JoAnn Schauf Of Your Tween And You On The 5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Their Children Thrive and Excel In School

An Interview With Jake Frankel

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine
12 min readJun 23, 2024


The most important thing in each child’s life is their relationship with their parents. It’s vital that parents be present so their child feels heard and seen. We all know about showing up. But it needs to be so much more than a cliche. When parents have this value and philosophy, children feel loved, secure, and valued.

School is really not easy these days. Many students have been out of school for a long time because of the pandemic, and the continued disruptions and anxieties are still breaking the flow of normal learning. What can parents do to help their children thrive and excel in school, particularly during these challenging and anxiety-provoking times?

To address this, we started a new series called ‘5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Their Children Thrive and Excel In School.” In this interview series, we are talking to teachers, principals, education experts, and successful parents to learn from their insights and experience.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure to interview JoAnn Schauf, MS

JoAnn Schauf, MS, just released her extraordinary guide and best selling book for parents of tweens, Loving the Alien — How to Parent Your Tween. She founded Your Tween and You, writes her blog, The Tween Times, coaches parents and adolescents, and speaks all over the country. After earning her Master of Science in Counseling, she worked as a therapist in a psychiatric hospital and served as a counselor in secondary schools and colleges.

Her interactions with parents of tweens, who were confounded by their children’s burgeoning adolescence and the influence of technology, led her to write her book. The resources for parents were thin and her mission is to support them. As the parent of four, she experienced the same challenges and frustrations! JoAnn lives in Austin, Texas and spends her free time contributing to her favorite non-profits and in California. You can reach her at

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us a bit about your “backstory”?

Helping others is a strand that runs through most of us, and discovering how I would use my talents and interests was a huge decision. Early on, I thought I would be a women’s fashion designer as I loved both the process and product. I was that girl who envisioned and then created a plaid skirt sewn on the bias, and crafted a pattern for my junior prom dress and made it.

As enjoyable as that was, I found that a more personal relationship helping others knocked on my door. At 19, I switched my major to psychology, went on to get a Master of Science in Counseling, and have never been disappointed. It’s been rewarding to inspire and guide others to bring out the best in themselves.

Now, my focus at Your Tween & You is empowering parents of tweens. It’s challenging being a tween, and equally confounding raising one. My purpose is to give parents the tools and strategies to lead their children without power struggles, and with calm confidence. When I was a school counselor, many parents called or visited my office looking for answers to their conflicts with their adolescents. Their needs motivated me to found Your Tween & You.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As a counselor in an international school, I had the opportunity to meet students from different countries and cultures. Two brothers were exceedingly bright in math, and I wanted them to take a test so they could move to higher-level classes.

I told them to go home and talk to their parents about it, and have their parents sign the form. They looked at me incredulously. When I asked what was wrong, they said they didn’t go home and talk to their parents. If their parents wanted to talk to them, they would. This was a huge lesson in cultural awareness for me.

You’ll want to know that they delivered my note, and their mom came to school the next day. She was abundantly happy that their math abilities had been observed, as she had taught them math from an early age.

Later, when they took a standardized test, they got perfect scores on the math portion, except for one question. And they both missed the same question! I gave her sons another note, and when their mother arrived early the next morning, I showed her their results. She looked at the problem and said it was her fault — she had not taught this to them properly.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Think win-win” not only is a favorite quote, it’s the paradigm and foundation of my philosophy. Win-win is an inclusive perspective that results in cooperative partnerships. It ensures mutually beneficial agreements. The values include the elimination of “I’m right and you’re wrong,” or put another way, “I’m powerful and you’re not.”

Also, it ensures that problems do not go unsolved. Getting to win-win requires listening to and understanding the other person’s perspective, as well as being vulnerable to share yours. When others know they are heard and seen, they feel honored and empowered, allowing for tremendous things to happen.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • Expanding on the “win-win” concept, a win-win strategy empowers others and builds teamwork.

No one wants to be on the wrong side of winning. No one wants to be shot down or ignored. And being wrong at the expense of someone else having to be right is downright painful. When others know you have their back and that you’re on the same team, a relationship grows.

Once I had a student who had almost all honors classes, played in the band, and sang in the choir. Her work ethic inspired me! However, the schedule could not accommodate all that she wanted.

When I spoke with her, I began with her strengths, and then said we had a scheduling conflict and decisions to make. I asked her to chat with her parents and look at her priorities. I’d mapped out schedules so she could see her options. She said she’d talk with her parents and come in the next day. And she did. She wanted to look at the master schedule to see if she could find a way to make it work.

I admired her problem solving skills and gave it to her. She still had to switch one class she really wanted for another, but it was a win-win situation because we worked together to get to the solution.

  • The Importance of Regulating Your Emotions

Early in my career, I had a boss who would yell at me when she didn’t know something. I approached her gently and showed her how and where to find answers, and I explained the reasons. She didn’t want that. She wanted to blame me. She wanted to be angry. And it wasn’t just me, she did this to everyone. It was a tough position to be in for all of us.

What I learned from her was the power of regulating my emotions. No matter that on the inside my adrenaline, cortisol, and heart rates were at their highest levels ever! When someone demeans and disrespects us, our immediate response is to attack back. There was no way I was going to engage with her. Not because I’d lose my job, but because I respect myself and knew that without fuel she would go away. At the same time it was disappointing, because I was never able to get us to win-win. Unfortunately, it was a lose-lose.

  • Tenacity and Resilience

I came from a sports family, so competition was second nature. When I was young my mom took me to a friend’s office. She was an attorney and while they were talking, I walked around the office and read all the things on the walls.

