25 answers

Teenage Boy and Jr High

I'm looking for advice on ways to get my 13 yr old son to bring up his grades in school. He is a D average student and is fine with that. I ofcourse am not! has anyone been there and have any tips on getting through it?

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Just wanted to say thank you for all the advice. It is good to know you are not alone! I am going to try some of these suggestions, thanks
We will get through this too.

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i have a 13 year old son as well. although we don't have an issue with grades, we offer rewards for grades. not big stuff, just fun stuff. I have found the positive reinforcement works well. for a really good mid-quarter report and good actual quarter report card, I take him to lunch at the place of his choice on a day off of school. Then we sometimes go to a movie. he really enjoys this, and it gives him "special time". I did this with my older son too. (he is now in college). going out for lunch and a movie is something they really felt special about. so, i would suggest something he really enjoys and having him work for it as a reward.

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My mother had a big problem with my middle brother when he was 11 or 12. He was satisfied with just getting by and almost failed the entire year because he didn't want to do his homework. He could do the work, he just didn't care. Mom had to sat down with him and explained on a nightly basis her feelings about school. He often sat and acted like he wasn't listening but she still talked to him every night. She told him that it was important for him to do his best. He was a very smart you man and she knew he could do much better than he was doing. She then told him until he could show that he was responsible for himself that she would do everything in her power to make sure he did what he was supposed to do and succeed in school. She explained that though he didn't understand the importance of an education at that time, she did and it was her responsibility as a mother to force him if necessary to succeed. So this is what she did for the next semester.

1.) She contacted his teachers and explained that she would be contacting them almost daily if necessary about his progress. She was instituting some techniques to force him to perform better. She asked if there were any problem areas in particular that they thought she should help him with. She also explained that he would be carrying a notebook to write homework assignments in and that she was asking all his teachers to sign it during class everyday...even if there was no assignment and communicate anything they felt they needed to in that notebook. And in return she would check his assignments every night and sign off as well.

2.) She explained that all his tv privelages and playtime outside was suspended until the end of the first progress report. He would not be allowed any tv, video games, or playtime outside during the week until the first quarter was over and she saw from the progress reports that he had improved. And my mother didn't make idle threats.

3.) She got his notebook and told him that it was his responsibility to write his assignments everyday and remind the teacher to sign off. If he forgot, he would lose additional privelages for that day. Example...he would have to go to bed 15 minutes early that night. He would not get any dessert after dinner. Or if it was persistent, he would not be allowed outside one day on the weekend.

4.) She would call the teacher if he forgot to have his assignment book signed.

5.) Once or more during the week she would walk him into the school that morning to talk to one or more of his teachers about his progress or after school. (he was thoroughly embarrassed) Mom explained that since he was not taking his part of his education seriously and acting like a small child then she would treat him like a small child.

6.) If he wrote his assignments everyday for the whole week and got no bad comments in the book from his teachers then she would reward him with something special on Friday night or Saturday. She might let him go out and play Friday after school, let a friend spend the night, let him play his video games of an hour or something like that.

Mom got across to him that semester that his education was very important to her and though he might not understand how important it was...he wasn't allowed to be a slacker. Something sunk in because he never pulled that again.

Her last and greatest idea for encouraging her children was to get us all really hard, really crappy jobs when we got old enough to work. We were only allowed to work in the summer and she found us the nastiest jobs she could find. We worked in a packing warehouse in 100 degree heat from sunup until sundown for minimum wage ($3.13 an hour then) two summers. My uncle got both brothers hired on at his job in a factory two summers in a row working like dogs for minimum wage. The first two years of college my brother worked in a dog kennel as the official "pooper scooper".

She then had a rule...after you graduated if you didn't want to go to college that was your choice but you would either move out or have to start paying rent, paying for your own insurance, and you still had to follow all her rules including midnight curfew.

If you gave her one year of college, then you could stay rent free and she would continue to pay your car insurance.

All three of us went to college and graduated with honors. It really made a difference to us that our parents really cared and just didn't talk the talk. We knew that they meant what they said because they would go to any effort to prove they weren't just full of hot air. They were willing to sacrafice their time to encourage us and we knew they really cared.

Hope some of that helps.

