Modern Family Matters

Raising Children in a High Achievement Culture: How Effective Co-Parenting Can Help Prevent a Child From Becoming a Disintegrated Student

December 06, 2021 with Jeannine Jannot Season 1 Episode 39
Modern Family Matters
Raising Children in a High Achievement Culture: How Effective Co-Parenting Can Help Prevent a Child From Becoming a Disintegrated Student
Show Notes Transcript

Join us as we sit down with Student and Parent Coach, Dr. Jeannine Jannot, to discuss how a high achieving culture can result in a disintegrated student, and how co-parents can work together to find a healthy balance for their child. In this episode, Jeannine and Steve cover the following:

 •  Today’s high achievement culture, how it impacts our kids and families, and how divorce fits into this culture.
 •  Introducing the idea of a disintegrating student – bright, capable kids who hit a rigor tipping point, begin to struggle, and may eventually fall apart.
 •  Practical strategies that divorced co-parents can use to support their kids who are stressed out and overloaded with academics, sports, and activities
 •  How you define “success” in your family after a divorce and how to get everyone on the same page.
 •  How the intense pressure kids are under in school can impact the quality of their relationships with parents.
 •  What parents can do to minimize some of the negative consequences of the achievement culture (burnout, conflict, and anxiety).
 •  Some common pitfalls parents fall into that may be counterproductive, and how co-parents can deal with their own high levels of stress and burn out. 

If you would like to speak with one of our family law attorneys, please call our office at (503) 227-0200, or visit our website at

For more of Dr. Jannot’s parenting tips and to learn more about her coaching and book, The Disintegrating Student: Struggling But Smart, Falling Apart, & How to Turn It Around, visit, or visit her Facebook page Jeannine Jannot

Disclaimer: Nothing in this communication is intended to provide legal advice nor does it constitute a client-attorney relationship, therefore you should not interpret the contents as such.


Welcome to Modern Family Matters, a podcast devoted to exploring family law topics that matter most to you. Covering a wide range of legal, personal, and family law matters, with expert analysis from skilled attorneys and professional guests, we hope that our podcast provides answers, clarity, and guidance towards a better tomorrow for you and your family. Here's your host, Steve Altishin.


Steve Altishin  0:02  

Hi, everyone. I'm Steve Altishin, Director of Client Partnerships here at Pacific Cascade Family Law, and today we're here with student parent coach, Jeannine Jannot. to discuss how our high achieving culture can result in a disintegrating student, and also how co-parents can work together to help them. So before we started Jeannine, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?


Jeannine Jannot  0:57  

Absolutely. Thanks for having me on today to talk live with your people, it's awesome. So I'm Jeannine Jannot, I live in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I'm a student and parent coach. My background is school psychology, and I have a doctorate in child and developmental psychology. But most importantly, I am the mom to three awesome kids. And they range in ages from 25 to 18. So I spent a lot of time at home as a mom with them. And when my youngest was an elementary school student, and my middle child was in middle school, and my son, the oldest, was in high school, I started teaching college. So that's what got me looking at what I call the disintegrating student, because I was seeing really stressed out kids who were really overwhelmed and didn't have a lot of skills. And that's what actually led me to start my academic coaching. And also write the disintegrating student.


Steve Altishin  2:00  

Well, I like that, and the stuff I read was just really stimulating, and just feels on point. Having two kids that are just a little bit older than yours, a lot of stuff you talked about, I was going 'Oh, yeah'. You know, when we started to plan today, we talked about some of the problems you see as a student-parent coach that kids are having in school, and a couple of the issues you raised were, as you said, the concept of a disintegrating student, and how today's high achievement culture just can exacerbate that situation. And thus came the title for today's Facebook Live! So let's start with the concept of a disintegrating student. What is it? What causes it? And how does it impact our kids?


