Are You the Reason Your Teen is Failing?

Are You the Reason Your Teen is Failing?

Why Checking Your Teen’s Grades Online May Be Causing Them to Fail

In the past, report card day was filled with anticipation.

For some kids, it was a moment of triumph. Holding their straight-A report card and watching their parents’ eyes fill with pride was worth all of their hard work. Other checking kids grades onlinekids would race off the bus, hoping to have time to hide the evidence of their slipping or poor school performance before their parents got home.

Those days are now gone. Today, parents have 24/7 access to their child’s grades online, and it sounds like a great set-up. You can see how your child is doing in school by checking missing assignments, test grades, and homework points. Your child can’t make excuses or lie about his or her grades because it’s all there on the screen.

Hypothetically, it should be motivating for teens. They know their parents are watching. If they want to avoid being grounded for poor grades, they should work hard and keep their grades up. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work that way.

In my therapy practice, I work with teens and their parents on a number of school-related concerns.  However, the parent portal (or online grade access) seems to be one of the top offenders. Teens complain that their parents check the portal too often; parents state that without the portal, they would have no idea what is going on at school. Teens complain that their parents don’t trust them to get their grades up by the end of the semester – and many parents seem to agree.

Problems with Checking Your Teen’s Grades Online

It raises anxiety.

For teens who struggle with performance or test anxiety, having constant knowledge of their grades adds to their worries, rather than offering relief. While they try to do well, their feelings of anxiety prevent them from doing their best. They may even stop turning in homework assignments because they are worried that they are not perfect.

When you see missed assignments and missing grades online, your own anxiety may start to increase.  You may start to worry about your teen’s college scholarships and future employment. Your own feelings of anxiety may add to the anxiety your teen is already feeling. Instead of being motivating, they begin to fear your response to their grades, and your pressure to “get these grades up” ends up backfiring.

It shifts responsibility.

Before computer portals, teens were expected to have some knowledge of their grades. They were expected to turn in their homework on time and ask for help if needed. Parents were usually only included in this process if a teacher had a specific concern. Teens may have chosen not to get additional help or may have bombed a test because they didn’t study. The consequences of these actions were not usually seen until report cards were issued. Now, parents are more involved than ever. Concerned about falling grades, parents make suggestions for ways their child can improve their grade, and some even call teachers to make sure their teen is not being unfairly graded or to ask for extensions for projects.  While this seems helpful, it actually takes the responsibility off the teen and puts it on the parents.  Teens sit back, waiting for their parents to bail them out of another jam.

It damages relationships.

In many cases, having too much focus on grades becomes a sore spot between parents and teens.  Teens feel that all their parents care about is school, and parents feel that their teen doesn’t care enough. Instead of working harder to please them, many teens use failing grades or poor school performance as a way to “get back at” their parents. They seem to say, “You think I am a failure, ok, I’ll fail. Now are you happy?”

Tips for Using the Parent Portal

If you do have online access to your teen’s school performance status, there are several steps you can take to make it a positive experience:

  • Work Collaboratively:  Talk with your teen about using the portal as a tool to stay on track.  Discuss ways that the portal can be helpful and ways that it may get in the way of success. If the portal becomes a source of tension, re-evaluate how it is being used.
  • Check Periodically:  It may be tempting to check the portal on a daily basis. Instead, use it as a general overview of your teen’s semester. This sends the message to your teen that you understand there will be bad test days and that doesn’t necessarily mean failure in a class.
  • Put the Ball in Their Court:  If you notice glaring patterns or failing grades, chances are, your teen is aware of these issues, too. Rather than drilling your teen on their plan to raise the grade, offer to help, if needed, but make sure your teen is the one who ultimately decides what to do.
  • Focus on Effort Rather than Results:  Show your support by focusing on ways that your teen showed improvement or effort, rather than focusing on the final grade. Notice when homework has been turned in consistently or when test averages improve, even if the grade is not perfect.
  • Seek Help if Concerned:  Slipping grades or failing classes can be a sign of something bigger. If you are concerned about your teen, seek help from a mental health provider. Helping your child manage feelings of anxiety or depression will ultimately help them succeed in school.

About the Author:

Nicole Schwarz
Nicole Schwarz


Nicole Schwarz is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Parent Coach in St. Louis, Missouri.  She loves to help parents feel less stressed and more confident as their children grow from toddlers to teens.  Please visit her blog:

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