2 moms found this helpful


Before I can answer completely I will need to know more about your son's elementary school career. How were his grades? How was his attitude? I need to know if you're dealing with apathy alone or if your son has not yet integrated some of the basics into his education.


I had the same issue with my oldest. His 7th grade teacher told me it was a maturity issue & he would come around in high school. He did improve in high school but he first had to attend summer school for algebra between his freshman & sophomore year. He actually made it on the honor roll his sophomore year & I believe the difference was he joined the running team. Participating on the team improved his self esteem & he made more friends who were a positive influence. My friend who was a school counselor recognized my son as ADD. He is on the milder end so maybe thats why it was missed in grade school. We felt it was important to try medication since he would soon take his college entrance exams. He is now in his senior year in college.

I simply advise that you take the course I am offering on May 3 and 10, 2008 at the Lake Street Church in Evanston, from 9:30 AM to noon on both days...
'Mastering Tough Conversations with Your Teen or Pre-Teen'

R. Katz, Psy.D.

In my opinion, your entering the most turbulent years. My son is going to be 18 in April. It's been a rocky road. I look back and he too had average grades with D's in the mix. At his worst, I grounded him and told him he will be ungrounded when the grades are atleast C or above, It worked. For the first time in his life he was pulling high marks on all his homeworks. Now that he isn't grounded he is slipping again. They can do it...we just need to push them in the right direction. I don't like to ground to get out of them what they should be doing for themselves, but in this case it was a last resort. I wish I would have not let him have as much freedom as I gave..thinking I was preparing him for a mans life of independence...thinking the more freedom I gave he would develop into a man that could make his own choices..and I would never have to worry. In spite of all my good intentions, good advice..he obviously thought he knew it all and as of right now because of friends that had bought something stolen and put it in my sons car he is pleading guilty of possession of stolen property...even though he didn't realize it was stolen. And just lost his drivers license for one year because he has a lead foot. So he gets to start his college life walking everywhere instead of driving. My advice is: Don't allow him enough freedom to hang himself, limit his time with friends..and know everyone of his friends and their parents, keep in contact with the other parents at all times (don't trust them all the time) they do tell fibs to get what they want, give them surprise drug tests even though you don't think they will go near drugs, demand respect for yourself and your home, make them do regular chores (give them things they are soley in charge of in the household), try to get him into sports in school and out, don't allow him sleep-overs with his friends every weekend, do not allow him to have his own car when he gets his license...if he does drive set rules and stick to them. Be his parent, not a friend. Talk civil on problems and listen, don't dictate or have a closed mind. Limit time in front of the tv and video games. We never think our children will make bad choices and that they will excel..but that's not the case...even in the best of homes. It's all up to us to guide and hope they follow and listen. Find books on the teenage years and read as much as you can about teens. They do not have the same mind set as adults do. They are a breed all of their own. Good luck!

I think sometimes kids say that they are fine with "poor" grades - and that they don't care - but it is possible he really needs some extra help in school. I used to help a neighbor's child with math - and it really helped. Sometimes they start to fall behind - and can't catch up. I like the positive reinforcement ideas from the other moms - since he may feel overwhelmed - and some small "prizes" could get him excited again. I have spent plenty of time at the kitchen table at the same time as my child doing homework. I usually find something else to do - paperwork, pay bills, sometimes my own work. It seems that if I am near - she focused better - and she didn't feel like she was the only one "working". I also try to have the TV off - until all homework is done. My neighbor has a no TV rule until 9pm (they record their favorite shows and catch up on the weekend). If he doesn't seeem to get personal satisfaction from school work - you can help give him satisfaction from small incentives.
Please hang in there - and stay focused on him. Encourage him daily - for anything he did well. Have fun with him.
Also explain that school is a family priority - and that you are willing to do whatever you can to help him (whether this means you sit at the table with you for an hour in the evening or you withhold some privilege until his work is done).

Try to make sure school isn't the only thing you speak to him about....

I am the principal of a middle school (6-8th grade). I feel your pain! It seems that the intrinsic value of learning for the sake of learning does not occur in most teenage boys. You have to tie their school success to something tangible. In my case, it was allowance. My son loved money and shoes. I had a scale where his good grades earned more money than medicore grades. As he got older, good grades lowered his car insurance, which I made him pay for. That was a great incentive! You might talk to him about why he doesn't value school, and what his untimate goal for the future is.
Good luck!

