19 answers

Teenage Son Slacking His Freshman Year.

My son is 15 years old and has always been on the honor roll until now. I am so heartbroken over this. He continues to tell me that it's harder this year. I know he's a very smart young man and can do this work. I know that his friends are not bad kids and he's definately not doing drugs. I am trying desperately to get through to him that he needs these good grades for scholarships. He isn't listening to me. How can I make him understand without him learning the hard way and not being able to have the money to go to college? I've tried to tell him to stay after for extra help. He doesn't do it. He is the only child too. Any help would be grately appriciated.

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I am so overwhelmed with all of the advice given. It was much needed. I ended up being teary eyed when I finished reading them all. I will be taking bits and pieces from each of you. My son is the most important thing in my life and to fail him would leave me devistated. Thank you again. V.

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Don't keep telling him that it is just to get a scholarships that will just make him not try any more and fail school. let him know that when he gets older and when he has kids they will be smart just like him. and that he is tring to hard in school to get the work done all he has to do is com down and hw will under stand what the teacher is telling him and the rest of the class if not just ask one of the kids on what he said that all ways helps.

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Hi V.,
I can understand your concern. I was an advanced student and I have two children who are honors students, my 17 yr old, who is a junior, just qualified for National Merit. She also had some trouble in her freshman year and went from a 4.0 to a 3.5. In her sophomore year she was in an honors calc class that was too high a level and actually got a D - her first ever. There are a few things you have to keep in mind: your job is to raise and educate a confident fully funtional adult, high school is a big change and many kids need time to really adjust, communication is the key and bright kids think differently.
You want what is best for your child based on your understanding of that, make sure the two of you are in alignment on what he wants and what his interests are. At this age those are likely to change many times, allow him more responsiblity each year, where appropriate, discuss options and possible outcomes and let him make choices without judgement. I've found that driving is a good time to chat, no one can walk away, you are focused on driving and so you can't get too reactionary and kids seeem to relax in the car. Share some of your experiences - how did you really feel starting HS? Did you have some teachers you didn't like, some you loved who made the subject come alive? Keep it positive but realistic, he's smart enough to know when you are BSing. What it really comes down to is either you've done a good job (and it sounds like you have), or not. Increasingly, it's up to him. He needs you more than ever now but in a different way. Talk,talk,talk -communication is the key. Tell him, not that you expect straight A's, but that you expect him to do his personal best. You set the standard,take responsiblity and show him how an adult functions- no excuses - explainations, what can I do differently are ok. What happened, who is to blame, is only useful if it allows you to figure out how to solve the problem.
If he is as smart as it sounds, he will turn it around but it won't be because of nagging, punishments, or desperation on your part. He wants to please you but he is also growing up and needs some distance and the opportunity to discover who he is going to be - he will do some exploring, help with avenues to keep it positive. Stay positive, state clear expectations for personal best and them you live the example.
My daugher, who got the D in honors calc, recently got a letter from Yale saying that based on her test scores she should qualify for addmission and based on income would get a full ride. If I had freaked out and dumped on her, she might have shut down and quit. Instead we got her into another level of honors calc and I built her up - "I had a tough time with calc at first too, had to take the class twice. You can do it if you believe you can, you can handle this", but she was the one who did it! Hang in there and keep it positive, this is just a bump in the road.

1 mom found this helpful

My son is now 16 and going to be a Junior in High School. I have talked to a lot of parents about this issue and discovered that this is totally normal. So don't sweat it to much, however you can't ignore it. What I have found to work the best is to let him know that his cell phone, spending time with his friends and skateboarding (or whatever he is into at the time) are privileges and in order to continue to have those privileges he needs to be responsible and put his schooling first. This was the best thing I ever did because instead of constantly arguing with him and always being the bad guy for telling him that he couldn't hang out with friends, all I had to say was, "I don't know, can you hang out?" and he would hop on the internet and check his grades himself.

We did have quite the run in one time last year (when he was a freshman). He was saying that he WAS NOT going to waste all of his time doing nothing but studying and have no social life. He then began to tell me that if I thought average wasn't good enough that he would show me just how bad he could be! I immediately got right in his face and said "BRING IT!!!! Give me your cell phone and your i pod and go up to your room, you are grounded for 1 week minimum and possibly longer! Needless to say that he was apologizing later that evening and we had the best week ever.

