Motivating high school students

One of your important parental roles is that of motivator. One of the most challenging times in that role may occur during high school. One or more of your children may have been struggling with motivation through earlier grades, or this may be something new. Talking to your children openly, without judgment, may help you find out the root cause. Fear of failure, lack of confidence in themselves and the future, lack of academic success, social pressures, and lack of goals can all contribute.

Lack of motivation in high school can take many forms: poor attendance, low grades, lack of involvement in activities, risk behaviors, and dropping out. The Oregon Department of Education collects data about students who drop out of high school in the state. In the 2002-2003 school year, "Lack of parent support for education" was by far the most frequently cited reason. Other frequently cited factors were "Too far behind in credits to catch up," "Working more than 15 hours a week," "Dysfunctional home life," and "Frequent discipline referrals."

These data suggest that your commitment to learning is a key ingredient for your role as motivator. Actively promote learning, in high school and beyond. Help your children set some short-term goals that can build confidence and commitment to school. Help them understand that knowledge and skills are necessary to get and keep a good job. Through connecting their dreams to reality, they will find that they will need to keep learning after high school (through a two- or four-year college program, career school or apprenticeship program, or in the military). High school classes form a foundation for life.

Your high school children are not too old for you to actively promote their academic success. Here are some strategies:

Strategies adapted from Indiana's Learn More Resource Center, "10 Things Parents Can Do to Help Students Succeed," at