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I'm a 9th grade student (14 years old) who is described as an "intelligent person", at least relative to my peers. My parents are divorced. I live with my younger brother and mother, while my father lives and works in another country. I'm into programming (I want to become a software dev, and I already have a small part-time job online with some friends), watching anime, playing games etc.

There's one issue though: At school, I don't really get excellent grades, or the first in terms of scores, even though I have the ability to. I also don't revise at home, or do my homework as it should be done, except in Maths, partly because I do most of it in class.

My parents have told me many times that I should get the best/perfect scores, and think that while at home I should study all week except for a 2-hour break per weekend. I have no computer or phone except for those 2 hours. I am not convinced that they are correct.

I have been since getting worse scores since my access has been limited so severely. I tried suggesting a flexible timetable to study and use electronic devices in a balanced way, but that got rejected by my father. I was later asked to choose between being an excellent student (the restriction would apply) or be a mediocre one (in my father's words, that then he would give me back the computer/phone). I chose no option initially, because I want the best of both worlds, but he insisted, so I finally chose the second option. Then right after that he talked to my mother and told her to take away everything from me (including tearing my debit card apart), that's when he truly deceived me.

Perfection isn't everything; even if I am not the first in my class, I get one of the best grades (18/20 in the overall yearly score.

Recently a trip was announced to a country by our school but my father gave me the choice again, but this time I chose the first choice (only way to go to the trip), but that's it, only a choice, I haven't picked up a single book yet. He also told me that as long as I don't abide by anything, then they too won't, and I will have an indefinite restriction on everything else.

How can I convince them that top grades aren't my priority, but at the same time keep my privileges as an incentive to achieve them?

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    There's a lot of hard stuff going on here, and while we wish we could help you, there's much more going on than anyone on the internet can help you with. Maybe you can discuss this with a school counselor, another professional or an adult you trust. Good luck and hang in there. Many have been through something very similar and made it out ok. – anongoodnurse Dec 24 '16 at 1:34
  • I edited the last paragraph to clarify the question(s), is that enough? – DartShots Dec 24 '16 at 12:59
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    Well to be honest I actually want what he wants too (goals), but him going for it this way only made me more resistant to it, I cannot do my best (in studies etc) unless I know that I have some "freedom" (more flexible access to computer/phone etc) in this. I know that in the end I am the one who's losing, but I honestly can't help it... I had many chances in the recent years but I wasn't thoroughly aware of it yet. Also not only my father is doing this, my mother also plays a bit part in this (ensuring that I abide by what he says since I live with her) – DartShots Dec 24 '16 at 17:45
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    @Haunt_House "Your father seems terribly afraid that you will fail in life". Well maybe that's the reason, because he once said to me "You cannot be excellent without being a 100% hard working person", but I disagree with that because I know my abilities and my limits. One suggestion would be to show him the proof that I can be excellent without studying all the time but unfortunately that's not possible (check comment above) and would only result in a catch-22 situation (Can't get access to what I want because I don't study hard; Can't study hard because I don't have access to what I want) – DartShots Dec 24 '16 at 18:01
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    Maybe you could cut down that arrogant attitude of yours... It is absolutely true that you'll never achieve anything of any consequence without hard work, better learn that sooner than later. – user7953 Dec 26 '16 at 0:01
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I'll give you a view from the perspective of an employer, and of a parent:

  • when I get 80 applications for a graduate role, one of the first things I cull on is academic performance. I will keep the top ten CV's based on exam results and breadth of learning, as what I want is people who can learn. If you can't learn well, and within the structure I have, then I cannot use you as an employee. You will not get employed in my industry at all.

  • universities do the same. They accept those with high academic scores. So my kids will do all the studying required in order to get good results at school so they can choose the university they want. If they don't study enough, they won't get any time online. It's really that simple.

