Excuses lead to stagnation and disempowerment.

Doesn't it sound hopeless when your child says “I don't have time for anything”?
Wouldn't it feel terrible if you had no time to do important things?
Especially if it happened over and over again.

Fortunately, there is no such thing as “not having time.”
Below, we analyzed the top 5 most popular excuses high school students make.
Help your child overcome them. It will have enormous impact on their life.
Every time they find themselves in a situation where they would have made excuses in the past, they will approach it with a proactive, as oppose to victimized, attitude.

Can you see how powerful and transformative that will be?

We are going to break down the top 5 excuses and I will explain to you exactly why they are dangerous, how to deal with them and how to turn them into action.

I put each excuse in the context to make them more specific. However, they apply to all kinds of situations. For each excuse, I also included 3 key points you should address in the conversation with your child.

3 key steps to converting excuses into action:

step 1: What challenge causes your child to make the excuse?
step 2: What opportunity for improvement is the challenge pointing towards?
step 3: What are the 1-2 steps your child can take to address the challenge and seek the opportunity?
step 4: What can they do better from now on to thrive in spite of this issue?

Excuse 1: “I don't have time to study for SAT.”

Everyone has 24 hours in a day, it all depends on how you use it.
Apparent lack of time is simply a reflection of lack priorities or clarity.

Everyone – your child, Steven Hawking, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, me and you – we all have 24 hours in a day.
The question is: what does your child do with their 24 hours?
Your child should strive to spend less time on time-wasting activities. Watching TV or playing video games is entertainment, sure – but they become an issue when they take away the time from important things.

What are the challenges?
Your child is not clear on why SAT is a priority or they feel like they don't have enough time for important things. The may also be intimidated by the process.
What opportunities for improvement are there?
Start prioritizing important activities, help your child limit low-value activities and gain clarity to get motivated.
Get your child motivated to study by identifying exactly why good SAT score is important to them. What opportunities will it open for them? What will happen if they don't get a good score? What will happen if they do get a good score?
What are the 1-2 steps you can help your child take to address the challenge?
Help your child set aside a specific amount of time to study every week. Identify the 1-2 steps your child can take today or tomorrow to start preparing for the SAT. Maybe it is solving the first 5 question on the practice test, maybe enrolling in a course, maybe reviewing the first 5 questions of the test they already took. Remember, make it small, up to 15 minutes tops.
What can they do better from now on to thrive in spite of this issue?
Your child can't make more time, but they can definitely free up time. They need priorities.
What low-priority activities can they get rid of or limit to free up more time for important tasks.
Help your child execute. Knowing that SAT is important is great but making time for it and focusing on weekly studying is what counts.

3-step action:

Cut down on low-priority activities (TV, video games).
Take 1 hour a week away from low-priority activities and put it into high-priority activities.
Help your child plan out 1 step to improve their SAT score starting today.

Excuse 2: “I am not smart enough to do math. My friends are smarter.”

Learning is about effort. The learning equation: more effort = more results
Help your child focus on studying effectively, not just studying longer.
Self-evaluate and establish new learning standards.

Your child should never compare themselves to others – it's a confidence killer.
It's the sure-fire way to low self-esteem as the comparison is almost always subjective in a non-flattering way.
Help your child get into a habit of comparing their today's self to their yesterday's self.
Compare their score to their previous score.

The goal: help your child focus on what they can control - their effort.
Emphasize the effort. A lot of times, students don't even try to learn because they have already concluded that they don't have what it takes. Make sure your child looks at learning realistically. Not everything will be easy to them right off the bat! Certain concepts require more effort to understand – it's normal. It's like that for everyone.
Also, make it clear that they should expect no results if they don't put in the work.

Ask your child these questions:
“How much time did you put into learning math last week?
How much of your textbook did you read last week?
How many problems have you solved incorrectly and then went back to solve them again?
How many times did you go to office hours or tutorial center last week?”
The purpose of these questions is not to prove to your child that they are not putting in the work. It is to refocus them on action and results as oppose to excuses.

3-step action:

Help your child understand that they will have to put in the effort to learn – don't expect to understand everything right away.
Help your child establish learning habits that will help them improve consistently: ask one question in every class, go to office hours with 1 specific question, go to tutorial center for 15 minutes a day with 1 specific question.
Help your child focus on being effective: how much they understand, not how long they study.

