Mainstream conversations about high school education tend to focus primarily on students’ aptitude, or their ability to perform at a certain level in an academic setting.

But what if we told you that their attitude is just as integral to their long-term success?

Signet’s Director of Operations, Andrea West, recently presented a webinar called Academic Attitudes: Help Your Student Reflect and Try New Things. In her presentation, she spoke to parents about the process of helping students develop a healthy attitude in relation to education and academics.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to changing your student’s attitude, there are strategies that can help them improve their relationship with school.

“Should”-ing All Over the Place

In our academic coaching experience, we see parents and students alike getting stuck in the cycle of what we like to call “should”-ing all over the place. (Yes, students get a big laugh out of this one!)

As the high school whirlpool begins churning, the constant buzz of “shoulds” and “shouldn'ts” can become almost impossible to ignore—and we hate to say it, but parents have the tendency to perpetuate this unnecessary pressure.

“You should take the honors level English class.”

“You should apply to [insert colleges].”

“You shouldn’t go to bed so late.”

“You shouldn’t be playing video games when you have homework to finish.”

Take a moment to step back and parse out the truth of these statements. The goal is to separate what you as a parent feel is right from what your student really needs to be more confident and successful in school.

Keep in mind that learning is an emotional process and give your student some grace. Navigating the high-stakes environment of high school is hard work. Your student is bound to feel a range of emotions, from frustrated and anxious to excited and joyful. Their attitude may not always be in the right place, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get there.

Strategies for Motivating Your Student

Once you and your student have a shared understanding of what they need to do to improve their relationship with school, come up with a plan of action together. Students won’t change unless they want to, but here are some strategies that you can share with them:

  • Practice your prioritization. Here’s a hot take that always blows students’ minds: you don’t need to learn every tiny detail of everything you’ll ever learn in school perfectly. Let that statement sink in for a moment, and feel those perfectionist tendencies begin to ease up a bit. Liberating, isn’t it? Step back and identify a few areas where you’re consistently struggling. Then focus on grasping those core concepts instead of obsessing over all the details.
  • Structure your day. Establish a routine that works for you so that you’re not just winging it every single time you need to get something done. If you know that you have sports practice and homework most days, for instance, incorporate those activities into your schedule accordingly. When you’re facing down a bigger project, break it into smaller pieces and make a plan to guide you through to completion.
  • Execute consistently. Structuring your day is only one half of the equation. The other half, of course, is following through and sticking to the routine you put in place. If you know you get overwhelmed easily and are prone to procrastination, identify small efforts that you’ll be able to achieve consistently.
  • Separate planning and doing. As we like to say, “plan your work and work your plan.” In other words, once you have your plan in place, it’s time to do the work. Figure out a consistent routine, determine how you can execute consistently. . . and then get started! If you second-guess yourself too much you’ll never move from planning to doing. So don’t overthink it. You can always recalibrate if you need to down the line.
  • When you fall behind, act. When people are stressed, they have the tendency to keep their head down and push forward until they hit a wall. Try your best to avoid letting this happen! Develop a process for checking in every so often—with yourself first and foremost, and then with parents, teachers, or school counselors for extra support if you need it. Know that there are services and resources available to help you get back on track.

If your student could use support improving their relationship with school, Signet is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our unique approach to academic coaching.