Smart but Falling Apart? What’s Happening to Your Child and How You Can Help with guest Dr. Jeannine Jannot

About this Episode

Do you have a smart kid who has always done well and now suddenly seems to be falling apart? Are you having a hard time understanding how a child who rarely struggled in school before is now at risk of failing?

On this episode of Brainy Moms, Dr. Amy and Teri interview developmental and child psychologist, Dr. Jeannine Jannot. Dr. Jannot is the author of the book, The Disintegrating Student: Struggling but Smart, Falling Apart, and How to Turn It Around. She explains to us what’s happening to these smart kids, why it happens, and how we can help.

This episode gets personal. Dr. Amy and Teri have both experienced this with their own children and needed to hear that they aren’t alone. And neither are you. Catch this episode for some expert advice.

About Dr. Jannot

Dr. Jannot has a master’s degree in school psychology and a doctorate in child and developmental psychology. She has over 25 years of experience working with children, teens, and young adults, and is the founder of The Balanced Student where she provides customized academic coaching. She’s originally from Ohio, but now lives in Milton, Georgia with her husband, Tom, and they have three children, Ryan, Maddie, and Kat.

Connect with Dr. Jannot

Instagram: @jjannot
Twitter: @jeannine_jannot
Facebook: @authorjjannot
LinkedIn: @jeanninejannot
Website: http://www.jeanninejannot.com/

Mentioned in this Episode

Buy Dr. Jannot’s book:
The Disintegrating Student: Struggling but Smart, Falling Apart, and How to Turn It Around
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Read the transcript for this episode:

Smart but Falling Apart? What’s Happening to Your Child and How You Can Help
with guest Dr. Jeannine Jannot

Dr. Amy Moore:

Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms. I’m Dr. Amy Moore here with my co-host Teri Miller coming to you today from a very snowy and dark Colorado Springs, Colorado. We’re excited to introduce you to our guest today, Dr. Jeannine Jannot. Dr. Jeannine has a master’s degree in school psychology and a doctorate in child and developmental psychology. She’s the author of the book The Disintegrating Student: Struggling but Smart, Falling Apart, and How to Turn It Around. She has over 25 years of experience working with children, teens, and young adults, and is the founder of The Balanced Student where she provides customized academic coaching. She’s originally from Ohio, but now lives in Milton, Georgia with her husband, Tom, and they have three children, Ryan, Maddie, and Kat. I love those names.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. So glad you’re here, Jeannine. Thank you.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Thank you so much for having me.

Teri Miller:

Well, before we even get into this really, really important topic that I am personally super excited about and want to pick your brain about…

Dr. Amy Moore:

Me too.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. I want to hear about what brought you… What’s the quick personal story that brought you to this place of this being your passion and your niche?

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Well, it truly is my passion, which I had been looking for for many years as I was home with my kids for a lot of years after. When I got the doctorate, I was actually nine months pregnant with my first child, and then we moved across the country, and it was one of those things. It’s like, “Well, what do I do now?” I ended up staying home, spent probably about 10, 12 year years with the kids as I had children and doing the mom things, PTA, moms groups, play groups, volunteering, all that stuff, trying to still stay connected with my interest in child development, my interest in education.

What ended up happen was when we moved to Georgia, my youngest was entering preschool, and the preschool actually after she was there for a year, they were like, “Oh, you have a PhD in child development. You want to teach a preschool class?” I was like, “Okay,” and so that was my introduction back into the workforce. I did that for a little while, and when she went to kindergarten, I got a job teaching college. At this point, I had a child in elementary school, I had a child in middle school, a child in high school, and I was teaching college, and I had this unbelievable bird’s eye view of what was happening across the developmental educational span, if you will, to our kids, and all the stress and anxiety. I was seeing the end product, these college students who were showing up in my freshman classes, extremely overwhelmed and stressed out.

I just had a heart for them. There was just so much they didn’t know, and that’s where I decided, “Well, I got to do something,” so I started The Balanced Student where I do student and parent coaching. Out of that, I became really passionate because what I realized was how many of our kids are really suffering at the hands of the achievement culture that they’re in, and it’s hard on family. It’s hard on our kids, and that’s what led me to write The Disintegrating Student. I never intended to write a book or do any of this stuff. It all came out of seeing what was happening to our children.

Teri Miller:

To your own kids, and then what you were seeing when you were teaching, right?