Excuse 3: “I'm doing my best and I'm still not doing well – what's the point?”

This is a very powerful excuse because it may often seem like your child is actually doing their best.
If that was the case and the results were just not there – that would be so sad! Resist the urge to feel sorry for your child and help them overcome the excuse instead.

The solution: help your child self-analyze.

As we have discussed before, results come from taking action. If your child is taking action and seeing no results, then either what they are doing is ineffective or they are not doing it right. Doing well in high school doesn't require a genius – it's about what your child does or doesn't do. Think about it. If other kids in your child's class are getting As and your child is getting C's - there is something those others kids are doing that your child isn't, right?
It's time to figure out what it is.

3-step action:

How long has your child been doing their best for? - doing their best for a week might not bring immediate results. Your child needs to do their best consistently.
What could they try doing differently? Dig into taking test strategies, homework routine, their attitude.
Could they get help to cut the learning curve or to simply make learning easier?

Excuse 4: “I have ADHD”

Focus is a muscle, it can be developed.
Even if your child does, in fact, have ADHD there are simple ways of improving their focus.

ADHD has become a buzzword for lack of focus. Focus is a skill your child can develop. Lack of focus or even diagnosed ADHD do not justify lack of effort. Don't let your child's lack of focus become their excuse.
There are simple ways to improving focus, with or without ADHD.
Focus on proven techniques: limit distractions, measure and expand focus time, have clarity of action.
Getting off social media, off Youtube and not watching TV while studying is a great way to start.
Clarity of action is knowing exactly what you are trying to accomplish before you start doing it. Have a specific goal in mind.
Brainstorm ways to improve focus. Eating regularly, drinking water and taking vitamins plays an important role. No matter how important the test is, your child won't focus if they are so thirsty they can't even think.
Emphasize the role of focus in daily life. SAT is 3 hours long - it takes focus. Any job requires steady, 8-hour-long stretches of productivity – that takes focus, too.

3-step action:

Make focus training part of a daily routine: timed focus challenges, starting with 5 minutes.
Break down big tasks into small pieces. Focus only on the next piece – not the whole task.
Encourage your child to go to the quiet study area of their library and stay there for 30-45 minutes – that environment will force them to focus better.

Excuse 5: "It's too hard."

Remind your child of another concept that he or she considers very easy now, in spite of major initial difficulty it caused them.
Emphasize the importance of exposure – if your child didn't read the material all the way at least twice, they simply didn't expose themselves to the concepts enough to conclude that they are hard.

Make sure your child gets enough exposure to the chapter in the first place. If their attitude was negative from the very beginning, the initial confusion might have been enough for them to give up – it happens a lot. Encourage your child to read through the first 3 pages of the chapter at least twice and mark the specific confusing parts.

Ask your child “what's hard about it?”
Figure out why it is too hard – help them name specific aspects, something tangible, a distinguishable part.

What are some of the possible responses?
If your child says that “it is just hard”, they likely didn't put effort into understanding it yet.
If it is lack of confidence, the solution is to get more practice.
If it is about a specific type of problem, it's a matter of finding that type of problem in the textbook or asking the teacher about it.
If it is about a specific concept, it's time to go to office hours with a specific question about that part.

Whatever specific challenge your child is facing, help them define a specific step to address that challenge. Remember, there is no such thing as “just hard.” There is always a specific, tangible part you can address.

3-step action:

Make sure your child gained enough exposure and encountered a specific challenge as oppose to simply concluding that “it's just too hard.”
Ask your child “what's hard about it?” and keep defining it more and more until it is a very tangible, distinguishable part.
Help your child brainstorm how to address that specific challenge – through practice, research or seeking assistance from their teacher or tutor.


Killing excuses is not a one-time thing. After you start weeding them out, they still tend to pop up again. You need to react the same way each and every time: with zero tolerance, convert them into action.

Start Right Now

Which one of the excuses does your child use the most?

Take 1 minute right now to think of 1 way to convert that excuse to action.

Let me know what you came up with!
Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or on facebook or twitter.

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