27 answers

Have a 13 Year Old Daughter That I Want to Motivate to Do Well in School

My daughter is 13 years old and she is not very motivated to do well in school, instead she is more concerned about her image and how popular she is. She is always going to someone house after school, and on the weekends, instead of applying herself for her future. Any helpful ideas of inspiration is greatly needed.

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Featured Answers

She's 13. Get used to it. She's a typical teenager. Don't stress. Just give her reasonable guidelines - grades must be B or better (or whatever) or no social activities.

I think that you should step in and set limits for her. Why is she allowed to go to friends houses after school? She should be coming right home to do homework. Then maybe she can go when her work (and chores) are all done. Sounds like you need to keep a tighter "leash" on her.
Good luck!

Oprah's DVD about the girls school in South Africa. It shows what the girls have to go through just to go to school. Most students appreciate their education after that

Also, maybe her activities or idle time let her dwell too much on popularity. She may need to experience other things. Maybe volunteer work with people that are less fortunate so that she can appreciate what she has and maybe see where she can end up if she chooses not to apply herself.

Limit TV, cell phone usage. Think of ways she can earn TV/Game/internet time. School is her job, if she does not earn anything, then take it all away.

Bottom line, she has to make a value judgement in order to make a change in herself.

More Answers

This is not a no brainer, why do you think she goes over to other peoples homes, sounds like your unavailable most of the time, so she is finding other familys to fill her needs, she can't get your attention by doing good so she will do it other ways, free up your time mom get busy with her, 13 is a dangerous age she has to much freedom,

" warning "

Hi J.,
13 is such a frustrating age! Our fun kids turn in to emotional, attitude filled, sassy people who think we parents cannot walk and chew gum at the same time!
Unfortunately, popularity is something that is VERY important to kids. Outward appearance seems to become "ALL that" to some kids in Jr. High through High School. Popularity revolves around what kind of clothes they wear, what kind of electronics they have (or don't have), who they hang around with, if they have a boyfriend (or girlfriend), the list goes on.
We tend to really worry about the future because that is where we adults are. Worrying all the time about EVERYTHING! (You know we do!)
Kids are not there yet. The future for them is next week or the next outing with their friends.
I am guessing, with your awesome accomplishments, (wow! 2 degrees! You rock!) that you want your daughter to attend college and make something of herself!
So, with that in mind, I will tell you about our 7 kids.
4 went to college! One (he is 29 now) went to the academy of art up north near (or in) San Francisco. He has a boat load of talent...he quit! Now years later he has a great job, and has a very serious relationship with a college graduated young woman. He is still great at art and didn't finish college. Another (now 32) went to Jr college and took pottery....sigh! She quit to be a mom and wife.....
One (now 24) went to a University right out of High School, finished last December with her bachelor's in Special Education and during all the school studies etc, moved on to the campus, later (2006) got married to her High School sweetheart, and is expecting their first baby in July PLUS she plans to begin a Master's program in September. (She was the social, wrapped up in her appearance, teenager!)
Another daughter (now 22), trying to find herself, goofed off, quit various part time jobs, played softball, all AFTER high school under acheiving. (She was kicked out for stealing from her 80 year old grandmother, sigh...) Talk about frustrating! Well, she is graduating from Jr. College this June! Has made various honors lists and has a direction. She will be transferring to a 4 year to finish school with her bachelor's. (She blew getting our help because of her flaky attitude and dishonesty.)
So...the other 3 ? One (now 18) is finishing High School this year and she still is not sure what to do with herself so she joined the ARMY!!!! One (now 26) is very happily married and is a mom to 2 wonderful little boys and the other one is still muddling through and trying to find his first job...he is 23 years old and just moved out! (A whole other story there!)
So..my suggestion (can't call it advice) is to give her a little room but also keep telling her how important her future education is. Take her places so she can see how BIG the world is and how people are different everywhere!! I think it is very important to point out how not everyone has the same privileges we have. Some people are eeking out a life in very poor conditions. (I sponsor children through Christian Children's Fund) Education will help your life, may improve the life of others, and will definitely impact your family! (With or without it!)
I wish you all the best as you go on this journey of the discovery of adulthood. It will be a bummpy road, I promise, but well worth it!
Oh..by the way, I was a Camp Fire Leader and a Cub Scout Leader, my kids were in sports, choirs, drama, community theater, and other extra curricular activities.
I attended Jr. College majoring in Child Development, yet did not finish cuz I had them!

