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.

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