48

I'm in middle school, and by my school's standards, I get fairly high marks (90%, maybe a bit above or below). However, my parents believe that I'm not doing my best.

I'm also undergoing exams, and my parents say that if I get below 96%, I'll be studying the whole two-weeks school holidays. After confronting my parents about it, they say they're doing 'what's best for me', even though I completely disagree. After trying to confront her other times, my mum says she doesn't want to discuss this matter again.

So, how do I get my parents to believe me, and avoid doing study on my holiday?

  • 12
    At my UK school, our parents used to get official updates from our school on what our test results, passing and failing classes were, maybe once a month or every six months. Does your school offer anything similar? Also, what are you studying where less than 96% could be considered an unacceptable result? – user8671 Jun 11 '18 at 8:58
  • 33
    Do you have a tiger mom? – Pyritie Jun 11 '18 at 9:10
  • 9
    That's a tough one. What's your age? – Mafii Jun 11 '18 at 9:23
  • 4
    Welcome to Interpersonal Skills! Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – Tinkeringbell Jun 12 '18 at 17:12
  • 1
    Do you believe that you are doing your best? In some of the schools I went to I could get over 90% in my classes without really trying, and as a result never learned to study. I was in for quite a shock later... – arp Jun 13 '18 at 4:11

11 Answers 11

50

My best friend had something similar happen to her. Her mother wanted her to be the best. She pushed her to always study, get the best grades, get into the best university, graduate with honours, get a master degree etc. She pushed me too, but I was not her kid, so she did not have the same amount of influence on me. We are now 25. She has a master degree in biology, I dropped out of undergrad. I have a well-paying job as a software developer, she is currently in a training program to be re-educated to be a software developer too. In a year time, she'll end up in a job similar to mine, one that does not require a degree. Meanwhile, I have traveled to many countries before I started working, while she just studied. Just like you, my friend wanted to have fun. Talking to her mother proved difficult. Her mother believed that what she was doing was best for her daughter. My friend is better educated than me at the moment, but she is not very happy with the choices she ended up making.

While we never achieved as much freedom for her as I had, we managed to convince her mother to let go sometimes. We used arguments based on the same idea she had. Your mother wants what is best for you. Your mission will be to convince her that the path she is sending you on is not what is best for you. You'll have to provide arguments why the path you want to take is better.

I think your main goal should be to make the choices that suit you. While the good grades will help you, social interactions and some free time will also help you grow. Figure out what you want to do in life (that's very difficult, but a general idea helps) and get your parents to help you on the path. If that is towards a career as a doctor or a lawyer, that requires different choices than when you actually want to be an artist. Or maybe you want to be a teacher in a primary school? Or a DJ in a club? Some of these choices don't require as high grades as others, but all of them require some kind of work.

Good grades may be the way for you to get what you want, or it may not be. Your parents currently seem to think that this is the only way for you to succeed. Your goal is to make them see you can succeed in other ways, but you will have to present your case to them carefully. They sound like the kind of people that would need a carefully thought out plan from you to be convinced.

Going forward will be difficult. You are obviously younger and less experienced than your parents, but you can use the words of people they deem more knowledgable than theirs. There are many articles on the internet explaining why this type of parenting, called tiger parenting, as Pyritie mentions in the comments, is bad, like this one. There is even a study about this type of parenting. I am sure you can find many more resources. Other types of articles you can use are the ones showing that higher grades do not neccessarily mean you will be happier.

You will most likely want to bring this up in a calm moment, not shortly after they specifically told you to study, lest it seems like you are rebelling against their decision. Perhaps a good moment is when they are content or proud with what you have just done.

Make sure to not accuse them or blame them, though! They want the same as you, after all.

We used phrasings like this one:

We've been studying for next week's exam all afternoon. We'd like to go to the movies tonight, to relax a bit from all this stress the studying is causing. Then we can study again tomorrow.

I found that focusing on the advantages and meeting in the middle is the best way to achieve (part of) what you want in situations like this. Phrases like this one will get you what you want in the short term.