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, it was everywhere because all my three kids were… They’d be in the high achieving category, and so they were friends with all the kids who were in the gifted programs, and so I was just seeing so much stress, so much anxiety, and just a lack of skills that they needed. They were really, really falling apart at various times, but at some point it seemed like these kids just hit a point where they started to fall apart.

Teri Miller:

What is the disintegrating student? Give us a little definition. What does that mean?

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah, and first let me just say that when you look at that word, gosh, it creates such a visceral response, doesn’t it? You think, what is happening? I mean, I was so happy to see your subtitle right, smart but falling apart, but it’s so intriguing. As we dig in, I think many parents are going to be able to relate to this.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

I’ve definitely found that. It was interesting when I first wrote the book, if a student saw the title, they were like, “Oh, yeah. I know that. That’s me.” They knew immediately what I was talking about. It’s a term I coined to describe these kids, and specifically I was talking about academically gifted kids or really high achieving kids who by and large have enjoyed school. They’re the kids in elementary school who show up, and do their homework in class or on the bus, don’t really have to study for tests, get good grades, and at some point these kids hit what I call a rigor tipping point where they become overwhelmed with either how much rigor they have. They’re over scheduled, they don’t have the skills to support what they have to do at this point, and it’s very disorienting to them, and that’s when they kind of fall apart. That’s basically what a disintegrating student is.

Teri Miller:

Right.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Talk to us a little bit about how widespread that is. Yeah. Talk to us about that first.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

It’s very widespread. I would’ve said… Initially, I really was thinking it’s just these high achieving kids who are in this situation. I think with the pandemic, which I wrote the book prior to the pandemic, and nobody could see that coming, but that has been a stressor wide enough and long enough to really impact I think all of our children. I think the majority of kids now seem to be falling apart to some extent, so I think it’s incredibly widespread. What’s unfortunate that I’ve found over the years is how that’s misunderstood as far as within each family, the idea that the kid’s struggling, they’re not sharing it. The family’s struggling, they’re not sharing it, so they feel isolated and alone like this is just happening to us.

When this tends to happen is families will notice grades start getting kind of inconsistent, so a really bright kid who’s always got A’s, maybe a B thrown in here or there, all of a sudden might get a C or have not handed in work. Things are just not going in the right direction, and so the parent says something like, “Hey, what’s going on?” The kid says, “I don’t know,” and the kid’s not lying. They really don’t know, but a lot of times this sets up a really challenging place for parents and kids to be in because there’s misunderstandings and miscommunications that start to happen at this point.

There’s different stories in a parent’s head, in a child’s head to what’s going on here. The parent is thinking, “Okay, my kid is just lazy all of a sudden. They don’t care about school. They don’t care if they graduate or go to college,” and because we’re well intentioned parents and we want to be helpful, we’re like, “Do we need to talk to the teacher? Can I help you? Do you want to tutor?” We do all these things to help, and the kid says, “No, I’ve got this,” which they never do, but that’s what they say. Then the parent interprets that as they’re in control. They’re in control of this.

In the kids’ head what’s going on is first of all, they think my parents care more about my grades than they do me, which is not the case, of course, but because we do spend such a large percentage of the conversation that we have with our kids talking about academics, their brain is just doing the stats. Clearly that’s super important to them. Kids are worrying that their parents are disappointed in them, so even though they act like they don’t care, they really do, and they really do worry about that.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

They’re very concerned that they’re no longer smart, so especially these kids who’ve never really had to work very hard at getting good grades, when all of a sudden they’re getting the feedback that you’re not doing this well, they’ve internalized being smart, so it’s this personal insult is hit on their self-esteem that, “Oh my gosh, this is the end of the road for me. I’m no longer smart.” That freaks them out even more because they’re not talking to their friends or anybody or their parents about this, so they think it’s only them. They do all kinds of things to self handicap and self sabotage to try to hide it and protect their self-esteem.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. In your book, you talk about it creates a cognitive dissonance, so they have this idea of themselves as smart, but yet they’re not performing the way that they historically have been. Well, that doesn’t make sense to their schema about themselves, and then that creates anxiety.

Teri Miller:

Well, and…

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

A lot of anxiety.

