We are in week two of a series for my ministry parents equipping them to disciple their own kids through the “Tough Stuff”. I send out a weekly email to all the parents in our ministry and last week we talked helping your kids when they find their identity completely in their friendships.

Tough Stuff # 2 – “My grades don’t matter (or matter too much).”

The Symptoms – Grades are important and schoolwork is important. We all want our children do live up to their potential and do well in life. On the whole, establishing good grades helps them move along that path. Also, God is honored when we give our best in all of our efforts. Middle schoolers sense this. They live in a world where there is pressure to perform academically. Students who struggle in keeping the right perspective will either over or under-emphasize the importance of their schoolwork. Kids who over emphasize grades will stress and worry every time they get less than straight A’s. Their mood will often rise and fall when they do better (or worse) than other classmates. They may even cheat in order to maintain their academic standing.

Someone who undervalues their grades can be struggling with identity as well. (Warning: I’m not an education specialist, or an expert on learning disorders. This is only meant to address the desire to learn from a Spiritual perspective). Students who undervalue their school work may only put in the minimum amount of effort to get by. Some may even manage to get good grades by skating by. Others will resort to cheating so they don’t have to put in an honest effort. (note how cheating can be a result of two very different heart conditions)

The Root Cause – When your child overemphasizes their academic achievement, they are looking for superior grades for their worth. Unless they are the smartest, most respected student, they have no value. Approval (from parents and teachers) and respect (from peers) are the fuel they crave. This can result in pride and arrogance (“I am smarter than you”) toward others.

When your student undervalues their education, they also have an identity issue. They are failing to see their academic effort as an extension of their place in God’s world. They have believed the lie that says who they are is not reflected in how they act.

The Gospel Solution – Ephesians 2:8-10 offers the Gospel solution for both of these students. The student who finds their worth in their grades needs a deeper understanding of the Gospel of grace. We have been accepted based on Jesus’ work not on our own merit (Ephesians 2:8-9). God is not judging us based on our report card, but based on Jesus’ report card (who got a perfect score in the test of life). When your student understands God’s love and grace they can maintain humility when they succeed and joy when they fail.

The student who fails to put effort into their school needs to remember that they are God’s workmanship created to do good works (Eph. 2:10). The right response to God’s grace is to allow our whole lives to be an offering of worship to Him (Rom. 12:1). They should want to excel in their world because God created them to reflect God’s glory to others. Just as Adam and Eve were given the mission to order their world, we reflect God’s image when we order our worlds. For students their world includes their school work. Help them see that their they should worship God through putting effort into their school work.

Next week we will address Tough Stuff # 3 “Rebellion at Home”