Being a parent means making sure your kids’ priorities are right.

For my kids, this means I place an emphasis on schoolwork, taking care of themselves and helping others.

When their priorities get screwed up, which happens often with teenagers, it means I have to do my best set them back on the right path.

For me, this is one of the hardest parts of being a parent.

Over winter break, I found myself having to make some hard decisions regarding my 14-year-old daughter, Jaiden. She just completed her first semester of high school, and, unfortunately, her final grades did not reflect my expectations or her ability as a student.

I know that now is the time to start figuring out a good work-life balance. Doing so will help her now, in college and well into adulthood.

Jaiden is intelligent and has always been a decent student, but she also has a tendency to put much more emphasis on the sports she’s playing than on her schoolwork. In middle school her grades never really suffered, but I knew the days of minimal effort with maximum results would be short lived. High school is much harder than middle school.

So before this school year even started, I made sure to discuss things she could do to create good study habits, as well as helpful tips for prioritizing her homework. We even discussed what approach to take if she noticed her grades starting to slip.

However, within the first few weeks of school I still found myself regularly reminding her to shift her focus to doing well in school — whether or not it was what she really wanted to do. I knew she understood the importance of what I was telling her, but I also knew she would eventually have to learn how to prioritize the many facets of life on her own.

That’s when I decided to give her space to make her own decisions regarding her school work. I knew I was taking a risk but I also knew she would need to see the results of her own actions.

So when the semester ended and Jaiden’s grades reflected her apathetic approach to schoolwork, I had to step in and have a long talk with her about my expectations going forward. As much as she loves participating in sports, we discussed the possibility of putting them on hold until she raises her grades. Although it’s possible she could go on to find a career in sports, the likelihood of it becoming a reality is slim. But doing well in school now will help her excel in the future by possibly getting her into a good college to earn a degree in the field she wants to work in — however many times that might change.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did Jaiden understand what I was saying, but she wholeheartedly agreed. She even suggested purposefully taking a season off sports to put the focus back on her studies. She knows that with a little extra effort, last semester’s grades could have been higher. She's determined to do well going forward.

So while the conversation wasn't a fun one to have, I am confident this entire ordeal was a good learning experience for Jaiden. Sports are important — and I want her to continue to do things she loves — but she also needs to understand it's so important to figure out a good work/play balance. It's better to figure this out at a young age because it's something that will continue to benefit her as an adult when she's balancing a career, possibly a family and having fun all at the same time.


Amanda Smith, a working mom of two children, writes weekly for Read more from Amanda »

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