Jeannine Jannot  2:52  

So what it is, and I was surprised to see this in students when I started my academic coaching, these were really bright, high achieving kids who were falling apart. So oftentimes identified as gifted, sometimes having some other learning challenges, ADHD, dyslexia, things like that. But by and large, just the kids who had gone through elementary school, maybe the middle school, not really cracking a book, showing up to class, getting good grades, getting their homework done on the bus, and then class. And then all of a sudden, they kind of hit a wall. And I call that the rigor tipping point. So there's this point where they just become overwhelmed, and they start seeing some inconsistencies in their grades. So if they were predominantly an A student, they're starting to get some B's, and maybe even a C thrown in there. And this is really disorienting and unsettling to students when it happens to them. And it also causes a whole bunch of issues, as you can imagine, in the family. And there's probably a lot of people listening right now going oh my gosh, that sounds like my kid. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that. And it's happened to my own children. I think it might have happened to me, too. 


Steve Altishin  4:05  

Well, you know what, that sounds like my own kids.


Jeannine Jannot  4:09  



Steve Altishin  4:10  

So this tipping point kind of thing you're talking about, what kind of falls from that? What comes from that? I mean, if I say, 'Hey, hey, what's happening?', and the kids kind of like, 'I don't know', how's that work?


Jeannine Jannot  4:29  

Well, that's probably exactly what would happen. So when the grades start to become inconsistent, you know, obviously, that's when parents take notes, like, 'What's going on?' And the kid says, 'I don't know', and they're not lying. They really don't understand what's happening. They're just doing what they've been doing, which is usually not a lot, because they're really bright. They've never needed to study. They've never needed study skills, time management, organization, all those things. And they don't understand that that's the missing piece. So with the rigor tipping point, I've seen it happen at different stages for different students. So it was really common to see like that eighth grade, 10th grade, and maybe the first semester of college being pretty standard rigor tipping points for students. Although, where I live, now with the rigor is ticking, ticking downward, so much more into like the middle school years, so a lot of seventh and eighth graders are starting to take high school level courses in just math or science or ELA. And what's happening is they're going into their freshman year taking sophomore and junior level courses that freshman year. And they are really struggling because there's enough kind of angst built into the transition into high school, and you throw in intense rigor, and just being overwhelmed with all the responsibilities that come with being a high school student. So freshman year has become a real big rigor tipping point. And what's really unfortunate about when the rigor tipping point hits these kids is that this is when miscommunication and misunderstanding start happening between the kids and their parents. So you know, after the parents has asked, and the kid says, 'I don't know', the parent starts figuring out in their own head, 'Oh, my kids lazy, they don't care about school anymore, this is in their control'. And I think as parents, we think that because we've offered help, we've said, 'Can we call the teacher? Can I have a meeting with a teacher? Do I need to email the teacher? Do you need a tutor?' And the kid says, 'No, I've got this'. They don't got this. And in their head, the kid is thinking, 'My parents care more about my grades than they do me', which isn't true. But we do talk an awful lot at our kids about academics. I mean, probably 70% of the times, we're talking to them, we're talking about something school related. So it makes sense that they think that they also think they're not smart anymore, because these are kids who have internalized being a smart kid. And now they're getting feedback that's suggesting maybe they're not so smart. They think it's only happening to them. And they really are worried about disappointing their parents, so that is just setting up a lot of conflict.


Steve Altishin  7:18  

Well then do you think that part of it, it sounds like it's almost because they were so smart, that it was so easy, that they didn't learn maybe some of the fundamental skills, like you said, that kids who needed to learn those early because they didn't have that sort of intuitive thing going on. I remember my son would, in math, he would just do the answers. And I would say, 'Well hold it, where's the display?' And he goes, 'No, no, that's it, that's the answer'. And you know, that only carries you so far, I guess.