You might let her know that the top fashion models and fashion designers all went to college. That if wasn't for school they would not know how to manage their money. Ask her if she thinks that the "cool" kids will think less of her if she is smart. That may have part to do with her lack of motivation. Remind her that looks will fade as does fashion and an education will always give you a high payback. You might even show her how it works out finacially when one has a degree vs not salary wise.

You should not allow her to go to her friends house after school if she's not doing well in school, she should be going home to work on her homework. She should be allowed to go to her friends house on weekends only if homework for the previous week was completed. My son knows that if he want's to go somewhere or do something he better make sure that all that needs to be done for school is done and his grades are good. I don't expect him to get straight A's but I do get on him all the time about school & grades. I also explain to him that it's for his own good and for a better future.

I am a middle school teacher and although I don't know your daughter, I have had experiences with thousands of other 13 year old girls. They need structure and rules! They need parents who listen and who act like adults. (the other day I overheard some kids talking about how drunk their parents were the other nite while others were discussing their mom's winning a wet t-shirt contest). You need to set some ground rules about socialization---visiting, phones, text messaging and all other forms of visiting. Believe me, if she is over-visiting during "mom" hours then she is way over-visiting during school hours. She is your child---not your friend. Here is hoping that things get back on the right track....

I recommend two books for you: Reviving Ophelia and Queen Bees and Wannabees. Each will give you insight to the importance of the adolescent cliche and its effcts on your daughter. Don't underestimate the power of the cliche and her friends. If you are not already, it's time for you to become savvy about myspace, utube and the internet. The girl wars of today are very different than they were for us. Make your home (if you are home regularly) the place everyone (meaning her girlfriends) wants to be. Get to know the moms of your daughter's friends. You will need allies. Keep working on your daughter's self-esteem. Stay involved in her life, even if it feels like she is pushing you away. Give her priviledges tied to demonstrations of responsibilities. And one of her responsibilities is her grades. I've taught high school for 14 years and I am a motivational speaker for high school girls. Believe me, you are in for a ride! Good luck!

I think the last advice was a bit harsh. Shake it off girl and let's think more positively. She is 13 and is going through an identity stage. The most important thing for her "future" for HER is being accepted. At 13 she is unable to look that far ahead. Don't be concerned with this. My daughter is now almost 16 and she is FINALLY looking towards the future. Getting excited about what she wants to do with her life.

So, how does one motivate an unmotivated 13 year old? You use positive reinforcement. You stay in touch with her teachers and her grades. You reward her efforts in school with her "social" life. Sounds like you know exactly what she wants. Let her "earn" it by putting her all into her "job" (school). You can decide how best to do that. Whether that's paying her for her report card grades or rewarding her with the PRIVILEGE to hang out with her girl friends. My children's schools have the "In-Touch" program implemented. That's a GREAT way to keep up on her assignments. If your school doesn't, get the emails of your daughter's teachers and become great email pals! :o)

It's not easy being a working mom. Especially as she goes into her teenage years. Keep your communication lines open with her by making it safe for her to talk to you (meaning truly listening to her concerns, no over reactions, but REALLY good counsel) . Tough love is not always the easy path for most of us parents, but it's essential to their learning. Once you set a rule or consequence or even reward STICK TO IT. Follow up with an out pouring of love -- no holding grudges. Good luck!!! :o)

I feel your pain, J.. I have a 16 year old and that is pretty much all she is preoccupied with, besides boys. The best advice I can give you is to NOT let her go to her friend's houses after school; instead, have her stay home and do her homework or study or read. If she has done all of that and still has time, then she can go, but don't let her social like interfere with her studies :) Same thing with the weekends. I'm sure she has tests she can study for, and you guys can study together, until you feel she knows the material. This might also motivate her to concentrate on school a little more (not much! lol) because if she is studying, and then getting good grades, it should make her feel good about herself. That's just my opinion, though. Good luck!!!