Hi L.,

I have a 14 yo daughter and went through a similar thing. My daughter was an A student until this year - we have a Sylvan's Learning Center in our town. We started her there and her grades improved dramatically. They are great and they tailor to your child's needs.

Good luck,
D. A.

Been there done that unfortunately. I know it's such a struggle. My son is 14 and a freshman this year. For the last three years though, his grades have been about the same, a D average. My husband and I tried everything we could think of taking away from him, but nothing seemed to work. We've now started rewarding him for a job well done instead of punishing him and he's finally getting C's and B's. What a difference this has made in all of our lives, his included. He has more self confidence and is a much happier kid. Have a talk with your son and see what he thinks a good reward would be and whether you can afford to do what he suggests, if not, come up with something you can both live with. All kids react differently though, but I hope this will work for you too.

I would suggest having him tested - this will flag where he is academically which may not be where you think. I recommend calling Ivy League Tutors, Mr. Adrian Hunter, ###-###-#### - he can give you a possible idea of what's going on over the phone. Their tests are EXTREMELY thorough - testing not only what he knows but how fast he can demonstrate it. Another option is Sylvan Learning Centers - there is a location in Highland, Indiana. My only problem with Sylvan is that it is small group vs. individual lessons (at Ivy League) which may be part of the problem; also you pay for 1 hour but get 45-50 minutes. All of the tutors at Sylvan are certified teachers. The tutors at Ivy League score in the top 10% of all students in the country. Let me know what you decide.


Hi L.,
I am going through the same thing right now. I did get some ideas from a counselor. I am starting a check mark system. It is used to encourage him to complete his work. He can accumulate so many checks and then he can use them to do things that he enjoys. We have taken everything away from him. . TV video games, going out with his friends. . .This way he is in charge of his responsiblities and also aware of his consequences. Try www.familyeducation.com for a homework contract. Hope this helps. P.

i have a 13 year old son as well. although we don't have an issue with grades, we offer rewards for grades. not big stuff, just fun stuff. I have found the positive reinforcement works well. for a really good mid-quarter report and good actual quarter report card, I take him to lunch at the place of his choice on a day off of school. Then we sometimes go to a movie. he really enjoys this, and it gives him "special time". I did this with my older son too. (he is now in college). going out for lunch and a movie is something they really felt special about. so, i would suggest something he really enjoys and having him work for it as a reward.

i would tell my child to either bring the grades up or we will have a tutor or go to summer school. sometimes kids say they are ok with is or just think of themselves as stupid and give up trying. teen years are soooooo difficult. And you have it at both angles- teens and infants at the same time. It doesnt get harder than that. lol. remember to spend some alone time with your son too. good luck!

have you tried to use a counsler to help with his homework, or taking away weekend activties until his grades are brought up?

Has your son always been a "d" student? If not, there's other reasons why his grades have slipped. Please look at his friends (any new ones?), his activities, etc. Keep an eye on his mental and emotional health. Maybe he might need to see a doctor to get an evaluation. If he has always had struggles in school, you need to request that he be tested for learning disabilities (or learning differences as my girlfriend calls it). He might have a learning problem and might not know it or can't bring himself to admit it. Teenaged boys might not want to appear to be "different" from the other kids in school, so he might not want to admit that he has a learning problem. But ask your school district for the testing (you are entitled to them). The test results might just lead you to services and programs, tutors, aides, etc. that might help him become everything you know that he can be. You need to be his biggest supporter and advocate! Remember - the squeaky wheel gets the grease! Demand some testing and start investigating your son's many options. Good Luck!

My advice would be a reward system. Maybe you can start out for a reward for good test scores and then for good grades on his report card. It may be the motivation he needs. A speech therapist once suggested the reward system for my son it was a different problem but same principle he had to do something he didnt want to. Good Luck....