Jeannine Jannot  7:56  

Right? And teachers want to see the work, show the work. And so this is the problem, because again, these students are really bright. And they can oftentimes not show the work and get to the right answer. But what I found is they are, you know, they have some skill deficits and counterproductive behaviors in the areas of time management, organization, you know, good study skills and habits, mindset, how they are thinking about their education and learning. And also, the things we all struggle with: sleep, screens, and stress are things that cause us all to struggle. So I always start with-- because the good news is that this disintegration has nothing to do with how smart they are. Nothing at all. It has everything to do with the fact they've never needed the skills, they were always able to compensate because they were so smart. Now they just need to build these skills in. The trick is that they understand what the skills are. And probably the parents have said, here's how you do a time management system, here's how you organize this, and the kid gets it and actually even acknowledges that would probably be helpful. But I think most of us parents out there would go Yeah, but they didn't do it. And the reason for that, and it's taken me a while in my coaching to kind of get to this reason for that, is the mindset piece. So because they have identified so much as being a bright kid, they find this all very threatening to their self esteem and their kind of identity as being a smart kid. So they are going to try, they're not going to ask for help. They're going to resist it. They're going to avoid challenges. They're going to self sabotage. All these kinds of things to protect their self esteem. So that's the piece that has to be dealt with first.


Steve Altishin  9:45  

And that kind of slips into the other concept we talked about, and I really, really thought this was interesting when we talked about it. It's today's high achievement culture. I remember seeing that kind of starting almost when we were in school, but it's nothing like it is today. So can you talk about what that is and how that just impacts all this?


Jeannine Jannot  10:12  

Yeah, it is the thing. The high stakes high pressure achievement culture is what's driving this. It's what's making educators teach the way they're teaching. And students, you know, learn the way they're learning and parents parent the way they're parenting. It's because the message in our high stakes achievement culture has been building for the last at least 30 years; I graduated high school in 82, and I think I was kind of at the beginning of this all starting to happen. And what success is in the achievement culture that we have created is data. So our students feel like data points, because what matters to them and what people success is the grade, the GPA, the standardized test score, you know, check the box, check the box, check the box, to get into this college. And that has a lot of, you know, the down stream consequences of that are just so many because, you know, I think of myself as a parent, I live and breathe this stuff. And it is so hard not to let the pressures associated with that definition of success for your kid be an issue. Like, you know, when you're talking about should you take, two APs or four APs? You know, do you need to have a 3.5, or you need a 4.0+? These are the kinds of issues that are coming up in our families, and it's hard.


Steve Altishin  11:47  

Yeah, I totally get that. I was talking to my daughter once and she said, 'My GPA is not this', and I said, Well, that's impossible!' And she said 'No, no, these other people have it.' I mean, it's kind of crazy. And this pressure, I remember we talked about this, and you said that it really can also impact their feeling of not controlling themselves or sort of being out of control. They're being controlled by others.


Jeannine Jannot  11:54  

Mhm, yeah. So one of the biggest issues I've seen, particularly since COVID has been an issue, is motivation in our students is just an all time low. And a lot of that comes from, for human beings to feel motivated, there's three things we really need: we need to feel like we're in control, so that we have some autonomy in a situation, we need to feel like we have some competency, like, I can handle this, and some connectedness, so this means something to me. And when you think about school, and those three things, control, competency and connection, that's really not there for so many of our students. So you know, what our students are doing is they're just going through and checking the box, by and large. So that cheating, I think every parent is aware of just how rampant cheating is, particularly once kids get into middle school, they cheat through tech, they have all kinds of ways of cheating. And it's just very well tolerated and accepted, at least at certain levels. So I'm not saying every student cheats on big unit tests, but certainly a lot of students are helping each other with homeworks and projects. And some of it's very well intentioned, because they'll look at a friend who says their parents gonna freak out if they don't get an A on this thing. And so they don't want their friend to go through all this stress. And so they help their friend out by giving them the answers or doing some of the work for them or sharing their work. Which, you know, that makes me feel good, or students are watching out for each other. But at the same time, what's happening to their learning and their curiosity in this process? I don't feel like the majority of our students are connected to learning and understanding that it's okay to figure things out and make mistakes. It's just that's not the culture they're in.


