3 Reasons Parents and Kids Butt Heads During the Year

3 Reasons Parents and Kids Butt Heads During the Year

(and what you can do about it)

1. Miscommunication – For example… because parents often check, talk about or ask about grades, students frequently interpret this as meaning that grades are the only thing parents care about. 

Most parents agree that while grades are important, their top priorities are more related to students taking ownership of their work, following through, and overall making good and responsible choices. Let them know what matters most. Assumptions like these work both ways. Frequently, we see students upset because their parents have grounded them or become angry about zeroes or online grade book issues.  It’s important to remember that those grades don’t always tell the full story. Teachers are human and make mistakes, in addition to sometimes using the 0 as a placeholder for an assignment that hasn’t yet been graded.

Before anyone reacts, clarify the situation. Students can advocate for themselves with teachers and explain to parents what really might be going on (and if it IS that they lost an assignment or forgot to turn it in, then that can be dealt with as well).  Sometimes it’s helpful for students to send the teacher an email (copy or forward to parents) to confirm the conclusion/resolution and show they can take ownership.

We encourage students of all ages to regularly check their OWN grades and update their parents about the details. Parents checking grades on a daily basis generally causes undue stress on both the parent and the child.

2. Lack of clear expectations – Is your child aware of your expectations and what is truly important to you? Is it grades? Planning? Follow through? Responsibility?  Make that clear, and be sure to let them know what being successful looks like. Are these realistic? Is your child capable of these yet? or capable of doing more?

Check out our blog “Get On The Same Page As Your Student This Year” for a free downloadable tool and an example to help guide you! Map out a plan and have these conversations now to avoid stress and arguments later.

3. Lack of self regulation – Now, of course, I am generally talking about students here; however, will say that most parents (myself included) find consistency and follow through to be incredibly difficult given the busy nature of our lives.

Students may have the best intentions and plans; however, taking the necessary steps and following through can be challenging.  Prepare for what might get in the way (procrastination, overwhelm, avoidance, frustration, distraction/lack of focus, not caring) and have conversations now about what can be done should those situations arise – and help hold them accountable. 

This may be the hardest part, but the student who has trouble getting started on homework or who waits and scrambles the morning of might need some external supports such as gain or loss of privileges (ie. “If your planner is updated, homework is complete, the backpack is packed up, and clothes are laid out for the next day, you’ve earned some screen time!” or “If you aren’t completely ready by the time we need to leave or the bus comes, you’ll need to walk to school or find your own way).

The more visual and specific the expectations (ie. homework will be done by 10pm, planner will be updated with homework, tests and what you will do to study, chores will be done by 5pm – here’s the list), the better chance for success – and less stress for everyone! Create a daily routine checklist and post (or better yet, put in a frame or laminate so items can be checked off along the way and erased for the following day) – be sure those deadlines and reminders are on there too!

For templates and structures to help guide you (and examples to follow), check out our Manual for Student Success: Practical strategies for how to REALLY succeed in school and our School Success Plan (plus other great products in our shop).











Get On The Same Page as Your Children This Year

Get On The Same Page as Your Children This Year

It doesn’t matter if your kids are entering 3rd grade or sophomore year of college.

Take a few minutes TODAY to get on the same page and set them up for meeting both your and their expectations for this year, and for doing it well!

Grab a sheet of paper (OR check out our FREE downloadable planning worksheet).

Jot down your goals; ask about theirs.  Think about what these mean and how important they are – are they worth fighting for? (or avoiding the fighting for!)

Make notes and group into 2 or 3 main goals for the year.

Talk about what reaching each goal ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE to you and to them – in other words, how will they SHOW you?

What do they need in order to be successful – from you and to do for themselves? What might get in the way? HOW can that be addressed that should it happen?

Talk about and create any necessary routines, checklists or reminders.

Do they need rewards or consequences? How will they make sure to follow through and be consistent?

Don’t hesitate to hold them accountable or to let them falter a bit so they have the opportunity to become independent and take ownership. Most of us crave boundaries and structures – whether we’d like to admit it or not.

Be sure the plans and ideas are functional – the last thing any parent needs these days is more stress about keeping track of too many checklists or charts.