If your school has one, speaking to the school psychologist or psychiatrist can be an option. This person can help mediate between you and your parents, keeping your actual best interests in mind. Those grades may not seem that important today, but you never know how important they will be in the future. It is important to figure out what you need right now, what you want in the future and what you can do to balance those out. That is a very difficult thing when you are your age, so don't be afraid to get help with this. Colin Young points out in the comments that you can find professional help through your G.P. This can help you get to what you need in the long term.

Remember that what you want and what you need may not neccessarily be the same thing, but the same counts for what your parents think that you need. Preparing for your future is important, just like being a teen that is allowed to make their own mistakes.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Catija Jun 13 '18 at 22:31
11

A larger issue than it seems!

This sound like you are approaching an issue, that is larger than how to avoid spending the entire vacation studying!

Communicate and touch upon expectations

I would advise you to think thoroughly about what kind of future you see yourself in. - What kind of daily life, you would like to live?

Then, sit down and have a serious yet calm talk with your parents about their expectations for your own future, what is their goal with your education and why are they pushing you so hard?

  • Would they accept your future career choices, if you e.g. wanted to manage a super-market?
  • Do they expect you to finish with a degree at a university?

This is important, as some parents may think that a high education brings a better life, well if you can't use all this in your future job, or if you work with something you don't thrive with in the future, high grades won't bring you any happiness!

If you, on the other hand, do want to become something like a renowned professor or perhaps a chief physician, then yes - extreme amounts of study is needed, and thus high grades can help you achieve this goal, although no guaranties!

Psycological development

Before you actually reach young adulthood, your brain keeps developing - especially during your teenage years, you will experience that you put yourself into a social context - which is really hard for most people. This means that social skills and interaction are important factors for a normal humans development, it is thus important that you don't get isolated from your friends. By the end of the day, grades doesn't account to many things, compared to your psychological and social development in early childhood and young adulthood!!

Summarized

If you take your time and prepare your thoughts, and then sit down calmly with your parents to share these thoughts, this would properly help both of you. You show your parents that you actually put careful thoughts into your own future, while they get to share their thoughts whether they could accept you being happy in any type of job, YOU want to work with in the future - regardless of degree, salary and career.

Make sure to remind them, that grades are not necessarily the only measurement of success in school, your thriving and social development is an equally important part, and could just as well affect your future life choices!

With all this being said, remember again that top grades can be used in one context only:

  • to enable easier access for future educations

that's it!!

If you don't have no clues whether you want to go to a university or not, you should properly continue to get good grades so you have the freedom of choice in the future, but this does not justify you skipping your entire youthful social development! In the future, if you do want to go to the university, the most important work to be done not middle/high school, it is at the university, this is where you should skip vacations when performing at average!

8

My Similar Experience: I was there too. Growing up, my parents were disappointed if it was "only an A- and not an A+". My dad was laying out my life for me around middle school/early high school too. "By this age, you should be making this, by this age you should be married with this".

While the few friends I had would invite me to the movies on a Friday night like most kids, I had to stay home to do homework because I was not allowed to do homework on Sunday for "family day" (which really amounted to us just sitting down watching tv....).

I graduated High school in all AP classes and with honors. Soon as I got to college though, the taste of freedom and having my own choice impacted me negatively. I choose not to do homework most nights, sometimes I didn't even bother to show up to class. I ultimately ended up failing out of Engineering school because I let the college party life and the freedom of choice impact my future too much.

Ultimately, I found a degree in software development which I graduated summa cum laude, and currently employed as a web developer. It took me making the personal choice to decide that enough was enough of ruining my life. I am still impacted though by my parents being very strict as my laziness is still very abundant now.

Reflections on the past and what you can try to do differently: I struggled to explain to my parents that an A- or an A is still good as they didn't want to hear it. Even when comparing yourself to the class, they would always tell me not to compare myself to others as I need to worry about myself.

I can understand the sentiment. if your parents were like mine (who didn't get good grades), they are overcompensating for their past to make sure you have a better future. If they won't listen to your words, I would suggest trying to find supporting factual information about the adverse effect being too strict can have on a child's development. Now, it's not some (in their eyes) mere child that does not know better but rather a scientific study shown to back up your claim.

