C.F. asks from Folsom, CA on September 20, 2010
Teen Girl Not Interested in School
My 13, almost 14, year old daughter could not care less about school. She likes the social aspect and a couple of teachers but doesn't feel successful so she doesn't try. I am at a loss about what to do. She doesn't put any effort into studying. She doesn't care if her grades are bad. I threatened to take her phone away if she fails a test that she doesn't study for, and she said that she won't let me. I guess I can have the phone carrier just turn it off for a week. She has never been a strong student and it just gets harder for her as she gets older. She refuses to use a tutor. She is just being so stubborn! She struggles to stay focused in class. I am going to have her evaluated for ADD soon. Is there a way to get her to care? I tried bribing with money and that doesn't even work. I just want her to try and to not have a defeatist attitude. How can I help her? Thanks in advance!
J.D. answers from Dallas on September 20, 2010
If she is capable of doing the work and is choses not to, I would just tell her what you expect her grades to be overall. B's and above, C's and above - whatever you think is realistic for her. Explain to her what the consequences are if she doesn't meet that. If her grades fall below X then you are taking the phone until they are back up, no friends, money..whatever you decide. BUT FOLLOW THROUGH and DON'T NEGOTIATE. Stay off her back day to day...if she choses not to study then she is ultimately chosing the consequence. She will eventually decide to either succeed or fail. My daughter is real good at self-regulation but took me a while to realize this, we would fight over grades daily. When I stopped monitoring it daily and told her what I expected at the end of the six weeks it eventually got better. She did have a couple of hiccups, but realized it was her fault and I took away her ability to say if you would stop nagging me maybe I would do it.
R.J. answers from Seattle on September 20, 2010
What does she want to be when she grows up?
I've noticed most kids who are successful at school fall into one of three categories:
- Those who just love school... it's more fun than mardi gras
- Those who have been told to do well and do it for no other reason
- Those who are passionate and driven about becoming __________
( _________ can change as they grow, but since they're already used to defining, researching, and working towards goals, change is FINE. It means they are continueing to evaluate).
Your DD doesn't love school, so that one's out. Thank GOD she's not just doing well because you told her to (these kids just end up LOST... because they never think for themselves, they just do what is expected... probably 2/3s of college kids I know have no real clue how they got there, what they should be doing, or how to go about it... they're just crippled)... so that leaves finding her passions.
Which can be FUN. Especially if you 2 do it together.
Seriously... Sit her down and say "Lets completely ignore school for a few hours, lets just care less... NOW what do you really love to do? If you could be any of 4 things when you grow up what would they be? ((AND let her say things like tennis player, or rock star, or even gold digger. Take *whatever* she says, no matter how outlandish... completely seriously. The start researching what it takes to a) get there, and b) what the actual job/carreer is like.)) She'll probably spoof you on at least a couple. That's fine. That actually builds trust as you put as much effort into the "ridiculous" answers as you do something respectable like "doctor". Let her know that the answer "I don't know" unless she's trying to come up with some (you know the difference between IDK blowoff and IDK yikes! I have no idea!!) means that you will choose for her. If so, try and choose 2 plausible (based off of things she likes to do) and 2 really silly (but not insulting) ones.
The whole point is to get her really engaged and interested and thinking about her life. Ideally, have this be a once a month thing. Leave how much "work" is involved in each carreer to get there out of it for NOW. Instead let her get excited about the possibilites. Get her *excited* about the different options and have her trace backwards on how a person gets there.
And you may be surprised. As a spoof of a similar project at school (waaaaay too late, it was a senior thing, when it should *really* have been done as a freshman), I decided to be a jewel thief. Art, banks, whatever... but high end. (I was feeling a little snarky about the project). Come to find there is a way to do that legally (working for a company that multimillion/billion dollar companies hire to break in to test their security), AND that one of those companies was based 20 minutes from my home! (Rare, there are only a handful in the country). While *yes* a lot is computer oriented, some was very James Bond. Super fun. And the entry level salary was over 6 figures a year. J, M, & J! Of course, by that time I was already signed and sworn with the USMC, and was shipping out in 3 months, or I could have taken a 1 year unpaid internship, modified salary while they sent me to school, and been making 6 figures by the time I was 22 doing a SUPER fun job. Heaven forbid.
So even the "loopy" answers can have some interesting results.
Anyhow... in any job that is not a service industry job... it quickly becomes apparent *why* education is necessary. It's not always an academic education (usually is, however), but very definately an education. Especially to chase your dreams. I mean car mechanic making $8 at Jiffy Lube, or Nascar pit team? Wildly different educations go into those jobs. Hair stylist at Supercuts, or runway fashion hair, or movie hair? Lack of education, internships, drive, and ambition gets the jobby jobs that pay the bills. ANYTHING a person loves can become a *very* lucrative career... but a person has to actually
a) Find what they love
b) Think outside the box.
School doesn't teach these things. But you can.
((And if she's adhd... this whole process will work really really well. Mostly because we adhd-types are better at thinking outside the box than almost anyone, and also because it's almost impossible to focus on anything boring. Focusing on your own dreams and likes is the opposite of boring.))
And ditto Shane. Won't LET you take her phone? ROFL. Yeah right.
"You can hand it over or lose it for good. Hand it over and you can earn it back. If you make me FIND it, I'll think about *maybe* letting you have a phone again in year. Or two. And if you throw a fit about it, or throw the phone, be aware that you'll also be grounded for the next _______." and smile, and hold out your hand.