Keep in mind our top three observations about why parents and students clash over school.

Download and print our “Get on the Same Page” FREE planning guide, and check out the included example for ideas and to guide you!

We have great ideas and examples to help decide what strategies to use and HOW to make these things happen. Many of the tools we use and find success with in helping students manage these areas can be found in our School Success Plan and complete Manual for Student Success – Practical strategies for how to REALLY do better in school.
















3 Steps to Less Stress and More Success

3 Steps to Less Stress and More Success

Tired of the “what do you have for homework tonight” battle?


Are the last minute scrambles to finish work, stressing about tests or forgotten assignments getting old?


No worries. Your answer is here.  Find an EFFECTIVE planner (not one with just one box per day to “write down” homework assignments) and you will reap the benefits!

3 Steps to LESS STRESS and better grades…

1 – Find an effective planner.

Students thrive most with a week view, Monday through Friday (left to right, as time flows) and morning through night (top down) approach – as it is most logical.  A one day plan is too zoomed in for most, and a monthly is not specific enough – not that we don’t have our uses for those (stay tuned to future blogs).

Our number one most common piece of feedback from students “When I use my planner consistently, my grades are better. When I don’t, the grades come down. It’s hard to take the extra few minutes, but it’s worth it.”  Set reminders or alerts in your phone to help you prioritize.

2 – USE your planner efficiently.

Key factors in planner use:

  • Due dates/deadlines ON the day they are due (then break down into mini deadlines and to-do items)
  • Be SPECIFIC – instead of “study”, write out each exact step in days prior (make own study guide, search extra images, complete review packet, make flashcards, quiz self, re-do review packet, etc.)   BONUS! This helps reduce procrastination because it makes each piece seem more manageable instead of something large and vague to avoid (“write paper” or “study”) – think of how these phrases makes you feel!
  • Build in “cushion time” – aim for getting long term tasks done a couple of days early, so if something comes up, pushing it back one day won’t be a big deal.
  • Include non-academic and fun activities in your planner to see the big picture and plan ahead (plus get motivated)
  • Estimate times (this can take practice) for how long each will take, then write out a quick plan for how everything will get done that evening or day – working around set appointments or activities.
  • Take a minute to update the planner with what did or did not get done to be sure it is still accounted for- we get it, life can be busy!

3 – Make planner use a daily thing.

Last, but NOT least, PRIORITIZE your planning as part of a daily routine. Taking 10 minutes to update the planner and map out the night can save hours of work and loads of stress!  Be sure you know where to look for all of the relevant information – many teachers use multiple ways of sharing assignments (online sites, board at school, verbal instructions… find a friend or student you can check with to be sure you didn’t miss anything).

Check out some great options (and see student examples) here: http://efscoach.com/shop/

OR search online for a planner that includes each of the features above.

You can even scroll down and download our free sample to give it a try!

Happy Planning!



Your ACT Score Does Not Define You (but it IS this week)

Your ACT Score Does Not Define You (but it IS this week)

While I don’t necessarily encourage students to wait until the last minute if they want to prepare, I definitely understand that it happens. Life gets in the way. People get sick. Schoolwork piles up.  Stressful things happen. Let’s not let the ACT be one of them.

One thing I will say is how incredibly frustrating it can be to watch student after student come into my office and beat themselves up over test scores or become so stressed they can hardly focus or call on any strategies they may have learned.  So often, I watch as students shut down beforehand or hear of them shutting down during because they don’t even want to try or feel they are just going to fail anyhow. Then, there’s the never ending talk about scores – whether it be self talk, student chatter or reminders about how important this test is from parents.

Due to the frustration of watching students struggle and stress (and the joy of watching as they find more confidence and success), I am sharing below a few quick and simple strategies my clients have found to be efficient and effective over the years.

Students, please, if you remember anything of what you read here, please remember this:


I have worked with hundreds of students over the past fourteen years, and can say that hands down many of the most intelligent, witty, engaging, creative, communicative, intellectual, and interesting ones have truly struggled with standardized testing.  The scores are NOT a reflection of how intelligent you are, but few are able to shake the feeling that they aren’t smart when those numbers do not come out as high as they had hoped.  I have also worked with many a student who had a difficult time in school or managing tasks or with grades, but scored in the 30s on the ACT.  I have seen students rock the ACT but come home from college or receive failing grades because they had not developed the necessary skills to truly find success, manage stress and accomplish what they had set out to do.