If you feel that won't work, I would suggest bringing in a teacher/school counselor to have a talk with you and your folks. Just like youth sports now promote parents to relax as they are not professionals, the same principles should apply to education and grades. Lastly, if you feel that a school representative will not help, I would suggest a family therapist if it needs to go to that level. Family therapy is a great way to provide a safe environment for everyone to get their thoughts out without being judged or talked over.

I have tried school counselors and therapists each, and they both have their upsides and drawbacks. With school counselors though, they are at least well versed in the education world and can hopefully help your parents to relax more!

8

I'm gonna post a second answer, as no-one seems to have thought about this yet.

Talk to one or more of your teachers

Chose the one or more that you feel comfortable with, and which seems to understand- and know you the best.

Explain your situation to your teacher, and hear them out what they think you can do to handle your parents. Do mind that this is not about the single vacation, it is not about the grades, but rather the issue of you doing your best -> which your parents doesn't seem to believe.

While they of course are the ones that grades your work, it is also them who actually follow you on a daily basis. They can actually "see" whether you are doing a hard days worth of work.

Possibly: meet up

The best situation would be if you could get the teacher(s) to meet up with your parents, and let them explain the amount of work you are putting into the school. They should likewise remind your parents, that one can't be expected to score highest grades at all tests, as most subjects are often very broad and you can't be expected to know and prepare everything during a single test. If your parents have just of few ounces of reason, they would trust your teachers words - do mind that they already trust the teachers to educate you well.

Make sure that you are very open about this meeting, as your parents would maybe feel annoyed if you set up a meeting behind their back. Talking with your teacher in private is perfectly OK without sharing it with your parents, but if you are setting up a meeting for both parents and teacher(s), make sure to first ask your parents whether they would want to participate.

It goes without saying that if they seem hesitant to participate a meeting, you should tell them that making this meeting means a lot to you!

5

(Disclosure up front: I am both a parent and a teacher)

So, how do I get my parents to believe me, and avoid doing study on my holiday?

I'm not sure you can do both at the same time. Maybe you should sacrifice the holiday for a longer-term benefit of having your parents believe you that you're doing as well as you can.

The problem with trying to convince your parents in the current situation is that they will always be suspicious that you just want to get out of doing work. They seem to believe that you're not studying enough and that by studying more, you'll get a higher percentage on your tests. Now either they are right (in which case you're not really doing your best - you could do better...) or they're wrong (meaning that you can't get better grades by doing more work, and having to work during your holidays would therefore be pointless).

So my suggestion would be to do the best you can on your exams. Either you make the 96% percent, or you don't. If you don't make it, tell your parents that you don't think you can improve on your scores by studying more, but that you'll try really hard. And then make sure they see you trying real hard.

Then when your next few tests don't show any improvement, you will be in a much better position to argue your case.

From a teacher's perspective, I'd be very happy with students reaching a reliable 90% test scores. This is why I think you won't be able to convince your parents without providing proof (or at least very strong indicators) that you're already doing the best you can. Expecting children/young teens (I'm assuming you're somewhere in the 12-15 age bracket) to consistently reach 96% scores seems excessive to me, and if your parents expect you to deliver such scores, good interpersonal skills might not be enough to convince them that you're incapable of doing so.

After confronting my parents about it, they say they're doing 'what's best for me', even though I completely disagree.

Once you've showed them that you tried very hard to do what they want, but it wasn't working out, they might be more open to a discussion about what you think is best for you. When they do let you discuss it with you, make sure you're not resorting to "I told you so" arguments, but rather have positive messages of what's important to you, and why it's not about shirking school work but rather about reallocating time to spend more on what you think is important to you. The older you get, the more say your parents should give you in this, because they also need to prepare you to live as a responsible adult, and the most effective way to do that is to give you more and more control over your life the closer you get to adulthood.

5

There is always the nuclear option.

Back off, or I'll get 70%

90% is an outstanding grade, they're being unreasonable, maybe you need to be as well.

One low grade will not ruin your academic career, but it would show your parents that you are not just going to take this, and while you're willing to work hard, it must be balanced with having a bit of fun! You'll never have as much opportunity for leisure time as while you're at school, so not taking advantage of that is a waste.

