Kids do well if they can.

“He knows what he needs to do.
I’ve reminded him 10 times already.
This isn’t that hard. 
Why isn’t he doing it? 
Does he just not care?
I talk to parents all the time who are worried that their kids just don’t seem to care about doing well, because they’re not following through and doing the things they need to in order to be successful. 
But when I meet with their kids, what I hear over and over again is that these kids WANT to do better. 
They don’t enjoy disappointing their parents…or themselves. 
They want to feel proud of themselves, and make their parents happy. 
They’re just having a really hard time getting there.
So, who’s right? 
When kids behave badly, is it because they don’t want to do well?
Or is it because something is getting in their way, and making hard for them to follow through?
Ross Greene’s quick 4-min video does a wonderful job of explaining the differences between these two philosophies: 
What approach do you usually take?
If you adopt the philosophy that “kids do well if they want to“…and they’re NOT doing well…that means your job is to make them want to to better.
This is where rewards & punishments come from — the idea that kids won’t want to do well on their own, so we need to provide extra motivation & incentive for them to perform well. 
But I talk to a lot of parents who tell me that they’ve tried giving their kids rewards for earning good grades, doing their homework, or keeping their binders organized…but their kids still aren’t following through. 
They’ve also tried taking away every privilege they can think of, to motivate their kids to do better…but nothing has changed, and now they’re running out of things to take away.
If you adopt the ‘kids do well if they can’ philosophy, this makes a lot of sense.
If a kid is already motivated to do well, rewards & punishments won’t have a big impact on his behavior.
What can help is collaborating with him to figure out what’s getting in his way…and then helping him develop the skills, environment, or structure he needs in order to be able to do better.
This approach puts you back on the same team as your kids — rather than on opposite sides of the battlefield — and is much more likely to be successful. 
Putting it into action…
The next time your kid isn’t following through and doing what you think they should, try asking yourself…
what’s making this hard for him?” 
what could be getting in his way?”
…and see how that changes your perspective.
I look forward to seeing what you notice!

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By |January 29th, 2016|Categories: Mindset, Motivation, Study skills|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Maggie Wray is an Atlanta-based academic coach who helps high school & college students achieve their academic potential by improving their organization, time management, study skills, and mindset about school. To set up a time to speak with Maggie about how to help YOUR teen develop the skills he or she needs to thrive academically, visit or email

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