk more freely about school, I think it’s best to let them at least 10 minutes a day to do and speak with you about anything they want. It works wonder. And it’s just the first easy step to encounter this big school related issues.

  9. Nivedita.sharma091572bt Report

    Firstly you should check yourself whether you are providing full attention towards your child.A child needs a lot of attention because he is in a learning process.You have to monitor his daily activities like what is he doing in his school.Make a daily routine to spend certain fixed time with your child’s homework.By doing this you will get to know what all is he learning.



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