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J.T. answers from Dallas on September 20, 2010
okay, first, let me tell you this... if i told one of my children i was gonna take their phone away if they failed a test, and they said they won't "let" me, that phone would have been yanked for AT LEAST a month at that VERY moment due to attitude. don't use the phone company to discipline your child, YOU discipline her. and she "refuses" a tutor? sounds like the bigger issue here is that she is in charge, not you. reverse that cycle, you are the parent, she is the child - and the school thing just may fall into place.
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B.C. answers from Norfolk on September 20, 2010
The phone has to go. She can earn it back by putting some real effort into her school work and if she let's her work slip again, she loses it again. She doesn't have to have perfect grades, but she has to try and put her best foot forward. Same thing with internet surfing (put the computer in family room and if it's not being used for school work (she's on Facebook or instant messaging, etc) then no computer time. Same thing with the TV and video games. They have plug locks where you can lock up electrical appliances so they can not be used until you unlock it with a key. If she wants a power struggle, let's she how she does when her bedroom door is removed and she has to earn that back, too.
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M.L. answers from Houston on September 20, 2010
Focus less on the now with the bribes, and more about her future. Really explain that her future depends on her grades. Ask her what she is interested in, becoming a vet, a writer, a journalist, photographer, speech pathologist, nurse... let her know that she will have to be something someday. Take her to volunteer at an animal shelter or doing data entry or secretarial work for a non-profit organization.
And if she doesn't pull through and have good grades now, the chances of her getting a decent job that she enjoys can pretty much guarantee that she can have a difficult life as an adult.
It sound like she has some self confidence issues. Help her rebuild that. Get her a tutor for the subjects she is failing in. A tutor can help her get interested and realize that she can do it.
Follow through on the discipline if you need, you simply go and take the phone out of her hands, remove the battery and hide it. Be sure you give lots of positive reinforcment throughout the week as well.
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L.S. answers from Philadelphia on September 20, 2010
I went through the same thing last year... only my daughter may NOT tell me I cannot do something. You should take her phone away just for telling you you're not allowed...
As far as school, I contacted each teacher, and had her teachers sign her agenda everyday, that made sure I knew when her tests were, what assignments she had due and what the assignments were. After about a month of having to get everything signed, she realized her grades were up, and it wasn't as hard as she thought it would be. She spent too much time socializing and not enough time on work... Now she is in high school, and so far she is being really responsible and I barely have to prompt her at all with homework and studying... (She did spend most of 8th grade with no cell phone and no Ipod touch)
Good Luck, I think it is the age... here's hoping you make it through ok
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J.C. answers from Anchorage on September 20, 2010
Sounds like she is not expecting any follow through on your threats, so follow through. Call the phone company and have her service turned off until further notice, tell her you will have it turned back on when her grades improve. If you need to remove computers (except for school work, no internet/face book) and what ever else you need. She is fighting you, and part of what she needs is compassion and a listening ear, but she also needs to know that if a threat of discipline is made, it will be followed through with.
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L.K. answers from Kansas City on September 20, 2010
Been there done that.
Our now 20 year old son's lack of effort was apparent from 6th grade on. And we DID take away his phone, games, computer, grounded him, bribed him and paid for a tutor. We even put him in a private school so he would have small class sizes and more structure. He was diagnosed ADHD in 1st grade, but meds only helped with attention not the effort.
Don't get me wrong, he is very smart! A great kid. His teachers adored him. But he was no more excited when he aced a test then when he bombed a test. I think it is part of his personality AND a couple of teachers and a few 'friends' who crushed his confidence.
His 5th grade year was a complete waste for a variety of reasons. When we moved him to a private school in 6th grade, he did amazingly well. Still not stellar, and still lacked effort, but overall did well. In 7th or 8th grade he studied hard for a science test and aced it! One of his best friends, I know didn't mean it the way it came out, wondered why our son "the average guy in the class" did better than he did. After that, our son saw himself as average.
When he hit high school he came home one day and said "so and so gets $500 if he makes honor roll!" I told him to GO FOR IT! We would pay him $500 if he made honor roll! We never had to pay out.
Our 16 year old daughter, is the polar opposite. Thus my feeling is that it is part of their personality. As a sophomore she is taking 3 honors classes, 2 foreign languages, is on a club softball team and working on her Congressional Award. She is self-motivated and has drive.
So while I do think it may just be part of your daughter's personality, you are the mom. I'm not sure I would waste money on a tutor if she isn't going to pay attention. But you can and should take away the phone. When our kids got phones it was and is with the clear understanding that we own the phone and allow them to use it. And can be taken away at any time. Unless she's paying for it and all monthly charges, it's yours!
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S.R. answers from McAllen on September 20, 2010
Do have her evaluated for ADD. Also, my dad used to give us the responsibility vs privilege thing, and how it works is, you have a privilege when you meet your responsibilities for instance, you get good grades you get to keep your cell phone, no good grades no cell phone, no house chores, no allowance, like for instance, if I asked my dad, I want ... to go to a movie, he would ask, what have you done to deserve it, and I'd say, I did my laundry, and got a B in Math, and he would say, Ok, you can go...
Its not about getting a reward for things she has to do, its about proving she has been responsible before asking for a privilege.
Also I think you should impose a little bit, my dad got a tutor for my sister in 9th grade, and wow, was she pissed, it was a fight before every session, but after a couple of weeks of no texting, no facebook or outings, she gave in, and her grades have improved considerably.
She might not care for school at the beginning but she will care for the privileges, and once she realizes she can have virtually anything if she meets her responsibilities she will care about meeting them.
My sister is going to college in the spring and is already looking into getting a car, my dad said she can have it if she can keep her grades and have a part time job and keep it for at least four months. She is really excited!!
In my humble opinion, this is a win-win, because you don't deny her things, and she has to earn them. I think that makes you feel better when you get it, like its an accomplishment.
I hope this works for you as it did for us.
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