Steve Altishin  14:17  

No, no. And like you said, I think if the kids just, for whatever reason, not prepared, they kind of can turn to those things, and then you end up where you end up. So you talked about, again, the concept of all this pressure and high achievement and having to you know, take the LSAT 50 times and stuff. I would imagine if their parents are going through a divorce or splitting up or moving away from each other, that concept while being bombarded by high achievement culture, probably doesn't mix very well. Because I know that parents, when they get divorced, their communication with each other become strained. And when they try to work out issues with their own kids, especially when they're doing custody, parenting time and that kind of stuff,it's really difficult for them to continually work together and focus on what the kids are going through. And so sometimes it becomes a battle over who's controlling the kids more. So what's important? You know, what can parents do to try to understand really what their kids are going through in the first place? Because I think that's the start, and then, you know, find a way to help them.


Jeannine Jannot  15:58  

Yeah, so you know, divorce is an additional change, which any change is a stressor that's placed on a family and, you know, divorced or not, as a family, really to address what's going on as far as the academic piece of it and how that plays out at home, communication is just the key. And so I mentioned earlier, a lot of our communication as parents is just around, 'Did you turn the thing in, what grade did you get? Do you remember you have this thing?' That's how we're communicating to our kids about school. And I think it will be really helpful for parents to listen more and talk less. So we want to engage our kids in conversations where we're being really curious, and not judgmental, and not defensive. But we want to hear. And I think we saw a lot of this happened last year during the pandemic, where I think parents got a bigger kind of eyeful of what education really is today, and saw what their kids were experiencing. But I think we need to kind of build on that and listen to what our kids are telling us. So often, when our kids tried to tell us things, we sort of we jumped in, and we tried to problem solve, and we're not listening to understand. So listening really empathetically, which means kind of, you know, I have to get out of my 57 year old brain and jump into my 18 year olds brain and hear what she's saying, from her perspective. I might have 10 things I could just shoot off right away. I'm a problem solver. So let me just tell you, did you do this? Why did you do this? This will probably work. Easy peasy and we're done. That's not what she wants. That's not what our kids want. They just want us to listen. And so that's actually incredibly powerful. Super, super hard to do, at least for me. But I told my daughter, I said, you just have to stop me. Like I'm recognizing that I do this. I'm recognizing that you don't appreciate it and it's not helpful to you. But my instinct, I love you. And I want to help. So sometimes that overrides my thinking brain to stop and listen. So you have to tell me, you have to put your hand up and go, 'Just listen, please.' And that really worked well.


Steve Altishin  18:25  

Yeah, I mean, the first reaction for so many parents if a kid says 'I'm having trouble with this teacher', is 'I'm going to call that teacher and yell at them'. That's probably not the right first response. And the kind of opening up and communicating, and you talked about your thinking brain, and I know we talked about how our 57 or 68 year old brains aren't the same as a 13 year old and a 15 year old brain. And that difference makes a difference, doesn't it?


Jeannine Jannot  19:03  

It absolutely does. And I mean, our kids brains are hot, and they're hot on emotion. And that's because the thinking part of the brain right here behind your forehead is not fully mature until they're in their late 20s. But their emotional brain has been mature since the second they were born. So when they become emotional, as they often do, they can escalate very, very quickly, obviously, I mean, sometimes we see that as parents were just like, what, what just happened?


Steve Altishin  19:35  

Oh, yeah, I remember that. So you also, I remember, talked about making things a habit. Not just one time things. As you coach, and like you said, you're a parent-student coach, so I'm assuming you talk to both parents and students, what sort of tips do you give parents, especially, on how not only they should just do some things, but maybe even how they end up finally defining success? Because that's always where everyone wants to reach.