Teri Miller:

I love that word that goes with it. The cognitive dissonance creates disintegration. Disintegration, it’s that same concept that, “Wait, who I think I am… I can’t integrate who I think I am with what’s really happening,” so it’s this disintegration. Then you think of Thanos snapping his… Marvel movies… Thanos snapping his fingers and the people disintegrate, they go away bit by bit, or Sandman in the Spider-Man movie, and he just starts… Pieces of him just fritter away. That’s what we’re seeing with our kids. Oh, this information, it’s so important.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Just to throw another “dis” in there, what I have found particularly through the pandemic is it’s very disorienting to them. Right now I’m seeing students are incredibly disoriented, as if they don’t know how to be students anymore, especially this year when everything went back to, quote unquote, “normal” when things are not normal. It’s really, I have found, thrown students off their game quite a bit.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Why is this happening? What are they missing?

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

What do you mean? I’m sorry.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Is this a skills based problem? Are our kids missing key skills that they need, or is this a parenting issue, or is this a school problem? Why is it happening?

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

It’s a little bit complicated, one of the reasons I wrote the book, but fundamentally when we’re at that point where the student is starting to disintegrate, I just explained what the parent and the child actually is thinking in their head. That’s the misinformation and miscommunication that’s going on, the misunderstandings. What’s actually happening is that the child has just reached a point where they’re lacking some skills, and they’re engaging counterproductive behaviors. It’s really a matter of helping them figure out, and the areas that that tends to be around are time management, organization, study skills and study habits, their mindset around school and being smart, all that stuff, and sleep screens and stress. Again, these students just have never needed that stuff. They’ve been able to compensate by just being very bright and capable.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Once they can accept that there’s something they can do, that they can have some control over their ability to bring their grades up, that’s changes everything. The problem is that mindset piece is really challenging, and again, particularly now being two years into the pandemic, having a kid be… Their motivation is so low right now, and burnout is so high, and mental health issues are a big problem. It’s a lot of work to… You got to build that mindset piece up first, before you can go in and say, “Okay, well you need to keep this kind of a calendar. You need to get this much sleep or whatever, a screen device.” I can tell students all day long strategies, tips, and things, and they’ll understand it, and they’ll agree. Yeah, that’d be great, but if they’re not in a place to actually receive that in a way that they can execute it, it’s a waste of their time and my time. That’s probably of the biggest hiccup we face right now.

Teri Miller:

Okay. I want to come back to that term, cognitive dissonance. In the book you talk about… when you’re talking about cognitive dissonance, you were talking about how parents tend to… We want to praise our children. We want to encourage our children, and so that’s this thing we think we’re doing well. “Honey, you’re so smart.” We start it when they’re in kindergarten. “Look at that picture you did,” and it’s really just a wreck of colors all over the place, but we say, “You’re an artist. You’re so gifted,” and then they’re in math and in second grade, and they’re getting basic concepts. “You’re so smart. You’re a math whiz. You’re amazing.”

What you talked about is then they get to a certain point where they start struggling in school, but there’s this cognitive dissonance. We’ve been telling them, “You’re so smart. You’re so smart. You’re amazing,” and they start going, “But, I’m not doing well in math, or I’m having trouble, or I’m falling behind.” They don’t want to tell anyone. They’re embarrassed. There’s this identity crisis. My question for you is what do we do… Two questions. What do we do differently from the beginning, and number two, what do we do if we’ve already messed it up?

Dr. Amy Moore:

Those are great questions.

Teri Miller:

What do I do for my 15 year old who already… Anyway, yeah. Jump in.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Same. Same. I mean, everything that I talk about in the book regarding parents… Again, we are so well intentioned in what we do, because we love our kids. We want the best for them. We want them to be successful. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is some of the things that we do with good intentions and out of love, end up not being particularly helpful. I think first of all when you talk about praise, what would benefit our kids more than, “You’re so awesome. You’re so smart. You’re such a great athlete,” all those easy things to say that we again, well intentioned and we mean it… It’s like, “Oh my gosh, you’re amazing.” There our kids. Of course, they’re amazing.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

The problem is that is person centered praise, so that’s why it ends up… If you’re a two year old, and starting to hear how smart you are, and you keep hearing that like all through elementary school, you internalize, “I am a smart person.” The problem becomes when there is feedback that…

Teri Miller:

Uh-oh. It looks like she froze. We may have a little technical glitch here.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. I’ll just wait this out for a second.

Teri Miller:

Just a second.