As kids mature, they have increasing responsibility with the ultimate destination adulthood and self sufficiency. School is one part of the progress toward this destination, so success at school is a reasonable expectation. Good grades are a demonstration of personal responsibility. So, I think it's reasonable to tie better grades to increasing personal freedom, lower grades to decreasing personal freedom. My son is a very mature 24 year old father now. But in Jr high he wasn't that mature or responsible especially with classes and teachers he didn't prefer. He was pretty independant, so I waited for a good moment to get his ideals and goals from him. This was in summer when the pressure of daily school life was off. At that point, his goals were reasonably high, and so I attached increased freedom (curfews, autonomy etc) to achieving them.
It was hard when he failed a test or earned a low grade to tighten the limits, but it worked. It was also hard when he achieved to let go and give him more freedom (going abroad)!
Now, I'm happy I did it.

Take a deep breath and step back. Is it your son doing it because it upsets you or is he really lost in school. You have to have a real conversation. You both talk and listen. He may have had trouble all along and just kept going. The style and type of lessons change with age. There is no way on earth any human being can do it all and do it well all the time. NIU Valentines day shooting is proof.

If he will not talk to you meet with someone at school or some adult he trusts. Find out what is going on. Depression? Feeling that he really cannot achive? Peer pressure?

I hate the blame game. I told my oldest son they are your grades. They do not effect my life but they will effect your live. My son did not do well in classroom where he and the teacher had a personality conflict. One of his junior high teacher chose at the being of the school year who she would pass and who she would fail. I have of his tests with right answers that she marked wrong. The principle even knew and nothing could be done. He had great teachers where he got straight A. It is funny how a child who sucked at grades was a straight top of class in college and got on the deans and presidents list.

Grades are the teacher, students and systems view of gaging a persons ability to teach and learn. I believe the systems is failing and needs change. This is just one example of the death of our society. People have many different skills. There are social skills, motor skills, language, math, science etc that just come natural to a person. On the other side is no comperhensen of the subject skills listed before. I feel strongly we must identify childrens good skills and focus praise on those. Then we have to find ways to help they discover through fun how to learn the unknow knowledge/skill.

So step back who is your son? What is he good at? What does he love to do? What does he have trouble with? Does he have life skills, can he fix food and do laundry? How is he socially? Who are his friends? Can his loves be turned into a job he likes?

Be a young girl again with your own parents. What was it like? Who were you? What did you want to do? What did you have to that your parents wanted you to do? What did you want to do?

Now help your son learn who he is and what he really wants today. Let him know his actions/choices have results that he has to live with. Make him responsible for them. Tell him you will support him no matter what he decides but he has to be responsible for his own suffering. If we do not make misstakes how can we learn.

Loving our children is a hard job. Knowing when to help them grow up is the hardest part. Help him be a man now. Teach him how to take care of himself. Stop waiting on him. If he does not do his school work and has to repeat a grade so be it. You do not want a college grad who gets a job and works three days of that job. Why did he only work three days. He wanted a corner office. He could not take direction. He was rude to everyone. On the fourth day his mommy came in to tell the boss that her sons self esteem was hurt. He needed his job back.

As mother's it is our job to make a human being who can function in this sick world and make the world a better place. Unfortunitilly someone forgot to tell us how hard it was and that we would make misstakes but our children would turn out anyway.

Back to education and grades. Our children, teacher, school system, parents are not 100% to blames for failure. Nor are they 100% the reason for success. Learning is a combination many factors.

Every mother feels your pain. Every mother go pat yourself on the back because no one else will. Never give up on your child's ability to learn.

tell him he'll never get to drive because he's obviously not proving himself as a hardworking responsible young man. Also car insurance is expensive enough for a male, under 25 with a B or above GPA, with a D average insurance coverage will be unaffordable!

I teach junior high and struggle with this everyday. One route is to figure out what his dream job, career, etc. would be and help him figure out what he needs to do to get there. I have a student much like your son. Out of nowhere, he has decided that he wants to go to a prestigious university. Mom and I are working together to figure out admission requirements to show him to let him know what he REALLY needs to do to achieve this dream.

