6 Ways to Help your Teen Develop a Positive Attitude about School
How often do you hear the groan, “I don’t want to go to school”? Do you have to poke and prod your teen to wake up and get out of the house on time? Does your teen come home grumpy and full of complaints about homework, friends, or teachers? While this is not unusual behavior for teenagers, it doesn’t mean we should accept it. Kids that groan, complain, and generally express negativity will become adults who do the same. Parents can help teens develop a great life skill by teaching them to keep a positive attitude about school! Here are some tips to stop the negativity:
1. Role Model
Studies show that adolescents learn more by observation than any other way. Even if they act like they don’t want to be anything like you, teens have the tendency to imitate their parents. So, you need to check your own attitude. If you have a bad attitude about work, friends, or your boss, then you are teaching your teen to also have a bad attitude about school, friends, or their teacher. Do not vent or complain about your own circumstances in front of your teenager. Model a good attitude by looking for the positive in every situation. For example, you might say, “I’m really disappointed that I wasn’t chosen to serve as PTA President, but on the positive side, it would have been a lot of work and now I can spend more time with our family.” Pointing out optimistic versus pessimistic attitudes from news stories is another good way of showing your teen how to look for the positive in real life. Providing a positive environment for your teen gives them the tools they need to be positive thinkers.
2. Guide your Teen to Positive Talk
The way we talk can actually help us feel better or worse about our own situations. While it’s important to listen to your teen share about their day, you should not allow them to continuously vent about the negative. Teens who begin to develop an overly negative attitude about school may easily overlook all the good things that happen.
When your teen is frustrated or upset about something at school, validate your teen’s feelings. Do not dismiss their concerns by saying things like, “That’s not a big deal,” or “Quit being so dramatic.” Instead, listen closely to what they say, make eye contact, and ask questions to show that you’re interested in what they are saying and trying to understand their concerns. Once your teen has been fully heard, do not allow them to continue to repeat the negative. Instead, guide them to the positive in these ways:
- Find at least one good thing each day. Be sure to ask your teen positive questions like, “What was the best part of your day?” Even if the only good part of their day was eating lunch with their buddies or seeing a favorite teacher in the hallway, spending a few minutes talking about those good things can remind your teen about the fun parts of their day.
- Remind your teen about things to be grateful for. Your teen will feel more positive about themselves and their life, if you talk about their strengths and positive qualities, the positive things happening in their life, and the positive things that they can look forward to in the future.
- Provide ideas for positive self-talk. Everyone has an inner voice – the things we say to ourselves inside our head. It’s a good idea to talk to your teen about the value of positive thinking. Suggest some positive words or phrases that your teen can say to themselves to replace negative thinking, such as, “I’ve had hard times before, and everything has worked out” or “I’m a smart person, so I can do well at school.”
- Frame mistakes as learning experiences to become better. Don’t let your teen dwell on the mistakes they make. Instead, show your teen how they can learn from the experience and move on to better things.
3. Encourage Active Participation
Looking forward to afterschool activities can make the school day feel more enjoyable. Encourage your teen to sign up for clubs, play sports, or join band. A teen who doesn’t love academics may develop a more positive attitude if they have something to look forward to at the end of the day. They can develop new friendships with teens who have similar interests or discover a mentor in the teacher who leads the club or sport, all of which keep them more engaged in school.
4. Actively Problem-Solve Together
Problems at school can really weigh your teen down. They may feel negative because they don’t know how to handle a situation. Perhaps they are not getting along with one of their teachers, or they had a disagreement with a friend. Whatever the situation, instead of just letting your teen complain and vent their negative attitude, use it as an opportunity to teach problem-solving skills, a vital tool they will need their entire life. Read our previous blog to learn how to Teach Problem Solving Skills. Help your teen see that there are always new ideas or possible solutions to every problem.
5. Encourage your Teen to Make a Difference
Research shows that teens who choose to help others are more likely to: feel grateful, valued, and empowered; perform better in school; have higher self-esteem and aspirations for the future; and develop a strong work ethic. Even if your teen doesn’t love school, when they feel like they are serving a greater purpose, they are less likely to have a negative attitude. Discuss possible opportunities for your teen to get involved with the community, such as organizing a food or coat drive, joining the student government, creating care packages for troops overseas or sick children in hospitals, organizing a bake sale to raise funds for a worthy cause, sewing blankets or hats for homeless, helping young children learn to read, or assisting to build a Habitat for Humanity house. These types of activities can help your teen to develop a more positive attitude and to appreciate what they have and the education they are receiving.
6. Help Your Teen Establish Goals
A negative attitude can sometimes be the result of a lack of progress (feeling “stuck”) or a feeling of insignificance or worthlessness (feeling like the things they are doing are pointless). Teens with clear goals are more likely to have a positive attitude about their school experience. Teens who create and work toward short-term goals can more easily see progress and feel excited about the future.
Parents should encourage their teens to set long-term and short-term goals by sitting down with them to talk through the goal setting process:
- Ask your teen to define their goals. They might want to make honor roll, earn a starting position on the basketball team, or be accepted into a specific college. Let them tell you their priorities.
- Discuss and brainstorm the steps needed to achieve their goals. This is the hard part for teens as they may not know how to achieve their goals. Help them figure out how to break down their larger goal into manageable smaller goals. Encourage them to obtain more information if they need it by researching online or talking to their school counselors.
- Identify possible obstacles. Help your teen recognize possible roadblocks to accomplishing their goals and how best to deal with them. If time is limited, help them to consider how to rearrange their schedule, or if money is an issue, help them to think about how they could earn extra money.
- Make deadlines. Without a specific date in mind, goals can be placed on the back burner. Encourage your teen to set up some accountability by creating deadlines to get specific tasks done. When your teen clearly sees their own progress, they will feel confident and positive.
Teens who have good critical thinking, planning, and problem-solving skills tend to think more positively than their peers. Parents and teachers can role model and teach these skills to youth. Be sure to praise any effort your teen makes at thinking more positively. Positive thinking will help them in school and well into their future.