Hi J.
Great advice here, especially the ones who advocate NO social outings during the week (except for the ones tied into extra-currics, like scouts) and make homework come first. Consistency will be key if you institute that new rule.
I am seeing the issue is probably this- she is left to her own devices after school (since you are a working mom right?) so it will be tough to make changes there if no one is around to monitor her doing her schoolwork. Might want to think about getting a tutor or "mentor" just so she has someone to report to straight after school to get some stuff done before she is free to start connecting with her pals (even if you hold to the "no going out during the week" rule, there is the texting, IMing, phone calls, etc.) It would be good for her to have a role model like a motivated High School gal that she can also relate to. Maybe you can find a local junior or senior girl to hire to come over Mon-Thurs to help her with homework~ one that will appear totally cool to her but who also has it together.
Now, who are her friends, because if they are allowed to roam free after school without doing their homework, they may not be the best influences either. She may be at-risk if her whole group of girlfriends is just as unmotivated as she is- you want to keep an eye on that.
As far as motivation, developing future goals and all that, it happens slowly. They just don't see the connection yet at this age between what they want to do later in life (be beautiful, fashionable, and wealthy) and how hard you have to work to get there. Start talking about your own college experiences, how you came to choose your profession, her strengths and interests, and other people in the family and where they went to college, what they do. Try to connect their current professions to what their interests were at her age... just get her thinking along those lines.
And yes, this is normal! My daughter is only one year old (I'm in no rush to reach the teen years!) but I am a middle school counselor so I am familiar with your concerns :)

I just spoke to someone yesterday who had a daughter like that and she put her daughter into home school....this particular home school is a virtual school, all online, all the teachers and students communicate online...it's a good program. www.connectionsacademy.com

It worked for her.

I would limit her exposure to friends after school. I would let her know that you expect her to keep a notebook for homework assignments and that you will be checking them daily. Try to be at home when she leaves school and returns from school. Maybe you could work on paperwork for your work in the same room as she does homework. That way it would be more fun for her. I would let her know that she can only have access to friends AFTER doing her schoolwork every day. Limit her internet, cellphone, electronic time daily. Set up a reward system where she gets so many minutes of electronics after doing homework. If she has a computer or tv in her room, remove it to a common area of the house. Encourage her to have all friends over to your house. That way you see who her friends are. Be open to the idea of having sleepovers, etc. at your house. Encourage her to do her best, but reinforce that A's are not as important as doing her best. Good luck to you with your situation. Keep the lines of communication open. Don't be afraid to talk with her about difficult subjects (sex, substances, etc.)

Don't let her go to her friends' houses until she's done with her homework and you've checked it. Remember, you are her mother, not her friend. :)

Hi, J.,

My own children are still infants, but I taught teenagers for a dozen years. As many respondents already mentioned, your daughter sounds pretty normal.

Does your daughter invite her friends to your home? I would encourage her to do that if she is not already bringing friends home. If the kids are at your house, you can observe their behavior. When I was a teenager, a lot of my classmates got together at the library and at each other's homes to study--and did very well in school.

Regarding image, I would not discourage her from experimenting with hair, makeup, wardrobe (within limits), etc. This experimentation is part of social development. I actually wish that I had done more "normal" non-academic informal activities when I was a teenager. I may have had a more robust social life, which is just as important as a successful academic life (and I'm saying this coming from a family of MDs/PhDs). I usually encourage my students to spend some time cultivating their social lives and grooming/styling themselves but limiting time spent on those activities to a certain amount of time per day, e.g. at most half an hour per day styling their hair, applying makeup, etc. I also encourage my students to integrate their social lives with extracurricular activities (sports, band, after-school/summer work, charity).

One thing I've observed other parents doing that I think is beneficial is paying one's kids to do volunteer work. One couple I knew offered to give their daughter a car if she worked at a volunteer activity all summer. (She ended up working at a shelter.) I am not saying that you must give your child a car; I am saying that offering some type of reward for doing a volunteer activity that is related to something that interests the child might get her started thinking about her future after high school.

Good luck,
L. E

My daughter just did this last year, and for the same exact reasoning. I had taken away all that I thought was precious to her...and was left with what else could I do? I decided to threaten her with me coming to school with her...I went one day. Sat in each class, quiet as a mouse, but looking right at her. Talked with each teacher. She was mortified I know. She brought up every grade, and any time I threatened her (to this day) with coming to school again, she says no mommy please, I will do better. She loves me, but who wants their mom at school???? I know you work, but maybe a one day things wouldn't be so hard to take off for?? Maybe a grandmother could help you out with it, or a Dad?? It works. They need strong incentive. Good luck & God Bless!

Set your expectations for her behavior higher and follow thru with restrictions - even simple ones. Facebook time must be earned, etc. Texting is limited to certain hours. Privileges like these can be revoked until grades are at a reasonable level. Have her friends to your house - often - so they get to know you (how do you do this? FEED them and keep them in the kitchen with you. This works like magic and soon they will want to cook, and even clean for you!) Be involved to the point of being annoying, because it's your love that comes through. Trust your child to follow through on the good values you've taught her already - it is difficult to change them by this point without a major or catastrophic event, which we all want to avoid. And frankly, they are our mirror - if you're not crazy about some things she's doing, consider your image through her eyes. Learn from her good decisions and hopefully she will learn from her bad ones because you trusted her to make some of her own decisions. Realize her opinion is now her own and will not always mesh with yours, although your say is still final. And remember, you are not alone!

