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My second oldest daughter started college this fall. She was an o.k. student in high school without really trying. Now that trying is required, she is failing at least one class, maybe two. I have found this out from other sources not from her and I have not yet addressed her about this. I know she is 18 and considered an 'adult', but this is our money that is being wasted, and a scholarship that will have to be forfeited due to these grades. There are no mental or substance-abuse issues that have created this situation, just a lack of effort. I am so angry. What can I say or do to get her on track about how important it is that she go to class and keep up her grades? And how can we as parents put some kind of check/balance into place with her to monitor her grades/attendance?


Judy Molland Replied: First figure out why you are "so angry." Is it because your money is being wasted? Or because your second daughter is not living up to your first one? Or perhaps because your child is not being honest with you? Once you've answered that question, talk to your child. Ask her for an explanation of her grades - are classes too easy or too hard? Find out if there are other issues going on in her life. Your next step will depend on what she tells you, but let her know that it's not OK to waste your money, or her scholarship funds. You'd like her to communicate with you directly, so better to stop checking up on her behind her back. Instead, work on developing a relationship based on trust.
Posted On 2007-12-16 16:20:20
Ellen Gibran-Hesse Replied: It appears that you have two problems going on. Let us address the easiest. You can't monitor her anymore. That aspect of parenting is over. She now needs to learn how to make her own decisions and mistakes. It is hard to let go, but it is the next level of growth for both of you. Trust that you instilled good values in her even if she is a bit new to the process. The second is talking to her in a fair way about her game plan in college. I am amazed at how little parents talk to their young adults about what they are thinking and if it is working for them. My oldest son also was a so-so student in high school and the first two years of college. I prepared myself that it might not be for him. Statistically, only half of students entering college graduate and half of those who do graduate go home after graduating and start out in an entry level job they could have had out of high school. Generally, college does not prepare them for work or a career. It may take her a year or two to figure out if it is working for her. The first semester is very hard to adjust to as they are also learning life and social skills. If she is failing, she needs to learn to drop classes. My son got very good at learning when to get out. It may put them behind in credits but it keeps the grade point average from severe damage. My son is now doing well in college because he found out that his options for the major he wanted decreased dramatically with lower grades. She is taking baby steps into adulthood. Remember how often they fell learning to walk? She is falling a bit here and there. Lower your expectations and build a dialogue. It may be better if she cut back and went to work to earn money. Jobs provide routine and balance during these difficult years. She'll appreciate your expenditure even more. A work history is sorely neglected by so many and when they do get out, their work resume is empty. See if she can take advantage of the year with the scholarship. If not, that is a lesson she will learn the hard way. Talk to her about her work and career plans and how she sees college fitting into that. Take a deep breath. She will do well. It isn't a reflection on you if she is stumbling. She is just learning that adulthood isn't so easy.
Posted On 2007-12-14 15:46:23
Dr. Tom Greenspon Replied: This is an important issue that so many parents face. Your daughter's college experience is a major part of her life and you are right to be concerned about how she is doing. If she is treating her education casually, it is certainly hard to justify the time, energy, and money invested in her continuing to stay there. You are angry with her, though, and however justified your concern might be, this is not a productive atmosphere for dialogue. The first task is to find out what the problem is; she may be slacking off, but there are other possibilities. A bright high schooler who gets top grades without trying can be at a disadvantage for two reasons: she may not have learned how to study effectively, and even worse, the difficulty she is having may be interpreted by her as a sign that she is not as bright as she thought, or that something has happened to her ability to do well. This could be a serious blow to her self esteem, even though it is not true in an objective sense. Beyond these issues, college is a time of anxiety for some students who are confronting questions about independence and self reliance, not to mention questions about what they will be doing with their futures. There are also new social relationships to figure out, both with peers and with the adult faculty, and while there is a lot to be said for meeting other students who are probably more like her, especially intellectually, this can feel threatening to her sense of place. As a psychologist, I should also point out that, especially in cases where there might be a family history of depression, your daughter is at an age where this may arise as an issue for her. The point is that it would be a good time to sit down with her, maybe with some help, and begin to find out what the problem actually is, so you can be of assistance to her. Your anger is a good prompt for you to delve into this problem and take whatever action is needed; if it comes into the dialogue with your daughter, though, it will become an issue on its own and her defensive reaction to it may make solutions more difficult to come by.
Posted On 2007-12-14 10:15:10
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