Every parent’s dream is for their children to be happy, healthy, and successful in life. A big part of that equation is tied to education, particularly during the teenage years, as adolescents enter adulthood and schooling becomes optional. It is to be expected that some percentage of students are not convinced that finishing school is worthwhile. These same individuals may consider themselves poor students, or are simply more interested in gaining work experience as it relates to earning money. While your child may offer seemingly valid excuses for his or her decision to not finish high school or apply to college, there is an arsenal of statistics about high school and college graduates that attests to the benefits of completing both. Because your child may be anxious to become part of the workforce your best counterargument available would be to cite social and economic realities of those who forego educational opportunities. By sharing this information with your skeptical child, you will be better armed to motivate him or her to aspire to higher educational goals.
You should first have a serious conversation with your child about their future talking in general terms. In order for your child to also consider your point of view, you first need to listen to theirs. Rather than lecture, which can be undermining, give your teenager the opportunity to explain their thoughts so that you can better engage them in a meaningful dialogue about the issue. If your child feels misunderstood or dismissed, they will simply become defensive, and as a result, less likely to reevaluate their opinions.
If your child is having doubts about even finishing high school inform him or her that holding a diploma matters. For example, the U.S. Department of Education maintains that high school graduates are less likely to be unemployed. In contrast, according to the National Center for Education Statistics website, individuals who dropped out of high school had a 16.3% unemployment rate nearly a decade later. This translates into approximately $400,000 less income earnings in a lifetime for non-graduates versus graduates. The numbers speak volumes; if your child wants a good, stable job with real income potential, they need to stay in school, apply themselves, and complete their studies.
For those who question attending college, the percentages are even more compelling. According to Tiffany Hsu from the Los Angeles Times, “People with a bachelor’s degree make 84% more over a lifetime than high school graduates.” Because many adolescents underestimate or romanticize the idea of becoming independent and self sufficient this information can be extremely powerful. Young adults need to realize tha,t while they may be pulling in wages, they will most likely never be financially secure. Holding a college degree is the best way to survive in the economically volatile 21st Century and beyond.
If after having a discussion that includes these facts your child is still determined to follow a different path than the one you had hoped, all you can do as a parent is respect that decision and know that you have done your best to encourage their educational ambitions.