There is always the risk that this could backfire, but I don't think trying to prove that you're working hard enough, and can't work harder, is even possible.

1

Here's a simple suggestion.

The source of the conflict is that there is no agreed objective standard about effort except the test. So why not create one? Here's a sample dialogue; change it to suit your particular circumstances and patterns of interactions:

Mom: bio, you got 95% on your last test. That's not acceptable. You'll need to study throughout your 2-week study break. No parties, no movies.

bio: I think the reason I missed that 5% was because I stayed up so late studying the night before that I wasn't paying enough attention to the question. I came across advice from a university about study breaks that rest and human interaction are actually important when studying. I know you want me to try really hard, and I am. But I don't know how to show you that I'm trying really hard. I have a suggestion - can we try this out?

Mom: Mmm?

bio: How about testing me after a study session? You know, take the book and see if I know my definitions and all that. I'll show you the pages I've read and the summaries I've made. I'll show you the exercises I've attempted and you can see whether I've got them all right. But we need to agree on the quantity of work to be covered. If I get this all done, will you agree to let me spend time with my friends?

Mom: Oh honey, of course. But do you think that deadpool is really such a good person to hang out with? ...

There may be issues unrelated to studies, and those will need to be tackled separately. But if you can agree on a particular quantum of work to be done, you might be able to negotiate a 'fair pay for fair work' system, just as is done out in the workforce (except that your 'pay' might be time with friends or a stroll on the beach, etc). Pointing out authoritative advice can also help, though you'll need to be prepared for some skepticism if the advice promotes less study.

The underlying intent is to have some way to quantify and to agree on the work you are to do, and then to demonstrate afterwards that you have done it effectively.

  • This is an excellent idea. As you warn in the second-to-last paragraph, tough, I would initially not point out the "study breaks are important" self-serving argument and instead just focus on the defining/verifying part, like it says in the last sentence. – Pascal Jun 13 '18 at 7:17
  • @Pascal Thank you. The first part is a bit of a conversational lead-in to the actual suggestion. It can be abrupt to jump straight in :) . Bio should feel free to adapt the suggested dialogue to whatever works in his/her own context. – Lawrence Jun 13 '18 at 10:24
1

So, how do I get my parents to believe me, and avoid doing study on my holiday?

People on this site often complain about "One question per question", but putting these two questions together is important.

Why do you want to avoid studying on your holiday?


Everything from here down is a guess about you, but it is what I went through.

I'm going to hazard that you:

  1. dont find your studies very interesting
  2. don't consider your classes to be very important
  3. could read your entire textbook, cover to cover, 5 times in your 2 week vacation. I don't think you're scared that you can't do the work, you are scared that you couldn't possibly fill 2 whole weeks with the subject matter in your classes.

And you're not wrong. Some classes can be downright boring, and a lot of people find school to be very low-stakes. The simple fact that class work is not challenging is enough for many children to tune out. This is also why your mother seems so irrational about it. She sees the bar as being so low that she doesn't understand how you can get anything less than 100%. She probably thinks (correctly) that you are capable of things far beyond what you are required to do for school.

I'm going to make another guess: Your mother was raised in another country and school system. If she were to shadow you in school, she would be shocked at how little you are actually challenged. When I was your age, I (I still think correctly) thought that the mental effort of filling out those lame worksheets was more than actually figuring it out. I would look at the challenge, solve it in my head as fast as it could be read by my brain, decide it was stupid and not bother to fill it out.

It was stupid. I didn't do my work. That was also stupid. I didn't do well in school for several years. My parents considered every option except for one: That the problem was not me - it was the school and the teachers.

Here's the gimmick: When your mom was in school, the challenge was the work. Your challenge is not the work - the bar is too low. Your challenge is self motivation.

This can be mitigated by having a good teacher. If you can find someone to teach you to love a subject, you'll learn it all on your own. Unfortunately, you can't always choose your teacher.

Instead, consider your challenge to be this:

You mother and teachers are trying to rob you of your education by teaching you to hate learning. They are robbing you of something very precious. Your teachers will crush you with their mediocrity and they won't even feel bad about it.