Good luck,


Good Luck on this.... I have a 17 yr old daughter that has slack off so much in school it's on real. she did fairly well the first two years in high school and this year has gone down hill. It doesn't matter what I try to tell her she just blows me off like I don't know what I'm talking about. Up to this year we(her and I)had decided for her to go into nursing until she took couple of classes at the high school this year to go towards her degree for nursing and that all went down hill now because it's not what she wanted. As of now she doesn't know what she want to do. this is the latest... going to a community college part time and working part time but that depends on her dads insurance what will cover her. So, AGAIN GOOD LUCK!!!

high school is tricky and it is so much about appearance and where you fit socially. i think in hs it is not really always "cool" to be smart. and even if he didn't before he probably now cares, maybe even just a little, about being cool. i think some kids back off of academics alittle just so they don't seem nerdy. tell him why you think his grades are important and tell him what you expect from him grade wise. then tell him what will happen if this expectation is not met. don't freak out don't make it a huge deal or keep bugging him about it. he sounds bright so he will find his way. he just needs some space to do it on his terms in this new landscape. if you make it a huge deal(talking with his teachers or bugging him constantly) you may make the battle worse than it needs to be. if you start to see other significant changes in behavior then a talk with his home room teacher may be warranted. for now just let him do what he needs to do his freshmen year t make it through. his life will not be ruined if his grades drop a little. best of luck to ya, N.

Hey V.........you might want to ask him what he's feeling about himself, or life or Dad or you. He needs to be included in a conversation that is NOT judgemental so that he can get a sense, in himself of what's up for him.
And, you need to see him (in your thoughts & feelings) as an empowered young man. Anything else IS judgement based on your fear, which doesn't help either one of you. Keep breathing, Mom. J. Sexton www.tag-youre-it.com

This advice just comes from my own personal experience. My parents always told me that if I didn't get good grades I wouldn't go to college. I had some psychological issues in high school and that made my grades go down. I therefore stopped planning on college as early as my sophomore year. I'd been told all my life that I wouldn't be able to go to college without good grades. That is simply NOT TRUE. It is possible to work your way through college, or take student loans. It is perfectly acceptable to start at the community college. Most 15 year olds do not comprehend the impact their current actions have on their future life, but PLEASE don't tell him he can't go to college. It's a lie. I will regret for the rest of my life that I was convinced that I couldn't go to college without a scholarship. Scholarships are nice, not necessary. He does need to try his best, that is something you should expect from him. But if he is honestly trying his best, DON'T PRESSURE HIM FURTHER! High school is definitely harder than middle school. If he's being an overall good kid, trying his best, any further pressure from you will just make him rebel. This is my own personal experience of course, but I remember vividly my best not being good enough and therefore I just completely gave up. If I couldn't be good enough trying my best, why bother trying? Please be patient, he's learning.


I remember my freshmen year. It was a huge challenge for me to adjust to High School. I had been the top of my class in Junior high and then all of a sudden the other Junior High children that had learned so much more than mine. I convinced myself that was what it was all about. Looking back I realize that I was very depressed.

Near the end of the school year just before coming to High School, a classmate had died while in surgery. We weren't that close so I never connected how I was feeling with his death until years later. Is depression a possibility?

Your son is just at the age when his body's hormones are starting to really kick in and any biological imbalance will start manifesting itself.

Perhaps it time to stop pushing and get some help for your son. Whether that looks like a social worker, youth program, medical doctor or even a life coach, perhaps you need some assistance with this one.

With Love,
Loving Connections LLC

You have a lot of good responses so i will make mine short and sweet. I too had issues with my son when he was 15 however we got pass this period. We had to go through some hurdles but yet we survived. He is now graduting from CSU in two weeks and on to DU law in the fall of 2009 should he get accepted. Hang in there he will not derived too much from what you have taught him. He is testing the waters and will soon get his priorities back in order. Be patient.


I teach high school and certainly see my share of bright kids slacking off. My advice: check his schedule is he overloaded with honors classes? Is he doing a ton of extracurricular activities? It may be time to back off a bit; not every kid needs every minute filled with activities. Rarely, do kids come and seek help from teachers; they just don't want to admit they are struggling. Maybe you could communicate with his teachers and see where he needs help.

Anyway, try and reduce his load a bit, get him a planner to keep him organized and most of all love him and get off his back for a bit. Maybe he needs to sink and then realize he needs to get his act together.

Hope this helps.

I have been reading a great book about raising boys called: Raising Cain - Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys. It might be helpful.

although i personally do not have a child that age my husbands brother did the same thing to his parents so i have a little advise. My brother in law was the same way smart,good kid but he just kind of stopped caring once he got to high school. He did graduate but by the skin of his teeth (he did summer school 3 times). The thing that always bothered me was that all my mother and father in law would do is get mad at him every semester when they would see his bad grades and would ground him. So he would do good for a few weeks and then just stop doing his work again. So with that said I think what you have to do is get involved and contact his teachers. Yes he may hate you for it a first but you just can't stand by and watch him fail. You can set up a weekly work sheet with the teachers so every Friday it has to be signed by the teachers showing that all assignments are done for that week. And if he is having a hard time understanding the material you need to ask the teachers to have scheduled time after school to help him. I know he will be mad but you can't leave it up to him to get help on his own. Like you said right now he just doesn't see how important good grades are but if you help him he will be so thankful down the road. Good luck