In a beautiful wood frame “Never Give Up” was crossed stitched with bright blue. It imprinted on me! From struggling learning how to read, to enrolling in my Master of Science program after my fourth child was born — it never occurred to me to stop trying.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day, because I have four writing projects! In addition to a companion application guide for Loving the Alien: How to Parent Your Tween and a journal for tweens, I’ve begun two works of fiction.

One is a compilation of stories I told my daughter and her friend on summer nights when I tucked them in. Convinced that others would be just as entertained, my daughter suggested that I put them in book form. The main characters are girls who are brave problem solvers in unpredictable environments with unexpected characters. The other is a family saga set in the late 1970s in Northern California. Two brothers of immense talent take roads away from the family business.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about why you are an authority on how to help children succeed in school?

It’s a whole bunch of things! I’ve worked in a variety of middle and high schools, as well as at the college level. I understand that each age has its set of developmental tasks that must be mastered. I’ve studied learning acquisition methods as well as cognition, habit formation, and knowledge retention, all of which gave me insight.

From a psychological aspect, I respect that the agency, attitude, and motivation that each student brings in the building each day impacts their day. Relationship-wise, in education, it’s necessary that the three-legged-stool: the student, teacher, and parents — be grounded in a shared purpose. Supporting everyone on the stool is my mission.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. Can you help articulate the main challenges that students face today that make it difficult to succeed in school?

Technology. We are all connected, and dare I say, addicted to our devices. The devices themselves are not at fault. It’s that we don’t know how to manage them, and our desire for dopamine dings, getting to the next level, and social media entertainment are never quenched.

The other side of technology in schools is that direct instruction is less human-based now than it was before COVID. Students need to be face-to-face, be able to be heard and seen, and understood. They need connection with each other and their teachers. How many times have we heard “it was Mrs. Morgan,” she cared about me, she believed in me, she understood me, and so I came to school every day.

The other factor is the number of things required of teachers besides teaching is huge! From PLCs, sponsoring clubs, team meetings, parent conferences, posting plans, homework to grading, tutoring, and bus/cafeteria/door duties. Additionally, the pay is low and turn-over is huge.

Can you suggest a few reforms that you think schools should make to help students to thrive and excel?

Many students thrive and excel — they are curious, motivated and determined. They have parental support, a sense of belonging, and the desire to do well at school. And they get to see their friends at school.

However, as mentioned above, phones in school are a huge distraction. Socialization and academic engagement would likely be improved without phones. Many districts, including Richardson ISD, in Richardson, Texas have a pilot program to study this.

Restorative justice is also a proven practice that benefits students and staff. It is a reconciliation-based program that brings victims and perpetrators together. The resurgence of trade schools and certification programs is growing in public high schools and meeting the needs of many students and society. We will always need electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics, and more. I hope more districts will expand this area of education.

Here is our primary question. Can you please share your “5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Their Children Thrive and Excel In School?” Please share a story or example for each.

  1. The most important thing in each child’s life is their relationship with their parents. It’s vital that parents be present so their child feels heard and seen. We all know about showing up. But it needs to be so much more than a cliche. When parents have this value and philosophy, children feel loved, secure, and valued.
  2. Listening to understand. Don’t jump to conclusions. When a tween comes home and announces they were in the assistant principal’s office, it affects the parent. A parent may be inclined to jump to a negative conclusion and make unhelpful comments or accusations. Neither are ways of listening to understand their child to understand what happened.
  3. What I suggest is responding with calm curiosity, and interest. Listening to understand begins with a statement that sounds like this: “This is unusual. Can you tell me more about it?” The parent expresses compassion and curiosity. There’s no judgment, and the parents’ emotions don’t bleed into the mix.
  4. Having a set guide for the use of technology is necessary for tweens. They are not wise enough to see or understand the need for it, but parents are. Not just for social media and games, but also to ensure the child gets adequate sleep and has time for homework, chores, and family.
  5. Parents would expect, and rightly so, push back from their child when limiting access to their phones is mentioned. After all, these are conduits to their tribe and info. Approaching this in a collaborative manner is the way to make it a win-win opportunity for the parent and child.
  6. It’s important to create learning opportunities that are not grade based. The middle school years are prime-time for learning solid habits. When the child, who loves the family dog, forgets to feed it, parents need to think about what the child can do to remember to feed the dog. Giving the dog away is not the solution nor is taking away their phone, by the way. The solution lies with the tween.
  7. The parents’ approach is, “What can we do to help you make sure the dog is fed?” The tween then finds the solutions. She may want a reminder from her mom or dad, set an alarm on her phone, or sandwich it between two other regular things, etc. By letting the tween come up with the idea, it fosters her cognitive thought-processing and it’s more likely Rover will be fed daily.
  8. Teach your child how to organize. From data files, submitting work, and keeping papers in order, it’s a lot to manage. Before they move on to the next thing, the current paper, file, folder, note, etc. must be tended. That means taking time to put it where it belongs, the assignment written down, the homework submitted, etc. This is a lifetime skill and once captured, it saves endless time and frustration. Plus it feels good!

As you know, teachers play such a huge role in shaping young lives. What would you suggest needs to be done to attract top talent to the education field?

Teachers are undervalued. They need increased respect and salaries. And at the end of their careers, their retirement pensions are barely enough to get by, so that would need to be boosted, too. Also, as mentioned above, teachers are assigned many duties outside of teaching that rob them of preparation, grading, and instruction time. Hall duty, sponsoring clubs, professional development, PLCs, are only some of the other duties as assigned that are added to their responsibilities.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

Bonnie Garmus, author of Lessons in Chemistry

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers are welcome to contact me via my website,! And of course, purchase Loving the Alien, How to Parent Your Tween.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!