Jeannine Jannot  20:14  

Right. So, you know, we're talking about the achievement culture, and it needs to change. I think we're starting very, very slowly to make that shift into something where we're redefining success to mean, you know, learning, growth, resilience, curiosity. I think we're moving in that direction. It's like turning a cruise ship, though, it's going to be super, super slow. It's a cultural shift. So we don't just go out and say, 'Okay, starting tomorrow, this is how it's going to be.' But we do have control over-- and I think it's so important for parents to think about what do we personally have control over--we do have control over what happens in our family, and how we define success in our family. So my advice to parents is, you sit down with your kids and have a very honest conversation around, okay, so this is the reality: if you want to go to this college, it looks like these data points are necessary, this GPA, this many APS, you know, etc, etc. Is that reasonable for you? Is that what you want? Are you willing to do these things, or how do we want to define success for you, in our family, and be okay with that? And repeat that conversation many, many, many times, because if we say things just once to our kids, it doesn't really stick, and they don't really believe us. It really does have to be sort of, it almost has to become the family culture of what's important to us. And that happens when we continually repeat, revisit, and talk about the things that are important to usm and what we're valuing in our family.


Steve Altishin  21:56  

It kind of sounds like, not making getting the A on the test, the definition of success.


Jeannine Jannot  22:07  

You know, that's how I defined it with my youngest. We sat down and I was like, you know, for me, success is you graduate and go to the college you want to go to. I'm not really going to concern myself with what your GPA and all those things. You're old enough to decide where you want to be going and then do the things you need to do to get there. Now it was dicey. Boy, it was a roller coaster ride right up till the end, I was like, are you actually going to graduate, girl? She did. Magna cum laude, I mean, she ended up pulling it out. But it wasn't easy. And it wasn't pretty. But I think we have to put a lot of trust into our kids that they'll get there. We just have this, again, kind of based on fear, this desire of going from A to Z in a straight line. And we have little tolerance to see our kids do the spirally. Like, I have to do it this way to get there. And our kids are uncomfortable with that too. But if you think about your own life, I'm guessing you probably didn't do a straight line A to Z. I mean, I know I I scrolled around there for a while. And all those things brought me to where I am today. And I'm incredibly grateful. But it was never particularly obvious at the time. So I think for parents to kind of keep that in mind and build up our tolerance to see our kids be frustrated, not always get what they want, maybe have to deal with some of those kind of negative consequences, but work their way through it so that they learn that they can handle it. That is such an important thing, and that they were in control.


Steve Altishin  23:51  

That's huge. So what about the parents? I mean, they've got their own high levels of stress and burnout. And again, if they're going through a divorce, and they're having their stress, are any of these things they should talk to the kids about? Or is that one of those things you hide, because you don't want to make your kids more stressed?


Jeannine Jannot  24:16  

Well, I think we do a disservice to our kids if we don't live out loud, to atleast a certain extent. Because if our kids are looking at us and think we've got this all buttoned up, then they get it in their head that that's the expectation. I can't struggle, I can't make mistakes. I have to have this all buttoned up too, and that's not reasonable for our kids. It's not reasonable for us. So I think the more we show, again, we're modeling, we're saying, you know, I'm doing self care because I want to be the best mom I can be by showing up here for you. And that means I need to spend time with my friends. That means I need to get good rest. And that means asking for what I need, and that's not selfish. And I think when we do that, as parents, we are teaching our kids, through our own actions, how to cope, and and how to be resilient. So I think it's hugely important that we address our own burnout, we take the breaks we need, we ask for what we need, because we're showing our kids then how to do it, and giving them permission to do it.


Steve Altishin  25:27  

And if feels like you're building trust with each other. It's like, not only is it important that your kid trusts you, but that you trust your kid.


Jeannine Jannot  25:40  

Absolutely. And being vulnerable with our kids. I mean, that's one of the hardest lessons I think I learned as an adult was bringing myself out of  that fixed mindset, sort of disintegrating student kind of thing, where I was being defensive, and my self esteem being tied up around some things, and being willing to be honest and vulnerable in those areas and kind of come clean. It's saying, Oh, I don't really know what I'm doing, or I'm struggling, or I've made a mistake. If we can do that out loud for our kids, boy, it just changes the relationship, especially if we add some good communication in there. And we become, especially as they become teenagers and stuff, we can be more like, partners, you know, in the relationship, instead of this kind of power struggle, conflict that often ends up happening instead.