My first semester of freshman year I had a 0.5GPA....If he isn't hanging out with the wrong crowd or isn't doing drugs I would have a talk with him about the importance of his grades, and leave it at that. My parents threatened me, grounded me, nothing worked, until I was ready to kick into gear. My lack of effort was due to bullying, though. Maybe that is a possibility. Have a meeting with all his teachers, and see what they say and go from there. BTW is he getting bad grades or lower grades. Maybe your expectations are too high. Colleges understand when a kid gets an occasional C even a D for that matter. It's accumulative that counts. Unless he wants to go to an Ivy league school, this shouldn't hurt him too bad. BTW 2 After I moved to a new HS my grades stedily improved, and I did get into college (and graduate on time)

I think it is a confidence issue and the fact that he is going through a lot of changes: socially, physically, hormonally and emotionally. It is overwhelming for kids that age. My freshman year I dipped down to a 2.7 or so but then got 4.0s after that. I think it was just all too overwhelming to me and I didn't think I could do it. Maybe try to address the issue in different ways -- asking him what he needs from you, and maybe even a little counseling to support him at this time would help. Positive reinforcement is a big deal for kids this age and some understanding of what they're going through can go a long way. If he doesn't feel like you get what he is going through at all, then he won't really hear anything else.

I have had the same problem with all of my kids, and I have been told by the teachers at their school and by their consoler's that what is happening is quite normal, the work does get harder, so a normally A student will be finding they have to work a lot harder to get the grades they used to get. One other suggestion, if it hasn't already been done is to get his eyes checked, my 15 year old DD was having the same problems, she would tell me that she is reading and studying but still she was having a hard time, I kept telling her the same things you did, turned out her eyes where the problem although right before school started we had gotten her new prescription, their eyes can become unaligned (not unusual) and it makes retaining information hard....just a thought. Also is their one thing he really likes and wants to do? This year was my sons turn to pull the same "stunt" and he appeared to have an "I don't care attitude" so I told him no football next year if he doesn't bring all of his grades up to B or better and then I got the coach involved, even though his grades are fine to play they were not fine with me, so I explained it to the coach, and the coach told me he has a special workout for kids who aren't getting good grades, and the coach has been checking with the teachers, it has made a huge difference. And the coach works this boy, of course this is my super athletic one and actually finds the workouts challenging but he did come home about 2 weeks in saying the coach almost had him puking and he doesn't want to have to do that again. so find something and employ others who might be able to help encourage your son.

This is a time in your son's life that he realizes that there are GIRLS in his class and oh my god, they might be interested! Also, the transition from junior high to high school is such a big transition that kids all of a sudden feel big and worth something. You harping on him about his grades isn't going to do anything. Yes, we all know it is very important that he does get good grades, but right now, he doesn't care. Maybe try writing him a truthful, heartfelt letter about how he really should care about his grades and that you know he's smart enough and he NEEDS to get good grades if he wants to go to college. Make sure it's not a nagging letter though. Anyways, I hope this helps.

Don't keep telling him that it is just to get a scholarships that will just make him not try any more and fail school. let him know that when he gets older and when he has kids they will be smart just like him. and that he is tring to hard in school to get the work done all he has to do is com down and hw will under stand what the teacher is telling him and the rest of the class if not just ask one of the kids on what he said that all ways helps.

Well you can try a private tutoring service, sylvan is a good one, we found that helped my niece alot.

I am a high school teacher. (1)High school IS harder than middle school / junior high. High school teachers don't hold the students' hands any more like teachers at lower grade levels do. They expect students to be responsible and independent. Problem is, this is not an innate quality that kids have. They have to learn how to be responsible and independent. This is the parents' job to teach their children this. Also, sometimes teachers neglect to teach study skills. You should teach your son study skills or find a tutor/teacher that could do this for you. (2)What are his goals? Does HE want to go to college? He's not going to do it unless it's something HE wants to do. I would help him explore his interests and what HE wants to do with his life. Set goals. Make a plan. If he has ownership, he'll work hard to achieve. But if it is YOUR goals, you'll get nowhere. (3)Help him get him involved in extracurricular activities --- his choice. It's a good way to make friends. Social life is so important in high school. Also, extracurricular activies force kids to earn good grades in order to participate. (4)How do you KNOW he is not doing drugs??? As a teacher, I was always surprised with how naive parents were about their kids doing drugs. My experience has been when a good student has a sudden downward spiral with grades, it's either drugs or depression. Don't take this for granted, I would investigate. (5)TALK to your son. (6)Give him incentives and motivation. (7)As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't MAKE im drink. (8)Love him unconditionally.

Be a little stricter. Try disciplining him. One other idea is to go out and gather information on various types of jobs, how much they pay, the cost of living, and dreams and goals that your son might have. Lay them all out in front of him and let him see what his options in life are.

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