Dr. Amy Moore:

This is what happens.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. This is so valid because you know, Amy, I’m thinking, I’ve talked to you about Canyon, my 15 year old, who is so smart, but yeah… I want help now that I’ve messed it up.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Well, I’ve got a kid in therapy right now because he was experiencing so much anxiety because he thought he was disappointing us.

Teri Miller:

Right.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Whereas, we never imposed those expectations of perfection or even an expectation that he gets all B’s, right? Our expectation is you pass school, right?

Teri Miller:

Right.

Dr. Amy Moore:

But, for some reason, he got it in his head because his dad and I are classic overachievers…

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right? That our expectation was that he was perfect too.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Now he’s in therapy over it, right?

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I think back. What did I say to give him that impression? What did I do to give him that impression? I’m not going to back down on my goals and achieving my goals, so that my kids say, “Oh, mediocrity is not okay, right?”

Teri Miller:

Yeah. Mediocrity is cool. Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

But, at the same time, I don’t expect that of my children. I don’t expect them to have the… Am I making any sense?

Teri Miller:

Absolutely. Yeah. I wonder if we can get Jeannine back in here to help because I want to hear about… I want her to address that thing of how do we help when it’s already been messed up.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right. Yes.

Teri Miller:

Yeah, for Canyon that’s 15, for [Nakota 00:18:10] that’s 11, and they have so much high performance anxiety. I think I did all those things wrong. “You’re so great. You’re so smart,” but now it’s too late. I did the person centered praise, like you talked about Jeannine instead of focusing on their hard work and their efforts, instead of focusing on what all people can achieve, a spectrum of efforts, so I did it wrong. What do I do now?

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

So…

Dr. Amy Moore:

Okay.

Teri Miller:

Oh, man.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah, so we’re having a storm here in Colorado right now. It could be that that’s what’s impacting our connection with Dr. Jeannine Jannot.

Teri Miller:

Do we want to pause or just wait a second?

Dr. Amy Moore:

I think we’ll pause for a few minutes until we can get that fixed.

Teri Miller:

Okay.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Okay.

Teri Miller:

What would I do to help Nakota? How could I help my sweet boy that’s 11 and has so much performance anxiety in school?

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

When we want to… Looking at our kids from what we’re telling them, and how we’re trying to encourage them, and how we’re trying to show up in a loving way for them, to really start talking to them about the effort that they’re putting in, the things that are in their control, how hard they work at something. I’ve noticed a lot of students today, effort is a bad thing to them. If I have to try real hard, and if it’s really challenging, and if there’s a chance I’m not going to be great at it, I’m not going to do it. They may come out and just say, “I don’t want to do it,” but they may also be hiding that around things like saying things like, “Oh, that’s just stupid,” or, “I could if I wanted to, but I don’t.” We have to watch that because a lot of times they’re protecting themselves.

When it comes to what do we do when we’ve already raised kids who have this fixed way of thinking about themselves like, “I’m as good as I’m going to get?” The best thing we can do as parents, and this is the hardest thing is we can model it ourselves. We too can be in that place of feeling a little bit threatened, and not wanting to try things out of our comfort zone, or be challenged, or take risks, all the things we want to see our kids be able to do. If we can show them, live out loud and model this is hard… When I wrote the book, that was something. I’m not an author. Why would I write a book? It felt very vulnerable to me. I had absolutely no idea how it was going to go. It felt very risky, but I was able to play it out in front of my kids to show them what that looks like, the ups, the downs, the good, the bad.

I think that’s really, really helpful for our kids, and also normalizing things like making mistakes. If you put in effort in something that’s challenging, you may not meet that high expectation that you have, but at the same time, you’re going to learn along the way. Make that okay. Normalize that in our houses. I always encourage people to have a competition around dinner, like, “All right. What mistakes did you make today?” See who can come up with the best one, so that it becomes like it’s not something to hide, or be ashamed of, or to steer yourself away from.