In a few years, you will run across a real academic challenge, and instead of rising to the occasion, you might find that your brain doesn't have the strength - it has been stunted by the boring, half-assed education you had to suffer through years ago.

Here's what you need to ask your mom:

Instead of doubling down on the low-stakes mediocrity which is your normal school work, you need to be enrolled in extracurricular activities. These can be STEM if she wants, but they have to have 2 things:

  1. A motivated adult to teach you to love the subject
  2. A real challenge for your brain to struggle with

Tell her if she finds you these two things, you will promise to do better in school. Maybe you will, maybe you won't. Either way, if she see's you excelling in the robotics club, maybe (maybe) she will let up about your grade in Spanish.

0

Bargain with them.

Offer to do X amount of work in exchange for Y amount of fun time. If they refuse to accept your offer, refuse to study.

They're already taking away the fun things you want to do, they haven't got any punishment to fall back on. They could lock you up in your room all day, but that wouldn't be much worse than non-stop studying, the punishment would be on them.

Question them about their teenage years

Did they study that hard? If yes did they enjoy doing so? If no, why are they making you live that life?

If they haven't experienced such high levels of studying, ask how they can be sure that it will lead you to success. Pick apart their hypocrisy.

Coax them into studying with you

If they get hands on experience with what you have to study, they will most likely discover how boring it is and how little they know in comparison to you.

On the off-chance that they do know most of the stuff, ask if that knowledge has ever been useful in their life. Chances are it hasn't.

-1

I had this discussion with my sons (France).

I told them that if they constantly get above 16/20 (the scale of marks is 0-20 in France) then I will let them live their life because it is "good enough".

I told them that this "good enough" is something which will let them have "good enough" choices and presented them some evidence (one usually needs to get such and such average to get to a particular school, which then has such and such results).

So I tried to rationalize my choice - below 16 I yell, above 16 I tell them "good enough" (with the vison of a "good enough" life later - planned for the 70 years to come :)). And 20/20 as a target: school is not high jump (where you miss a height you aim at) but long jump (the farther you jump the better, so aim at 70 meters to get to 8).

I would recommend to have the same rational discussion.

If you would come to me as a parent telling me that you have in average 18/20 (the 90% you mentioned), and that this will

  • allow you to get to the right school (bring statistical evidence)
  • and allow you to have a normal life where you do something outside school,

then I would somehow reluctantly agree.

Why somehow reluctantly? Because plenty of parents (such as me) think that their children can do better and that anything which is not school work is a loss (I do not agree with the last part).

The good ones also realize that one must set some kind of limit to their ambition, especially when they did not excel themselves (I was at the same school as my children and unfortunately for them I was brilliant so they cannot really use this argument).

In one word: try to calm your parents, they are probably overstressed with your school results - one day seeing you as a brilliant engineer and the other one as a homeless hobo who missed a test.

  • 3
    What has yelling to do with rationality? You have a strange view of what ratio is. – phresnel Jun 12 '18 at 8:36
  • @phresnel: I do not really understand what you are saying. Beside "yelling" (which is actually "conveying the message of working more" - sometimes quietly, sometimes less quietly), what is the ratio you mention about? That 16/20 is a good enough ratio ? – WoJ Jun 12 '18 at 9:30
  • All definitions of "to yell" on dict.cc/?s=yell as well as dict.leo.org/englisch-deutsch/yell indicate shouting at someone. Regarding "ratio": My fail, I meant rationality, i.e. being rational. – phresnel Jun 12 '18 at 15:01
  • @phresnel ok thanks for the information. I was looking for a humorous word describing a parent shouting at his child because it misbehaved (something like "brailler" in French) along the lines of Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes) parents. "Yell" is indeed a miss. – WoJ Jun 12 '18 at 17:41
  • This assumes the parents hold the same view and are rational. This isn't always the case. – Pharap Jun 12 '18 at 23:40
-9

You're going to have a mostly uphill battle.

There are two main reasons for this, and I hope that explaining them, you will see a path to get what you want, though it will not be easy.

The first problem is that your parents are right. Doesn't matter if you think they are, or I think they are. As your parents, they are right to push you to excel. From the time you were born until they die, they will always push for you and want for you, what they think is best. As you get older you get more of a say in that (how much depends on culture, of course) but one thing will never change. They are right.

