Mommie Fearest

Dear Dr. Darcy: 

My 16-year old daughter is not doing well in school and currently has a solid B average. She is constantly studying hours every day but she is doing so badly! We have tried everything from tutoring to grounding her. She knows our expectations are to do engineering, pre-med, or business but her math marks are not good and I am afraid she will have no future. What can I do to help her?


The toughest part of this question is my choice of tone in the answer. I can lean in, give it to you straight and hard, which will entertain my followers but which will likely result in you shutting down and failing to learn anything…or I can spoon feed you an answer that will be more likely to resonate with you but which will surely result in viewers falling asleep before they hit the end. This is my dilemma. And I’m not sure which way to go.

As a parent, it behooves you to view your daughter through a lens of curiosity – which is the exact opposite of having expectations that you impose upon her. Ideally you’d be curious about what she likes, what she exceeds at, where her strengths lie. Instead, you’ve chosen to ignore the very obvious data - which I find odd given your affinity for math (or is it just your daughter who needs to excel at math?) - and you’re pushing her into a narrow choice of fields which require a skillset that doesn't appear to come easily to her. Do you know how it feels to spend your life trying to master an aptitude that doesn’t come naturally? It would be like me expecting you to work in my field, to utilize emotional intelligence on a daily basis.

If you choose to stay on this course, your child will continue to attempt to meet your highly unreasonable expectations, which will destroy her self-esteem and undermine her sense of self, the combination of which is the strongest indicator of life happiness or misery. THIS, not her choice of career, will result in a lifetime handicap, impacting every aspect of her world.  So you see, you have a decision to make: Let her live her life or force her to fail at yours.

Your daughter is doing very well, despite your parenting. The people who run this world and who make 7-figures tend to be the B and C students. Those are the people who become entrepreneurs, who create products, cures, and mathematical equations that change the world. Stop trying to bang a square peg into a round hole, and be grateful that you haven’t provoked an adolescent rebellion to rival our definition thereof.

In the final analysis, I’m not sure which tone I chose. Hopefully one that resonates with you – for your daughter’s sake.