So, I ask of you the following. Do your best, but remain calm. The test results do NOT predict your future. If you choose to go to college, you WILL find a school that is a good fit for you regardless of your score.  Try not to compare yourself to others- we all have our strengths and areas of opportunity. Get some sleep, take a few deep breaths, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, use your strategies and check out the tips below – then, go and knock it out!

FREE ACT Tips and Strategies Webinar- WATCH NOW 

Our top few favorite tips:


  • Go straight to the questions.
  • Treat the “NO CHANGE” option equally, and as if it were simply the underlined portion of text from the paragraph in its place.
  • Try marking the beginning and end of sentences off with parentheses to help guide you – this saves you time and mental energy in going back and forth, skimming to find the start of each question every time you replace and test an option – not to mention, spacing between lines within a paragraph are often spread out, making it difficult to keep sentences together.
  • Choose the SHORTEST/ most concise option first and try that one (for Qs with no intro question). If it works, pick it and move on
  • For each question, quickly skim the answer choices and ask yourself what’s different between these (commas? word choice? transition words? length of phrase?). This helps you think of which rules or strategies you’ll need for this question.
  • For comprehension related questions, try to do a quick skim of the topic sentences or paragraphs for the main idea (ex: history of potatoes, John Doe’s background info, how bubbles are formed, other inventions) and make a QUICK note in the margin.  This helps see the focus and big picture – plus, it helps with the questions about paragraph location and author’s purpose.


  • Go to the END of the question first. This one is a fan favorite. By reading WHAT the question is asking before you go back and read the details and numbers, it helps you focus on what type of problem it is or what you are looking for in the end AS you are reading.
  • Draw and write on the test. Circle key words. Translate information (ex:  a=3.2, L=8cm ) as you read.
  • Remember, many problems look more complicated than they really are.
  • Ignore extra language. Sometimes “for all real numbers, such that the domain is… find _____” REALLY just means “solve”.
  • If pacing is an issue or you are running short on time, try using the Easy-Medium-Hard approach – if the problem is easier or can be done quickly, DO IT RIGHT AWAY.  If it is one that you feel you can do, but need more time, mark with an “M” and come back later.  If you truly have no idea or can’t imagine figuring it out, either guess or mark with an “H”.  After you finish the easy Qs, come back and do ALL mediums.  THEN, if you have time, go back and complete the hard questions. If you do run out of time, at least you are guessing on the questions you may not have figured out anyhow.


  • Choose your strategy.  You can read the passage first IF you are able to read and comprehend quickly, then move on to questions. Many students, however, find they run short on time and prefer to either preview the questions then read or skim OR only read the introduction, topic sentences and conclusion.
  • Regardless of strategy, it is also helpful to make quick notes in the margin – just a couple of key words to remind you of the topic of the paragraph. This helps with comprehension questions
  • Be sure to check ALL parts of the answer choices. Often, there are two components to each answer option.  Sometimes one is true, but the other is not.  Don’t be fooled by a partially correct answer.
  • Remember to keep an eye on the time.


  • It is usually not necessary to read all of the background information. It’s best to not overthink the science section.
  • Go straight to the questions.
  • Underline and circle or make notes as you go.  Look for patterns and trends (as ___ goes up, ____ goes down).
  • When looking at data, tables, graphs, etc., pay close attention to the axes, titles, labels and units.  These are a great indicator as to where to look for the info that you need.  Sometimes, the trend on the axis itself is what they are asking about!
  • Draw and mark on the charts – this helps you to see where the data fits.
  • Be sure if the numbers aren’t in order on a table, that you arrange them in order to look for trends.