Teri Miller:

That’s really good. I feel like that’s a practical thing that I could put it…

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

It is practical.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. That I could put into place right away… Thinking that I’m going to model tackling something like I’m going to write a book. Oh, that feels a little daunting. I know. Do it, Teri. Okay. Work hard, but okay, sit at the dinner table, and instead of say, “What’s the best thing that happened to you today, honey?” I could say, “What was your biggest flop today? Let’s all go around and talk about where was my worst mistake today, even if it was a small one?” I love that. It will normalize it. It’ll help us talk about it, and if I can keep doing that, so it’s not just, “Oh, I just do it tonight,” it’s going to do just what you said. It’s going to start making it okay to fail and to try because we can’t try new things if we’re not willing to fail.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Absolutely. It also helps keep the negative self talk that will get in our own heads around mistakes that we make. We tend to think about… We’re hard on ourselves more so than we would be on somebody else, so if you’ve had an opportunity to test the waters with this, with people who care about you around a dinner table, then you might not go there in your head with, “Oh, that’s just the worst thing, and I’m so stupid, and why do I always do you this?” It can really be self protective in that way.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah, absolutely. I always say that we want our children to experience mistakes and failures in the emotional safety of our home and our relationship with them so that they do know how to handle it. The therapist in me is always about, okay, how can we reframe this? What are the barriers to success the next time, right? How can we turn worry into wonder here? For parents to be able to have that vulnerability, and talk about their own mistakes, and then what they learned from them, I think, I love that idea of modeling that because it doesn’t matter how much of an overachiever you may be as a parent. You’re still not perfect.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right. You still are flopping throughout that process.

Teri Miller:

Yeah, and just to be like, “Hey, if we’re not making mistakes every day…” If maybe one kid’s like, “I don’t know, there wasn’t any mistake,” to then start talking about, “Well gosh, I mean, that might be a red flag because if you’re not making any mistakes, maybe you’re not trying new things enough.”

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Challenging yourself?

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Absolutely.

Dr. Amy Moore:

All right, so talk a little bit about how this a achievement culture is perpetuating what we’re seeing here.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

I think of the… I feel like as a parent, when my kids were really struggling, I was always looking for someone to blame. It was either their fault, or their friend’s fault, or the teacher’s, or the school’s fault. What I’ve learned over the years is there’s plenty of blame to go around, and it really plays no role to try to lay blame in certain places. Ultimately, the blame really goes to the culture that we’ve created over the last several decades, which is the achievement culture where we value data more than learning.

This is a culture that our kids, a couple generations of kids have been raised in, but this one in particular, on top of all the other things that this generation has that’s unique to them like being born into screens and tech, the achievement culture is what’s driving us to parent the way we’re parenting. It’s driving schools to have the kinds of policies in place that they have in place. Colleges, the admissions, is driven by this culture, and our students are responding. How they’re responding is they’re acting like they are their data points, so I’m as good as my grade. I need to do what I need to do to get the grade, check the box.

That’s why cheating is such an issue right now and so widespread because they all understand, “Well, there’s too my much to do, and I need to get it done because it’s more important that I just get the check, or just get the grade, or make my GPA X,” and so it’s justifiable in their minds. I’m talking about all students. I have not come across one student who has said, “Oh, absolutely not. I don’t cheat.” That’s baked in the cake these days, and I think educators are very well aware of it. We are certainly aware of it at the college level, so what this has done is this is why so many of our kids are miserable. How awful to show up to your, quote unquote, “job” every day and just try to figure out a way to check all the boxes and make it look really, really good without a regard for what you’re getting out of it.

There’s just not that meaning connected to it. They’re not enjoying themselves. They’re not learning and retaining information like we want them to. This is a part that’s so disheartening to me because I think it’s contributing to why motivation is so low in our students because motivation takes a sense of control. We have to feel like we have control in the situation, autonomy, confidence, like we can do what we’re being asked to do, and some connection so that it’s meaningful to us. When you think about students, those three things tend to be lacking remarkably right now. I think that’s part of why motivation is so low.

Parents, again, us being very well intentioned, we’re responding to the achievement culture that says, “Well, if you want to get into college, X, Y, or Z, well your kid better do all these things have this GPA,” and so we are responding. It comes from love, but it turns into fear at some point when we start to talk to our kids, because we’re worried about them. We’re worried about the impact of a C in this class, or failing something, or not applying to this school, or whatever it is. Then we put that on them, so we offload our fear because we’re worried about their success, and we know they’re not looking long term in the same way we are, so we’re trying to protect them, but it just snowballs. That’s the achievement culture that’s putting pressure on all of us to behave in a way that I think in our guts we know is not good for learning.