So what your father wants is to make sure that first door is not closed for you. His approach may not work for you, so discussion with him is obviously required, but you also need to realise there are people out there smarter than you and who will work harder than you, so not putting in all the effort you can is shooting yourself in the foot. As fkraiem commented, this is one of those occasions you need to revisit your attitude to this.

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    Glad to see this answer. One of my kids always wanted to be a doctor, but he was a lazy kid, didn't want to do his math lessons, etc. I would tell him if he wanted to get into med school, he had to do well in everything they looked at, whether it made sense to him or not. I would tell him, "If part of the requirement is that you can do good backflips, then you'd better start practicing your backflips." It took a long time, but he eventually learned to become a really hard worker. He got in. That's what parents want - for their kids to be able to achieve what they want to in life. – anongoodnurse Dec 27 '16 at 1:06
  • I know hard work is necessary, but it's not like forcing it on me would make it any better or easier for me to learn. – DartShots Dec 27 '16 at 12:57
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    Well, by your own account you have not been performing well enough. So something needs to change. If you aren't doing it yourself, then parents will try to change behaviour using the only tools they have at their disposal. – Rory Alsop Dec 27 '16 at 13:00
  • @WalidNawfalSabihi Knowing is different than actually doing. – Alic Dec 28 '16 at 16:59
  • @RoryAlsop How can I change something if they are refusing anything I suggest without any reason? – DartShots Dec 28 '16 at 17:22
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I'd like to echo a lot of what Rory said in his answer. My take is that getting "good enough" grades isn't really relevant to what I as parent and likely your father hope for from our kids. Going to school at this point, particularly if you are intelligent, is about learning how to be an effective student and a diligent worker. It's not really about the accumulation of knowledge, though that is an important side effect as well.

Your father is trying, in his way I expect, to help you develop those skills. It would seem you and he haven't seen eye-to-eye on this topic yet.

Natural talent will only take you so far in the world, it takes effort and hard work to maximize that talent. Each of us will fall short of what we expect of ourself if we don't develop the skills to really take advantage of our abilities. The earlier that you can develop that self discipline and work ethic the further you're likely to be able to go.

As for what to do here, if you disagree with what you father is hoping to achieve, you can try talking to him but I wouldn't expect to get too far. If you can show that you understand what his goals and intentions are he'll likely hear what you have to say on the subject better though. I suggest you try to think hard about what he is actually hoping to achieve in this situation, if everything could work out perfectly as he laid out. Then you have a good ground to have a conversation about whether what he wants is what you want, and how to negotiate the competing desires. Until you actually understand what each of you want though, it's hard to have productive conversations.

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I had a similar opinion when I was your age. It worked fine in elementary school, well enough in middle school, OK in high school, and poorly in college. By graduate school I had improved my behaviors, and doubt I could have graduated with my previous approach.

There are a couple of angles to consider. First, the school environment may make it easier than you realize to coast rather than learn. It's a lot easier to study for a test with a defined topic that you can prepare for ahead of a fixed date than it is to identify and deploy the correct knowledge, out of all the things you know, to a poorly-defined problem in real life. It's even easier to "be smart" and provide enough correct answers in class that you don't actually learn much at all. You may not have observed this in yourself yet, but by the end of high school you might.

Second, as others have answered already, strong performance in school matters at least as much as anything else when people that are offering something you want feel that it matters. For example, if you're looking to go to college, there are very, very few explanations for poor or middling grades that will still satisfy an admissions board. And even for those explanations that do exist you are unlikely to have an opportunity to make your case.

Finally, regardless of your ability to learn specific subject matter, the ability to focus on unpleasant tasks (even, or perhaps especially, if you don't see the need to do them beyond that you were told to) takes time and practice to develop. If you need better study skills in college for a difficult course but have not developed those skills, you will have to do it at that time and for higher stakes. If you are interested in a career in software development, these skills are absolutely critical to getting and keeping a job, and you will probably not come across a class that teaches them directly. The assumption that you don't need to develop those abilities, or that you already have them without consistently demonstrating them, is risky; being wrong on this can really cost you in exchange for something ultimately trivial (like watching another 30 minutes of TV instead of doing homework).