  • IF taking the writing section, be sure to focus on organization, structure and clear evidence and support.
  • Use examples, and show that you know how to integrate support and relate to your topic sentence.
  • Stay on topic within your paragraphs and use transitions – this is KEY so the paper flows.
  • Personal or real world examples are key in illustrating your understanding of the concepts – do not just repeat the prompts and ideas they have shared.
  • Be sure your thesis is clear, you stay on topic and you leave them with food for thought.  (If ____ does not occur… ____ could be how this turns out….  or some such).
  • Address the counter argument – acknowledge the opposing view and counter that argument with your own points.
  • Remember, this is scored as a draft.  It’s more important to pay attention to the above than to make it absolutely perfect.

** We are also offering a full one hour webinar with even MORE strategies and examples-

 check out our special offer HERE

($30.00 instead of $50!)  

STOP the Madness!

STOP the Madness!

I did not become a parent so that I could have little people around to hound and nag on a daily basis… but sometimes, I simply do not know what else to do.  I know that I SHOULDN’T and that it is NOT effective, but I often find myself doing it anyhow.

By general (non-scientific) estimate, I find that at least 80 percent of the parents who come to me for support have exactly this concern (difficulty finding better ways to interact and defaulting to nagging, hounding or lecturing as a result).

It comes from somewhere good, somewhere deep within.  We want our children to have the best chance for success and to not have to learn so many lessons in the hard ways that we often learned.  We want to protect them from the consequences of some of the choices we see them making (not turning in work, choosing to procrastinate in lieu of studying, handing in mediocre work, poor time management, being socially unaware, lack of planning, acting out in search of attention, not asking for help – I could go on).

Oddly enough, as much as we think they don’t, our children DO KNOW this.  They know we have their best interests in mind.  Remember they arechildren (even the teenagers). Regardless of age, they haven’t lived and learned nearly as much as we have. Their brains haven’t developed to have the maturity and foresight that we have (or the ability to make logical and non-emotional decisions).  Sometimes, there is a neurological explanation for why they are having trouble getting things accomplished or remembering tasks (attention, learning, social-emotional, sensory, anger/frustration, or stress/anxiety related challenges and more).

However, because we tend to have selective memory (and generally grab small bits and pieces of our past experiences, mostly positive in nature), it’s easy to forget the valuable lessons that came as a result of each decision we have chosen to make in our own lives.

For today’s post, I am sharing a few tried and true “Instead of this, try that” suggestions.  I’d love to hear how they work for you (or what works), so message us or post a comment as you give these a try.

INSTEAD OF emailing the teacher,
TRY helping your child write an email or jot a few bullet points down about what they want to ask, so they can do this on their own.

INSTEAD OF listing reasons why homework is important and matters,
TRY asking them what value it has, or help them think forward and consider the outcomes of their efforts (if I slack on homework, it means ____, which means _____ which means _____) to help find their OWN values associated with these tasks and their day-to-day.

INSTEAD OF telling them what to do,
TRY asking what they want to do or accomplish; then ask what will that take…. and what will THAT take…until they come up with their OWN solutions or ideas.

INSTEAD OF calling them in late to school or writing an excuse,
TRY allowing them to realize the natural consequences. Consistently.   When used in conjunction with other strategies and an overall plan, the results have potential to be profound and lasting.

INSTEAD OF repeating directives a hundred times,
TRY removing the verbal aspect.  Perhaps make a sign:  “shoes,” “teeth,” “planner”…  Gesture or guide them with no words-even whisper instead of raising your voice.

INSTEAD OF checking their grades,
TRY letting them know you would like to check their grades soon, and ask if they think it’s a good idea to check themselves first (Side-note: this is a tough one, and the majority of students express that the negative feedback from parents contributes to further resistance and anger on the student’s part…sometimes they avoid doing the work on purpose out of frustration that parents make a big deal of grades – particularly when grades are often not updated, entered as a zero or as a placeholder by the teacher, or are inaccurate for some other reason.  They express, quite often, that their confidence comes down, and they feel that all their parents really care about are the grades).

These are just a few of our go-to strategies.  We have significantly stepped up our social media efforts, and are regularly posting ideas, tips and articles.  For more fabulous ideas and insight, be sure to click the links to follow us, and be sure check out our previous blog posts as well.

We look forward to hearing what works for you, and what ideas you find most successful or have come up with to manage these challenges at home.

STAY TUNED for more exciting announcements and offerings – coming soon!

Image via VGstockstudio/shutterstock

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