I honestly think that’s the piece that has to… We have to move the needle on that, and I think it’s going to take a really long time because you don’t change cultures overnight, but I do think parents have the opportunity to deal with the achievement culture as it stands in their own family. By that, I mean sitting down with our kids, and having a conversation with them, and just saying, “Hey, so here’s the deal. Here’s how this all works. Here’s the expectations at school. Here’s what it takes to get into this college, blah, blah, blah,” lay it all… Just be honest about what it is, and then have an honest discussion with your child about what are our expectations? What is your expectation? What does success look like in our family? Is it a 4.0 and eight AP’s? Is that what we’re defining as success, or are we going to look at success as some other measure along the way? I think that’s the way that we get our hands around the achievement culture in a way that we can parent, and our kids can be students from a place that feels a little bit more comfortable.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Sure.

Teri Miller:

I think this is so important. I want to just recap for our listeners. I want to create a little meme, a little sound bite. What I’m hearing, and that’s really, really ringing true in my own family, it’s like what you talked about, Amy. We have this achievement culture, even in my personal family. I get it. It’s in the culture, but it is perpetuated in my personal family. If you’re going to be a runner, you’re going to be the best runner. My husband’s an athlete. If you’re going to go to this school, this Colorado Early Colleges, take as many college classes as you can. I perpetuate that. It is just in our family, and then what I’m seeing is this resulting, like you said, cognitive dissonance, disintegration, so then some of my kids, I’m seeing them go, “Well, whatever. I give up. It’s not worth it. Nothing I do will make a difference. I can’t achieve it,” so then there’s the disintegration.

Teri Miller:

You said something just a minute ago. This is where I want to create a sound bite, a meme. You said motivation requires three things. I’m taking notes. Give us a little meme about how to help our kids when they’re in that place of disintegration. What is motivation again? What does motivation require?

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

For our kids to feel motivated, they need to feel in control. They need to feel like they have autonomy in the situation. They need to feel like they’re competent, like they’re able to do what’s being asked of them and successfully, and they need to feel connected. It’s three C’s, and the connection means it feels meaningful to them. When our kids are faced with all this stuff they’re faced with in school, those three things tend to be missing. That explains so much why our kids are not feeling motivated these days.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I love that. It rings of Daniel Pink and his work on drive and motivation too. I want to go back to what you talked about, about being data driven and about how we just test our kids right out of being motivated. You gave an analogy in your book, and you said something like, “Imagine if your boss tested you every few months, and half of what was on that test didn’t have anything to do with your skillset or your job description. It was completely irrelevant. How would that impact your motivation, your desire to perform, right, whether you would want to even be in that work culture?” I mean, if we have three minutes to think about that and apply that same idea to what we’re doing to our kids, I mean, we could finally [crosstalk 00:33:27]…

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

We would say, “I don’t like my job, and I don’t want to show up to my job today,” which is exactly what our kids are saying.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yes.

Teri Miller:

Yes.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. Yes. I think that there is power in advocacy, and there’s power in parents saying, “Something is wrong, let’s speak up,” because how many parents are in the country? I mean, that’s a lot of voices.

Teri Miller:

Exactly.

Dr. Amy Moore:

It’s a lot of voices. Yeah.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

I would encourage parents when you’re having that conversation in your family about what does success look like for us, the next step after you determine that is to go to the school. With my youngest, who is a freshman in college now, her senior year, actually all through high school, I really tried very, very hard to pull back and give her as much control as possible. That meant a lot of screaming alone in my closet, thinking things were going to go really south really fast a lot of times, but she made it through, and she made it through quite successfully. I had to go to her teachers and say, “Look, I’m out of this. Don’t send me the emails telling me this needs to be done.”

Teri Miller:

Yes.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

“You need to talk with her. She’s in control,” because there’s this whole thing where we say we want, the educators say it, the schools will say, “Well, your your high school students should be advocating for themselves and doing X, Y, and Z,” yet at the same time, they’re like, “You parent need to be checking the portal and making sure.” It’s like, “Wait a minute. Those two things do not add up.”

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

I had to be very explicit and say, “Look, I’m out. I mean, I’m there for her if she needs me, but I’m not an intermediary for you to reach my daughter.” If she’s not going to handle it, then there’s going to be consequences. She’s going to be in summer school, or not go to college, or whatever it is, but she and I sat down and agreed that that’s how she wanted to play it. It worked out better than I could have ever imagined. I mean, I was scared to death, to be honest with you. She’s incredibly happy and successful in college in a way, and she actually likes school now, which I could not have said about her in high school.

