18 answers

My 14 Year Old Doesn't Seem to Care If He Fails...

My son who just turned 14 and is now in the 7th grade isn't doing what he needs to in order to succeed. He does just enough to get by and that's it. I've had this problem with him since last year and thought that we had got through to him by the end of last year and wouldn't have to deal with it this year, but it's the same old story this year too.
Although this year he is turning in homework on time most of time. This year he tends to just rush through it all and gets terrible grades. He's even admitted to rushing through it and has said he'll try to do do better now, but I've not seen any effort from him since our school quarter end conference at the beginning of November.
We as parents can go online and look at their progress reports and I'm still seeing where he is missing half the problems or more. I checked on his homework he did the other night and over half of it was wrong. He has three F's, one D and one C for the second quarter at this point.
I know that he can do it, but he's rushing to get it done to be able to spend time with his friends. I have taken all the things he likes away including friend time to discipline him and told him that this is his #1 priority. He's been on what I call "lock down" in the past and that really didn't do a whole lot to get him motivated. I've even been told by the principal that if all things are taken away that it doesn't give them any thing to look forward to, so they tend to still not care.
He says things like I don't trust him and that he won't fail, but with grades like this he is definitely going to fail. He has excuses for all the things I ask him about on his progress reports. If there's extra credit he can get I ask him about it and he'll say it's too late that he can't do that now because you had to turn it in by a certain time. I'm like, so why didn't you do it in the first place? He's been told to do extra credit anytime it's offered. I've only seen him study for a few tests this year. He tells me that he did it in study hall, but the test grade reflects that he must not of studied. I've told him that any time there is any kind of test he needs to bring the material home to study for it, but I rarely see it.
I've been through all the disciplinary actions that I know to and can't get any where with him. He's been told there's consequences for his actions and that his privileges are taken away until he can show that he's responsible.
Please help!!! I don't know what else to do. I'm hoping that there is another option out there, because I feel like I've run out of options at this point.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hi K. -- Honestly, I'd put the whole responsibility on him. If he asks for help organizing or problem-solving, give it to him, but make him be the initiator. Bad habits have consequences and flunking may be one. Flunking and/or repeating a year could be just what he needs (although not what any of you wants). It may get him thinking.

Oh! When he brings home bad grades, don't be angry at him. Be sad for him. Remind him that bad grades are the consequence of his behavior and to be expected. Maybe, if this persists, you'll have to sadly tell him that this means he'll have to go to summer school instead of camp, or some such.

It's much easier to give advice than to take it! Good luck! -- L.

More Answers

Hi K.
I am no expert but this is what has motivated my 9yr old and I would think it would work better the older they are. I have told my son that if he dosen't slow down and hand in quality work then I will need to come and sit next to him to remind him what needs to be done. He is highly embarrssed by his mom comeing into school and so I knew this would get him to straighten up. If you have to take a morning and go to all his classes with him you probably wont need to sit by him. let him know your doing it so you can get a better understanding of how he learns and how the teachers teach. If this dosent work. You may want to try to give him something to look forward to for getting better grades. Good luck I know how Frustrating it can be. T.

Our son is 17. Went through pretty much the same as you. He is very smart, but does not have much interest in applying himself. Last year- he failed World History-OK, so we sign him up to make it up the next semester-he fails it again! Now he has to take it in summer school, this past summer and due to certain circumstances, he ends up in a bad neighborhood. Yes-it was quite the culture shock. He is a Senior and we can't believe it-he's more responsible-we're not reminding him to get his homework done and he brought home all A's and B's-first time ever!!! Looking back on it we wish we had sent him to summer school years before- maybe his GPA would be respectable. Good Luck! L.

Hi K.,

Have you considered that your son might be bored and not at all challenged by his coursework? Have you ever had his IQ tested? People with higher IQs often talk about being incredibly bored in school, to the point that they stop caring. The fact that your son rushes through his work is a sign that this might be the case.

Is homeschooling an option? Is a charter school, or taking classes at a community college an option? We seem to think that a one-size-fits-all approach to schooling is the way to go.

Also, in a lot of European countries, secondary education ends around 16. From there, kids go on to college or to learn a trade. I think we could learn a lot from these other education models.

Hi K.,
We also have a 14 year old son. I'm going to recommend a couple of books. "Hold on to your kid, why parents matter more than peers" "Teen Breakthrough, the Relationship Approach". Just look them up at your library. They are very useful. There is so much emotional stuff going on with teens, to keep a connection is key. It's hard to motivate someone who does not seem to want to be motivated.
Best of luck,
homeschool mom and home business owner

I went through a period like this way back when and it was because I wasn't challenged enough...I was bored with it. So, one thing you might look into is if he really can do it is to see if it is too easy and he just skims through the problems to say he's done so he can do something else. If that is the case, try to get him into a more advanced class or talk to his teacher to see if he/she can make it more interesting. Try to connect the school subject with something else he's interested in. For example, to create computer games, one needs to know math, coordinates, and equations as well as life lessons of cause and effect.