Steve Altishin  26:34  

So as parents, we're going to try to do all these things to make it better, and to help make it better. But there's got to be some pitfalls that in trying to do our best, we may end up doing some things that are counterproductive.


Jeannine Jannot  26:53  

Yeah, we do. But it comes from a place of love. I've done it a million times. I did it yesterday. It's very well intentioned, but the love can turn to fear pretty quickly, especially when we're being pressured by the achievement culture to kind of do things a certain way. So I think the biggest thing that we do is we probably help more than our kids need us to, or want us to, and we micromanage. So again, when we micromanage and get into their business, and we're checking on their grades, and doing all those kinds of things, the subtle message we're sending to our kids is you can't handle it, I need to be in this mix. And again, that just takes control away from them. And so they kind of fall into that learned helplessness kind of place of well, maybe I can't handle it. Or they they become entitled thinking of, well, you need to handle everything for me. So micromanaging backfires. It just, it doesn't work. And I think anybody who's listening right now, if you think about all the times that you've done it, and we all have, how many times has it actually worked for you? I mean, it usually makes things worse, because what happens is when we get in there and micromanage, our kids double down and don't do it just because we said to or we want them to. And so it truly does backfire. So, you know, when we give our kids control, and we take that deep breath and step back and hope that they'll do it, they will surprise us more often than not, and they will make mistakes and they will mess up, there is no doubt. But that is how human beings learn. They will get their biggest life lessons, and it will mean so much more for them in developing their character and their responsibility when they have those opportunities to fail safely, while they're in middle school and high school, before we send them out in the world, where it's not so gracious, and not everybody's micromanaging their life for them, and it's on them and they get incredibly overwhelmed when they start to get negative feedback from the world that you're not doing it right, or made a mistake, and they fall apart again. So we're doing them a disservice if we're not giving them that chance earlier, safely.


Steve Altishin  29:20  

It seems like, especially as they get older and more into high school, and college is coming up, and you're doing everything for them and then they go off to college, and it's like, so how do I wash my socks? I mean, you know, kind of a thing.


Jeannine Jannot  29:39  

Yeah. I mean, you've got to evaluate the stakes. The earlier you can start it, I mean, the stakes are gonna be the lowest like in middle school if you could start then. They get higher in high school, but they are the highest once the kids graduate and go off to that next experience.


Steve Altishin  29:56  

Oh, wow. Unfortunately, it looks like our time is running out. 30 minutes just goes by. Before we wrap up, though, Janine, I do want to ask you to let folks listening know how they can learn more about you.


Jeannine Jannot  30:12  

Well, I have a website,, that has information about my book, which is available anyplace books are sold: The Disintegrating Student, Struggling but Smart, Falling Apart, and How to Turn It Around. My coaching is on there, my social media connections are on there. I have some parent tip pages. I also do a newsletter once a month you could sign up for which are just my thoughts.


Steve Altishin  30:37  

You have great thoughts. I read them, they're great. That's the November one. I'm going, Wow, this is really good. 


Jeannine Jannot  30:44  

Thank you!


Steve Altishin  30:44  

I take it you can do your coaching remotely? 


Jeannine Jannot  30:49  

I can. 


Steve Altishin  30:50  

I love it. I love it. Okay, that does wrap up our discussion today. And again, thank you so much for joining us here today. You provided great insight. It was, again, just really insightful to hear about this high achieving culture situation, and why a disintegrating student isn't a failure. And, you know, kind of how co-parents can work together, so thank you. 


Jeannine Jannot  31:21  

It's my pleasure. Thank you for having me. 


Steve Altishin  31:23  

Oh, always. And please feel free to come again. And you know what, I want to thank everybody else who tuned in today to join us. As always, if anyone has any questions on today's topic, or how to get in contact with Jeannine, post them here, we'll make sure to get back to you or hook you up with Jeannine. Until then, stay safe. Have a great day.



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