The second issue is that when you lobby to do less work, your automatically going to come off as lazy, uninterested, spoiled, or some such negative adjective. Doesn't mean it's true, but there is no way, ever, parents or other people to advocate doing less, and not come off like your trying to avoid hardship.

Now, what that does give you is a little bit of wiggle room if you can figure out what it is you want, and what your parents want. It also can have a lot to do with if you have burnt your bridges yet as a teen, and what worked for your grandparents and parents.

First, acknowledge that their goal is reasonable and valid. You may not like it, but you can achieve it. If you can not, then perhaps you should be studying over the holiday (more on this later) though perhaps the method of study should change.

Second, acknowledge that their "penalty" is reasonable and valid. Again, you don't have to like it, but there is nothing wrong with what they are saying or doing.

Third, address their larger goal, and validate it. "I know you want me to do well in life, and that's why you're being hard on me."

Fourth, use the larger goal to accept and modify the current smaller goal and the penalty.

An example -- Make sure to modify it for your situation and not just read it off to them.

Mom, Dad, I understand that you want me to do well in the exams. I agree that if I work hard and study that I should be able to get a 96% or better on those exams. And I understand that if I don't you want me to study over the holiday. I do understand that you are trying to do what is best for me, to set me up for a good, well-educated life. However, there are a few things that I would like to talk about.

While I agree that 96% is a good overall goal, I am better in some subjects then I am in others. Is it possible that we could use that 96% as an average instead of on every test? I will still do my best, but I would like to reduce the stress of having to worry about ruining my holiday by getting a 95% in math, just because I am not as good in it as I am in English.

I also understand that if I fail to get a 96% that you want me to study over the holiday. I am going to try as hard as I can, but if I fail to get a 96%, then instead of studying over the holiday, can we discuss getting a tutor or other ways I can focus more on that class. To be honest, if I get a 94% it's not because I'm not trying, so maybe I just need additional help in that subject. Maybe we can use some time this holiday to find a tutor should I need one.

Lastly, while I know you are well-intentioned, the school holidays are supposed to be a time for me to relax and unwind, as well as work on my social skills with my peers. To be successful in life I need both a good education and a good set of social skills, one is of no use without the other.

As an aside, I know what you are trying to do by pushing me to succeed, but it's having the opposite effect. Whenever I go to study, instead of focusing on the subject I focus on how I am going to screw up my holiday. I understand your rules, but I need help with this. I can't focus. Can you just reassure me that no matter what happens, that we will still get to have some fun this holiday? That would go a long way towards helping me reduce my stress level a bit.

  • 5
    Sorry man, but I don't agree with the notion that he fails at life if he doesn't get 100% on every test in his life. 96% is certainly a great score. Yes he should always try to do better, be better, but asking for 100% on every test is setting the child up for anxiety and other stress-related issues. – ggiaquin16 Jun 11 '18 at 20:02
  • @ggiaquin16 I don't agree either, but I'm not his parent. It's his parent's right and responsibility to make that decision, not ours. – coteyr Jun 11 '18 at 21:24
  • Naturally! But expecting someone to get 100% on everything is not "reasonable" as you put it and that's kind of my issue with your answer. It's frankly not reasonable. Especially if he gets into AP classes in high school. Understandably if the work is easy, there should be no reason why he cannot get great grades, but again, 100% on everything is simply unreasonable. I have had tests where I was marked down to 98% where they took away points on short answer. When asked why due to the fact I answered correctly, I was told: "no one is perfect so they took off a point". – ggiaquin16 Jun 11 '18 at 21:29
  • 3
    I think the issue is that the way you started it does make it seem like you agree with his parents. You directly said that "your parents are right" you are essentially agreeing and saying that his parent's opinion is true, even if you don't intend to say that. – DMate Jun 12 '18 at 1:20
  • 3
    "As your parents, they are right to push you to excel." Even if it causes the OP psychological health problems and deprives them of an enjoyable teenagerhood? Bad parents exist. Trying to force a child to excel against the child's wishes is bad parenting, it should not be taken sitting down. – Pharap Jun 12 '18 at 23:39

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