Unfortunately the only way to help him is to stay on him. No TV/computer/snack until homework is done. Have him bring his assignment book to you daily, check his work, check it off in his assignment book. Talk to his teachers about test schedules and have him study the night before. Ask them if there is extra credit he can do and YOU make him do it. Give him the "mom" look and tell him that if his grades don't improve you will be getting a tutor, some times that is enough to get him motivated, he probably won't want one. He may actually need one! Talk to his counselor, see if there isn't something underlying in all this. Maybe he needs glasses or is dyslexic. If it is organic it can be worked with. If it is laziness controlling his study habits will help a great deal.
Fun age, don't grind your teeth too much, this too will pass. =)

Hi L.,
He may have a learning disability that has never been diagnosed (dyslexia, mild ADD, passive aggressive). As his classes become more difficult it is harder for him to keep up, therefore he stops trying. My niece wasn't diagnosed with ADD until she was 16. Don't be freaked out by the possibility of a learning disability. There are tons of ways & resources out there. First you need to talk with his teachers, school nurse & school counselors. If they suspect any learning disorder, then research it & speak to his pediatrician. If he does have one, it does not mean he has to be medicated. Many of these can be treated with nutrician/diet changes & councelors. My niece (now 21) did not go on medication. She found that her concentration was greatly improved when she cut her carbohydrate intake & boosted her protein. She also worked with school counselors. She is doing great & is now a Junior at The University of Michigan (not an easy school to get into). I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was 10 in the 1970's. I went to a learning center for a year & it worked amazingly well. I became a great student. If he does not have a learning disability then get some tutors & work on building his confidence. He may be giving up because he feels insecure. Sometimes getting involved in a sport or activity that he enjoys can help his overall confidence level. Good luck.

Good advice from everyone. As another Mom who has faced this problem, I just wanted to add that you have to find what motivates him. I tried lots of things (both carrots and sticks) until we finally hit on it. For our son, it was his hair. Loved it long, didn't want to cut it. So we set a minimum that he had to meet or he got the hair cut--our way. Two hair cuts later, he realized we were serious and he got serious too. We have now begun ratcheting up the requirements. 1st grading period it was no Ds, 2nd grading period it was no C-.
***WARNING***I will tell you that this did backfire on me. He asked what would happen if he did better than expected--like, if he made honor roll. I asked what he wanted and he said to dye his hair purple. Of course, I didn't think he could keep a C and make the honor roll, but apparently they go by GPA and not just As and Bs. Now he has purple hair! So lesson to parents, don't make promises you aren't prepared to keep.

I have been there, these past few years! I have found what works for me. My son LOVES music. He wanted an electric guitar so I got him one (yes it did take me about a year because I had to get my little guy one also and my daughter a keyboard). It wasnt a cheep purchase for us but it was more than well worth the investment!

He is now involved in choir, he plays the violin in orchestra and his guitar in jazz band. He is still getting a D in reading as he does have a bit of a problem with actually reading the books. He doesnt take the time to read them if they dont interest him. However he is now pretty much a B/C student other than his music classes which are always A's! He KNOWs he has to keep those grades up as he knows his music classes are a privlege and if the grades go down, he will start having to drop music classes to give himself more study time. I no longer have to fight with his to do his homework. His grades went up and other than the extra concerts and me having to pick him up from school a couple days a week so he can bring his guitar and amp home, it isnt a big deal. Everyone is happy!

Now, I am not saying go out and get your kid a guitar. What I am saying is find what he is really interested in. If you have to make an investment to get him involved do so if there is any way you can afford to do it. Get him going in something that he just absolutly loves and let him know from the get go that it is a privlege so the grades have to come up. If they dont, the extra activity will have to go so he has more study time. Some suggestions would be anything musical, anything artistic (painting, pottery, wood work, ect), karate, a weekend bowling legue, ect, ect, ect.

This will make him feel good about himself, finding something he loves and is good at. It brings up the self-esteem which in turn makes him want to bring his grades up more. My son is also 13. :)

I wish you much luck!

I have a 12 year old boy and i have to stay on him constantly. After school i give him a snack and he sits down to do his homework. I check his homework because otherwise he will write down anything just to finish. I have great communication with his teacher so i know what is required of him each week. He does not do anything, i repeat anything until his homework is done. If he brings home his weekly report with late assignments he does not play the playstation for that week. I volunteer 1 day a week in the lunchroom, again so i am available to talk with his teacher. Hope this helps, D. (mother of 3)

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