Your father's restrictions sound too harsh to me, especially if he can't enforce that you actually study and do your homework. But I agree with him 100% that your current outlook will likely hold you back in life, and were I in his place I would probably start restricting your privileges too, especially if your argument for why you don't need to change at all continued to ignore the problems that worried me.

TL;DR: You say that grades are not your top priority, and indeed they seem to be your bottom priority. Demonstrate some actual improvement, in grades, study habits, or both, and you may get some more flexibility in your privileges. Stubbornly refuse and declare that you're doing fine even as your performance slides downhill, while still demanding full leisure privileges, and you may find that your conflicts with your parents intensify.

  • Thank you for your answer. I just want to say something: I am ready, from any moment to atleast try to change my (admittedly bad) habits and study more (= grades improvements in some subjects) but I need my parents to work with me on this. Even when I agree to abide by the restrictions my father insists that even with all this applied nothing is guaranteed, how is that something I can do with? He's even ready to completely give up on me if I don't do what he says. Last time he even almost and maybe actually gave up on me had my mother not stopped him... – DartShots Dec 28 '16 at 17:34
  • You have to prove you can do good before you negotiate. To your dad your request is probably just a way to get what you want, and you don't deliver at the end. And don't keep saying "I can do it if I try". You can only prove that you can do it after you've done it. – Alic Dec 28 '16 at 17:38
  • @Walid It may be impossible for you to get your father to behave as you would like him to, regardless of what you do. From your last comment it sounds as though he has tried to change your behaviors in the past and has not been successful. If that's the case, it may not be realistic to think that he would offer privileges before seeing whether or not you make any adjustments. Better study habits and better grades are ultimately for you anyhow, and will offer you rewards far beyond what your father has restricted today. – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Dec 28 '16 at 17:43
  • So you might have to change your habits "for free", without a guarantee of a reward from your parents. You might not get anything from them at all, but as above you are working towards a better future which you are better prepared to meet. From that perspective the privileges are almost irrelevant-- you aren't learning math so that you can use your phone for two extra hours per week, you are learning it because your desired career requires it. Regardless, you will be in a much better position to get what you want from your father after improvement than you are now. – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Dec 28 '16 at 17:51
  • @Upper_Case You're right. I guess proving my side first is the only viable way to convince him then... – DartShots Dec 28 '16 at 17:52
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It sounds to me like your father believes that you should be acting like he thinks an adult should act.

So here are my thoughts. Look for ways to help around the house and take responsibility for things without being asked. Be subtle when you do these things, you are not trying to look like you only want praise.

Include your parents and family in your studies. Ask for help with understanding your subjects. Be demanding of your father's time for your school work. This will allow him to see how hard you are working and also how difficult the work is. This will have the added bonus of improving your own marks and understanding.

I think that your father will soon be looking for ways to have his own time to himself. As I said, be subtle.

If you do get more free time, be smart with it. This is the one time in your life that you are supported and have few other cares. This is the foundation that you will build your own life upon. In this time of your life, time runs slow. In the not so distant future, it will pass all too quickly. You will look back at these years as so long ago. You will not regret building a sound/strong foundation. Choose subjects that will aid you in your goals. Soon, you will leave your father's rules and financial support behind. Try to think of it like this. He IS paying for you to ultimately do exactly as you please. Once you attain your majority, you need never obey him again, if that is your choice.

Maturity is a funny thing. As we age and gain perspective, we find that our parents made their mistakes out of love and in trying to help us make the best of ourselves.

I left home on my 18th birthday. I left a fully-paid education behind and put myself through university. It took me a long time to grow up enough to forgive my parents for loving me too much. Once I was able to forgive them, that was when I was fully an adult.

Please think it over before you act. You have the luxury of time.

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