~ Mom of 13-yr-old daughter

She's 13. Get used to it. She's a typical teenager. Don't stress. Just give her reasonable guidelines - grades must be B or better (or whatever) or no social activities.

Hi J.,

Your daughter is behaving like most 13 year old girls, unfortunately. In our society, looks and popularity are valued more than intelligence. I think you should start limiting the amount of time she spends with friends after school during the week because her grades will really suffer and it'll just get worse. Also, I'm a firm believer in rewards. You wouldn't work for free so why not pay her for good grades. It can help motivate her during this age where she really doesn't care about them. Eventually, she'll want good grades for herself but not now. Remember, for the next 3 years or so, your daughter will be extremely difficult and that is totally normal.


I think that you should step in and set limits for her. Why is she allowed to go to friends houses after school? She should be coming right home to do homework. Then maybe she can go when her work (and chores) are all done. Sounds like you need to keep a tighter "leash" on her.
Good luck!

Hi J.,
I completely understand your distress. I have 13 and 15 year old daughters, and have struggled off and on with keeping them focused on their studies.

4 years ago, I began hooking up with tutors from the local universities. One of my girls and my younger son needed tutoring, the other daughter not, but the payoff for both girls was this: they were in contact with well adjusted young women, focused on their studies, on the other side of the big divide! These tutors became more than that: mentors and confidantes, young ladies my girls could model themselves after, understand that middle and high school experiences aren't "all that" when it comes to the larger picture of getting ready for life, figuring out who you are, what you like, how to go after it. Some of these gals became babysitters and good family friends. It's great to see what some of them have gone on to do once they graduated from college...

Another thing is: what is your daughter doing going to people's houses after school if not to do her homework? Being away after school and on weekends too sure is a lot of time spent unsupervised directly from you. Not a criticism J., just a real concern. I don't know what kind of work you do, and some jobs are harder to work around than others, but do you have a specific family time carved out when she can't make dates with friends? Having opportunities to do things one on one with the kids is essential to keeping the dialogue open,and foster opportunities to listen to your daughter's needs and experiences.

What is your daughter good at? Are there any clubs she can get involved in after school? Most of her time should be productive and meaningful. Being popular for the sake of being popular is a vacant proposition, but being popular because you are a leader is a stepping stone to one's future. Tell her to pick a club or you'll pick one for her. Go talk to her counselor for options at school or in the community. See if she wants to tutor an elementary school child in the neighborhood. Put together a dog-walking business, or pet sitting, or house sitting business you can help supervise. Look into VolunteerSanDiego.com and see if there is something there for her (and maybe you together) What do her other fellow Cadettes do with their time?

Keep her close J.. She is still very young. She is a child, and needs your guidance more than ever. I remember folks telling me my kids would need me more as teenagers than when they were toddlers. I believe them now! I even went back to real estate so I could keep my schedule as flexible as possible to accomodate them. I only get one chance at this, there are no "do overs" in this game!

It's a struggle to be sure. I don't think any of us have it figured out. It's the same old mantra: keep focused, be consistent, keep moving forward, and listen,listen,listen.

In friendship and support,

Oprah's DVD about the girls school in South Africa. It shows what the girls have to go through just to go to school. Most students appreciate their education after that

Also, maybe her activities or idle time let her dwell too much on popularity. She may need to experience other things. Maybe volunteer work with people that are less fortunate so that she can appreciate what she has and maybe see where she can end up if she chooses not to apply herself.

Limit TV, cell phone usage. Think of ways she can earn TV/Game/internet time. School is her job, if she does not earn anything, then take it all away.

Bottom line, she has to make a value judgement in order to make a change in herself.

Hi J.,

I too have a 13 year old daughter and it is a tough line at this point in their lives. The boys, clothes, drama, etc. seem to be more important than anything else. I am the "bad cop" in our house, but our girls seem to get it that we are just looking out for their best interests. In our house HOMEWORK IS #1..meaning that they are not allowed to go anywhere after school UNLESS they are completely done with homework. Usually, this is not often, due to the amount of homework that they get. (we also have a 15 year old daughter in High School) However, since they have worked hard all week, they then get to have fun with their friends on the weekends. For us, this is a GREAT reward system!! Both of the girls are either 3.8 or 4.0 GPA. I know most parents
don't agree with our way but the results are worth it. I think that your daughter should realize that you are an incredible women with TWO degrees and that did not just get handed to you, you had to work very hard for it. Now is the time to start getting her excited about her future and what it can hold for her. My girls are already thinking of where they want to live, what kind of car they want, (usually BMW or Mercedes) but they know to get these things, they have to do well in school, go to college, and have a successful career. Maybe if you talk to her about where she sees herself in 5 or 10 years and what she wants,she will realize what she has to do to get there. I am also a Girl Scout leader for a Senior Troop and have found that alot of the values of Girl Scouts has definately helped my girls stay on track. Good luck to you!!

