Obsessed with Getting an A

“I have a 98.7 average, and I want to go to an Ivy League college. My mom and dad both graduated from Ivy League schools and so did my brother.” Leslie, age 16, was staying up until two in the morning studying in hopes she’d follow in her family’s footsteps.

Naturally we all want our kids to do well in school. We want them to succeed. However, some kids are driven. They become fixated on getting nothing lower than an A.

In itself, getting all A’s isn’t a problem as long as it doesn’t create emotional problems. However, if you see signs that your child’s natural ambition for excellence is becoming problematic, you need to step in.

Staying up night after night until 2 AM studying simply isn’t okay. Teens need their sleep.

If your child is doing very well in school, it’s unlikely that she’s compensating for an overlooked learning disability. However, you will want to rule out a such a disability.

Symptoms of Being Driven:

• His highly competitive nature causes him to revel in the failures of others.
• Constructive criticism from you, teachers or friends causes her to be hostile and stomp away angry or in tears.
• He begins cheating in order to maintain his grades.
• She can’t accept making mistakes, so she makes up excuses in order to cover up.
• He stays up all hours of the night studying.
• She has meltdowns when she gets below an A.

 Three Recommendations to Help Your Child Succeed without being Driven:

1. Focus on learning. Talk to your child about school, what he’s learning, and what he enjoys. Ask questions and show an interest in his whole school experience. Take the focus off grades and tests.

2. Explain failure. Tell your child that failure, or in Leslie’s case less than perfection, is part of learning. Failure is okay. Getting a B is perfectly acceptable. It happens to the best of us at one time or another. Share a time that you failed, in or out of school, and what you may have learned from the experience.

 3. Look at Your influence. Ask yourself honestly if you might be putting pressure—spoken or unspoken—on your teen  to get straight A’s, to get into an Ivy League college. Be aware that an overdriven teen may be the result of an overdriven parent. Keep your child’s emotional and
physical health in focus. Accept your child for who he is.

A lot of pressure is put on teenagers right now—from school and from friends, even from the media. As parents,  it’s our job to help them weather the storms.

Does you child have a meltdown when they get a B? What do you tell them about success. Share your ideas with your readers. Use the comment box below.


  1. Concerned Student says:

    I really hate AP chem and AP econ.

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