There’s a lot of trusting that goes on in this process that I explained in the book about how a lot of times us backing off, and just listening more, and being supportive, that’s really our superpower more so than being that micromanaging person who’s trying to make sure there are no bad consequences for our kids. That ends up backfiring, and I end up seeing those kids in my coaching when they’re in college, and they’ve fallen apart their first semester. I mean, I say that to say, I get how stressful it is to pull back as a parent, but I just I think it’s… Do it incrementally, but it’s definitely worth trying to make some strides in that area because it goes a long, long way to making your kids more successful and more confident.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely. We need to take a quick break and let Teri read a word from our sponsor, LearningRx. When we come back, I want to talk a little bit about the last half of your book, where you actually give 70 tips to parents. We want to hear a few of those.

Teri Miller: (reading sponsor ad from LearningRx)

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Dr. Amy Moore:

We’re back talking to Dr. Jeannine Jannot about the disintegrating student, so smart kids who are falling apart, and what we can do to help turn that around. I actually misquoted the number of tips that you give in your book. You give 77.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

77.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I shorted you there.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

You’ve organized them around different areas, so organization, time management, study skills and habits, mindset, stress, sleep, and screens. Those are the areas that you were to talking about were actually the contributors to the disintegration and all of the cognitive dissonance that we’ve been talking about. Can you share with our listeners several of those tips, so that they can have that immediate takeaway, and get started before they are waiting for your book to arrive through Amazon delivery?

Teri Miller:

Yes.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Sure. One of the things that I find I start with almost every student that I see in my coaching is they need a time management system. Most schools, at least at some point, have done the thing where they give all the students the agendas, and they fill them out at school. That has worked historically, I think with students in the elementary school where the teacher is helping the student, and the parent is helping the student. It’s more of a conduit for communication and keeping track of things.

When they get into middle school, they tend to just give the student the agenda and say, “Here you go.” There’s probably 10% or less of students who have the DNA to just take that up and be like, “Yes, my agenda,” and keep track of it, keep up with it. The rest of the kids are just like, “Okay, I’m going to do this. Everybody else needs to do this. Everybody’s telling me to do this,” and so they do it for a couple days, and they forget about it in their backpack, and it’s gone by the wayside. What I do with students is a really simple master calendar, pocket schedule combination where I try to get them to externalize their commitments, their responsibilities, starting to practice that in middle school, particularly seventh, eighth grade, because that’s about when the brain is able to project out into the future and have some sort of future forecasting. If you do it too soon, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to them, but around middle school, they can have a calendar.

They can start to put big things on the calendar, so they can see their past, present, future, and then I teach them to do a very simple pocket schedule, which is a way to track what they need to take care of during the day, and what comes up during the day that they can transfer back onto that master calendar. It’s really, really simple. It works really well with students with executive functioning weaknesses, ADHD, so that’s one of the things that I tend to almost always do with a student, whether it’s a middle school, or a high school, or a college student. That’s one of my favorite getting started tips.

Another thing I work with students a lot on is sleep because our students are so sleep deprived on average. Particularly by the time they get in… Actually starting, it’s going down to seventh and eighth graders. I’m hearing this too. They’re getting five or six hours of sleep a night, probably the majority of them, and that’s just not a lot. They should be getting at a minimum eight, but more like nine would be much more ideal during adolescence. Our kids are sleep deprived. They are very hard to wake up in the morning, I’m sure as you guys know, waking up the kids, and that’s partly… I teach them about sleep, and about their brain, that melatonin is produced a little bit later, after they go through puberty. Biologically they’re designed stay up later and wake up later, so school doesn’t fit into their brain’s idea about what needs to be happening.

I let them know that, but then there’s some other things that I think they don’t understand as much about this, this hard to wake up. A lot of students will hit the snooze maybe several times, and then they wake up feeling very groggy, foggy brain, out of it. I teach them about sleep inertia that don’t hit this news because you are likely going to go back into a deep sleep, and try to wake yourself out of a deep sleep, and that’s where you get that what’s called sleep inertia, which can last from 30 minutes to about three hours, which could potentially mean lunchtime for you. You’re going to be in this groggy state at school. I include a lot of tips like that, that are information based, plus an action piece to it as well. They know the why behind why would you stop hitting this snooze button? I’m trying to think of…

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. I love that. When Teri and I first started working together… We’re clinical researchers together, and so when we first started working together about six years ago, her passion was about sleep and the sleep brain function connection. I was like, “Yeah, whatever.” Really I was so bored with it that I’m like, “Well, that’s not what we’re going to research.” As I’ve evolved in our brain research, the clinical neuroscientist on our research team talks about how sleep is like a car wash for the brain, that it cleanses the brain of the toxins that build up during the day. If we want to be able to think most efficiently during the day, we have to have that sleep. When I tell my teenage clients that it’s like putting your brain through a car wash, then it clicks, “Oh, so physically my brain needs sleep.” It isn’t that you’re just telling me, “Well, everyone should get this much.” I love that there is a huge focus on that now.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

I think there’s another piece of information students don’t realize, and that is it is during sleep that our learning and memory is consolidated.

