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Ask The Expert: Unmotivated Daughter Won’t Take Challenging Classes

Dear Your Teen:

My 13-year-old daughter is in the 8th grade. She gets great grades—all A’s. But when we talk about high school, she doesn’t seem to show any initiative to challenge herself. She seems content to take the lower level classes rather than trying a hard class, which I believe that she is capable of handling. How can I help my unmotivated teenage daughter become more motivated about academics without harping?

EXPERT | Dr. Barbara Greenberg

Teens love to be asked for their opinions and input. My first suggestion for talking with your daughter is that you ask what her thoughts are about whether or not she feels both stimulated and challenged enough by the classes that she is taking. Perhaps she has found a good sense of balance in her life and is taking exactly the right courses. In that case, adding harder classes would not be the way to go.

Academic Challenge

On the other hand, your daughter may simply lack self-esteem and consequently the desire to challenge herself academically. If this is the case, then my suggestion here is that you have the school guidance counselor talk to your daughter about her potential high school classes. Perhaps that will help encourage your daughter to try some harder classes next year.

You may accomplish two goals here: having your daughter challenge herself in school and not being labeled a nag. Keep in mind that the most important outcome in this situation is that the quality of the relationship between you and your daughter remains positive, and that is far more important than nagging her about taking harder high school courses.

Need more help with motivating a teen?

I hope that the guidance counselor can help you here and act as both an advisor and a buffer in this situation. Good Luck.

Dr. Barbara Greenberg is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of teens, children, and families. She is the co-author of Teenage as a Second Language. She writes and consults for several publications and frequently appears on TV. You can find her work on her website

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