C. C.

if she is interested in spending time out and with friends, perhaps she should have to finish her work and be meeting certain criteria to receive privledges?? just a thought..... she is old enough to understand that you have some expectations about basics like school work....

If she is n ur Cadette Troop I suggest taking them on field trips 2 Museums, and educational tours. I am a single mom of 2 girls 17 and 18. However I was troop master for the Cub Scouts since there were more boys n the area and they were headed 4 trouble if no1 stepped up. Anywayz Call some modeling agengies n ur area and c if u can schedule a trip with the girls as a career insight. It workd when I did it for the boys and the sisters that tagged along. I did it all on my own with no parent participation. Those boys and girls all grew up and r doing well n their career choices. Good Luck.

At 13 years old she seems pretty normal that her image, friends and popularity are most important but....there is definitely a fine line to have about doing well in school also. I have a 12 year old daughter and a 14 year old son so I get it from both angles and I think making family time is important and remember it is ok to say no to her when she is spending every moment away from home. Sounds like you are a very busy woman that role models how important it is to have a career but....make sure that you are also showing her how to relax and take time for yourself. It's tough at this age and this is when I think you can hold the school grades over them to some degree to meet your expectations or they are not allowed to do things with friends after school and on the weekends. There has to be a priority. I say make the motivation for doing well in school be the reason she gets to have a more "social life". Hope that helps!

Hi J., I agree with all of the advise you have been given thus far. In addtion, I would suggest an activity at school that she could participate in. My oldest daughter (22 now) was in the same situation when she was your daughter's age. I made her pick a school activity that she was interested in. Told her if she didn't pick one, I would pick for her. I don't think she thought I would follow through so when it was time to pick classes for the next semester, I sat down with her and her counselor and we put her in Student Body. She absolutely loved, excelled at school and when her sister saw how much fun she had in ASB her sister joined when she began high school. My oldest daughter was Senior Social Chair and planned all dances and after school events. I youngest daughter (now 18) went on to be Student Body President and actually gave a speech at her high school graduation. Finding something that they can use their social skills at during school was very productive for my girls. My oldest one her senior year was involved in so much stuff. She was on the dance squad, in drama, of course ASB and so many other things. But in doing so, she had to maintain her grades or she would not be allowed to stay in these school activities. It worked out very well. I would suggest you look into putting your daughter in an activities class at school. For me, it meant driving them more places than I ever thought, but in retrospect, it was certainly worth it. Good luck.

I know it's hard with teenagers, but you are still her mother. To impress how important school is make her come home and do her homework before she goes over to friends house, and if you do that make it a no exception rule. That will be great motivation if you're consistant. But yes, all teens are like that. It passes. And if you want some insight into your daughter's state of mind (because parents often have teen-amnesia) read "Reviving Ophelia"- it's a wonderful collection of case studies that explains why many teen girls think the way that they do. I read it when I was 19 or 20 and was like "wow, that's why I felt that way in high school." And the other suggestion about bribing her is a good one, too. If it's something she really wants (and make sure it's something she won't get otherwise) she will be motivated. However, the best kind of motivation is internal, so you may also want to have a non-threatening talk with her about her future. Don't make her commit to a career if she doesn't know, but does she want to go to college? What is she interested in? How can she apply that towards her future? Having goals is a great way to inspire internal motivation- maybe you could even help her make a goal poster to hang in her room to give her a visual reminder. Often girls who are very social and popular want to be something like a nurse because they enjoy being around other people, but they don't give the matter enough thought to realize that being a nurse is hard work and you have to do really well in Math and Science. Having this conversation may help some.

Well if it's any consolation your daughter is normal. Try speaking her language... do well on your report card=mall make-over, new outfit, MAC make over, highlights for her hair... something that she wants. Or a party for her friends who also do well. You will have to speak to her friends' parents to decide what "well" is for that child...some will work REALLY hard and still only make C's. That should be rewarded too! On the flip side you take away priveleges if she doen't work to her full ability.

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