Unfortunately, I'm seeing this same behavior in my 7yo son and what has worked for him (so far) is 15 minutes of homework (without distractions -- away from the tv) and then 15 minutes of play or TV time. After that, I sit with him and go over what he did, and help him figure out what he got wrong and why. I do not tell him the answers but ask him questions to help him figure it out.

You may have to take time to work with him and actually sit with him while he does his homework and have him tell you how he arrives at the answers. If he says he did it in study hall, have him bring it home so you can see it and go over it with him. If he says "you don't trust me" tell him that he's betrayed your trust and needs to earn it again. The records show that he hasn't done what he said he would do and how would he feel if you didn't follow through on things he wanted/expected/needed from you??? Turn it around for him to think through and realize that he's doing more damage to the people around him and himself for now AND the future than he might realize. Most kids don't see the full effect of their actions or consider any effects of their actions beyond one or two steps away. But we've all seen how one bad apple at the top can spoil the entire bag...even the one farthest away. He needs to understand that it isn't just that his homework isn't being done correctly and getting bad grades, it's also that he is changing his relationships with you, the rest of the family, his school/teachers, as well as jeopardizing his future career which would limit the number and kinds of toys (video games, stereos, car, home, etc) and free time he can afford on his own.

My son likes to just guess and write something to have it done... I've told him that homework is like anything else...it will reflect the effort/concentration put into it. (Again, like a video game, if you don't pay attention, you lose...if you don't pay attention to homework, you lose. In both, if you lose, you have to repeat that same level and can't move forward in the game, school, or life, until it is completed.)

Good luck! and I'm sorry for the book! :)

I didn't have that problem until my oldest (16) hit her freshman year in high school. Last year for your son could have been a hard year trying to adjust to middle school. They go to having only three teachers a day to 7 in most cases. You are taking on too much. The best teacher in this is failure. I know you don't want you son to fail. None want our child to fail but to get them to understand that this is important is a hard leason to teach. He might be a C student which is okay. Don't punish for C's praise him for every B and A he gets. Failure is not an option so when he is doing bad then let him know that he must lose out on things. Reward like this, and it has helped. For every A extra hour of computer or TV time. Every B half hour. Nothing for C's. D's and F's you take time away and he has to use it for study time. Sit with him while he doesn't his work and ask along the way to see if he truly understands. I also had a brother that until highschool had a learinging problem. If we was given a writen test he would fail, but when the same test was given orally he would pass. For what ever reason, when he tried to put it on paper it would come out all wrong, but when he would tell the teacher he got it write. Don't let him slack but reward and punish like that and you might see a change. Will take time but try for a grading period and see if it helps and Good luck

K., I know exactly what you're going through. When our son was 13/14,(now 18, senior in HS)we had the same problem. We didn't know what to do, so we hired a tutor which helped. When he was a Junior (last yr), he again didn't care anymore. He kept telling us he would make up ALL his credits as a Senior. Now as a Senior, he is REALLY struggling. I have tried everything I can think of to help him graduate. I spoke to his teachers to work with me. They have been very helpful with me but I found out that our son (and yours) has to want to do this. He recently talked about dropping out and working full time. When we found out, I was crushed. My husband and I sat him down and talked to him. We explained that he really needs a HS diploma to get anywhere these days...
An hour later, he agreed to try again. I guess it's harder for us because he's now 18 (an adult) but still lives under our roof. I have faith in him and believe he will do this.
Take your time with your son, sit him down and talk to him, hopefully things will work out. Good luck.

I was your son, in middle school and early high school i really didn't care about school work and did just enough to get by and stay eligible for sports but that was it. Part of it started b/c i had better things to be doing and the course work was easy for me and also i just didn't really care I had no concept of planning for the long run. Then once i got started down that road i didn't see a way back to good grades.

Over all i think i am an intellegent person and i did pass high school and got a 26 on my act.

I would suggest that you talk to your son about what he wants out of life. What job does he want, what kind of lifesyle is he planning.Then do research with him and find out what kind of education is required for those jobs. Is he planning on going to college, look up the enterance requirements for that college. Once he has that in mind work with him to set goals. Small goals such as raising each class by a certain percentage. And have him help you set limits and rewards for reaching or not reaching those goals.

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