Teri Miller:

Yes.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

If they’ve been studying for a couple hours, the best thing they can do is sleep on that because that’s where that learning gets connected to existing knowledge. That’s where the durability of learning a memory happen. Without that, the kids who try to stay up all night and cram for a test, they may be able to show up the next morning and power through the test, but that information is not durable at all. If they have to have it down the road, or for the midterm, or the final exam, it’s gone, and they need to start all over again. I don’t think they explicitly ever hear that sleep… I count sleep time as study time…

Teri Miller:

Nice.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

… because a lot of students feel guilty. They’re like, “Oh, no. I don’t have time to sleep. I want to…” They’ll lose sleep. There’s something called, what’s called bedtime procrastination where that’s when kids are making up for lost social media time. They’ll procrastinate their bedtime basically to have that relaxing down, social connection time. There’s a lot of things our kids are doing just because they don’t understand why they shouldn’t do it that way when it comes to their sleep.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Excellent point. I actually wrote an article about that recently on the sleep learning connection. It’s at thebrainhealthmagazine.com, if you would like to read more about that science.

What would you like to leave our listeners with that you haven’t gotten to touch on today?

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Well, I worry sometimes talking to parents that when you hear stuff like this, it hits you in your heart and your gut. I know I’ve spent years listening to parent experts talk about things, and you walk away feeling guilty like, “Oh my goodness, I wish I would’ve, or I should have,” that regret. I never want a parent to feel that way because it’s so important to understand. I live and breathe this stuff, and I make these mistakes all the time. That’s just parenting. I think we just need to show up for our kids in the best self we can show up with every day, be as vulnerable with our kids, be as open, and honest, and supportive as we can be. That makes us a rockstar parent. They notice that. That’s what they want. That’s what they need, and all that other stuff that I think sometimes we get really worried about like, “I need to, I need to, I should, I should,” it isn’t as important. Sometimes it is actually backfiring.

Dr. Amy Moore:

That’s a great message.

Teri Miller:

Yeah, it creates that. Otherwise, we’re just creating that achievement mentality inside ourselves that if I’m not doing it perfectly, I’m messing it up.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Yeah.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. Instead of, “Oh, I failed today as a parent. Awesome. That means I was trying hard.” That’s okay. That’s okay, moms. We’re going to mess up.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Absolutely.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Well, we mess up our kids all the time, like we always joke.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I mean, we can be experts in this field until the cows come home, and we’re still going to mess our kids up, but we just keep trying. We do the best we can with new information like this and we keep trying.

Teri Miller:

So good. Oh Jeannine, I’m inspired. I took so many notes. This is so good.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah, it was wonderful.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Thank you.

Dr. Amy Moore:

We are out of time and need to wrap this up, but we just want to thank you so much, Dr. Jeannine Jannot, for joining us today. If you would like more information about Dr. Jeannine’s work, you can find her on Instagram at JJannot. That is J-J-A-N-N-O-T, on Facebook at Author J… Y’all, my contacts are so blurry. I cannot read. Can you tell us your Facebook?

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Is @AuthorJJannot.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Thank you. We’ll put those in the show notes, for sure, along with, this is crazy, along with a link to purchase her book, The Disintegrating Student: Struggling but Smart, Falling Apart, and How to Turn It Around. Look, thank you so much for listening today. If you like our podcast, we would really appreciate it if you would leave us a five star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. If you would rather see our faces, you can watch the video version of our podcast on YouTube, and you can find us on social media at The Brainy Moms. Look until next time, we know that you’re busy moms, and we’re busy moms, so we’re out.

Teri Miller:

See ya.

Dr. Jeannine Jannot:

Thank you. Bye.

CONNECT WITH DR. JEANNINE JANNOT
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The Disintegrating Student: Struggling but Smart, Falling Apart, and How to Turn It Around
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