J.Y. asks from Bethel Park, PA on January 10, 2009
Unmotivated 16 Year Old
My 16 year old daughter is very smart, but is very unmotivated to complete her school work, therefor seems to be running a C average in almost everything. I speak to her teachers who say she 'drifts off' in class. She often gets zeros for homework she 'does not feel like doing'. I realize a C average is not the end of the world, but I know she is capable of more and would like her to be able to go to college. I have taken away privliges, offered incentives, etc, and she says she will do better, and may for a very short time, then its back to the same old story. She is treated for depression. I don't know what else to do. I have considered cyber school, but she and my husband object. Any ideas?
So What Happened?™
Thanks to everyone who replied. Its been a while and we have taken many of your suggestions and things are much different. I have accepted C as an okay grade while continuing to make the grade "0" an unacceptable occurrence. I have made a point of focusing on her many artistic talents and accepted that not everyone is a scholar, even if they have the ability to be. I prayed with her nightly, and for her daily, to gain focus and opportunities to excel and was blessed with 3 ways (what I always pray for) for her to compete academically using her talents. My husband and I had a huge blow out about this, but seem to be on the same page now. And most recently, she got a weekend job. Thanks for your help!
M.L. answers from Allentown on January 11, 2009
I wonder if you take her to a food pantry or homeless shelter for the both of you to volunteer she would see how hard it is for some people and she'll appreciate her own life a little more. It may also motivate her to improve her grades so she can get into college and get a good job to support herself someday.
Maybe another thing you can do is talk with her about what she ultimately wants to do with her life, even if it's not going to college. Maybe it's culinary school or something else that's creative and uses her hands? If she has a goal and sees how finishing school with a better grade point average will affect that goal, maybe it would help her get motivated.
Good luck! I hope you find something that works!
S.Y. answers from Pittsburgh on January 11, 2009
I suffered from depression since age 14...at that age I had counseling, but no meds (at that time my parents believed I just "needed Jesus"...that's why I commend you for being proactive and getting your dd on meds!) "They" (the scientific community) have found that meds/talk therapy combo is really helpful.
Also, check out "The Feel Good" book/handbook by David Burns (cognitive/behavioral). Excellent, and VERY helpful.
I would not recommend putting your daughter into cyberschool if she adamantly opposes it. It could take her away from her support network (suprisingly enough, teen's friends, if they are positive and not into anything undesirable, can be a help to a depressed girl). If it would be a home-type school it could be too isolating for her.
Finally, I'd suggest grabbing the book, "How to talk so teens will listen, and listen so teens will talk" by Adele Faber. It will really help you get her to open up. :)
Good luck, sweetie!
1 mom found this helpful
S.B. answers from Philadelphia on January 11, 2009
Hi, I don't know your daughter, so I don't know if this is the case, but, I think this is something you should consider, if you haven't already. You don't want to be pressuring her to do something she can't. I am a HS teacher. Every parent I've met has always said their child is "so smart" or "smarter than they are currently achieving". Everyone now a days thinks their kid should be getting A's. The truth is if your child is going to a good HS, then most kids should be getting C's, not A's. C means average. I often hear, but my kid got A's in middle school, they should still get A's in HS. That's not true. Unfortunately many middle schools treat education like elementary school. Showing up is more important than actual achievement. When kids get to HS they suddenly discover they actually have to do homework in order to get a grade for it. I've often heard in middle school that HW didn't really count/ the kids didn't really have to do it. It may be that she has slacked off on HW for years & always gotten away with it & now suddenly can't. Again, I don't know your daughter or her school, so I don't know if this is the case, but its something to think about.
Also, getting C's doesn't exclude you from going to college. Yes, it will exclude you from Harvard or Yale, but most 4 colleges accept students with C's.
As for motivating her to try harder: I think there were a lot of good ideas from other posters. One more I would consider adding. Her teachers say she "drifts", you may want to have her checked for ADD. She may be having legitimate trouble focusing. (Which could also be caused by poor diet & exercise as another poster suggested).
Good luck. I hope you figure it out.
1 mom found this helpful
B.H. answers from Philadelphia on March 26, 2009
I know that this is difficult, yet there are a couple of options. Does your daughter have any interests or ideas about what she may want to pursue in the future? Have you taken some field trips to Colleges? I remember doing that with my daughter when she was young and it helped motivate her. We actually went to New York City for the day and went to NYU. She eventually went to Temple and did very well. I own a tutoring service and the tutors that work with me work around study skills, organizational skills and build a relationship with the student around interests. I hope this helps.
N.P. answers from York on January 11, 2009
Ask the teacher to send home a list of homework, in a homework book. Each teacher should fill it in, and then check it immediately. If it isn't filled in, no privledges. If it is do homework together for an hour and then give her some reward, computer time, tv, a family game.
V.F. answers from Scranton on January 11, 2009
Also check into her hormones and thyroid. I had a lot of depression during highschool as well. What ended up happening is that I had an abnormal periods. They did an ultrasound and found out that I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and this was the main source of my depression. There are also lots of herbal supplements that can be taken as well.
K.C. answers from Pittsburgh on January 11, 2009
You mentioned that your daughter is very smart. Could it be that the work is so boring and mundane to her that it's a struggle for her concentrate? It's hard to work on something that is totally uninspiring.
Another thing to consider is that maybe it's not as easy for her as you think. Maybe she's pretending she doesn't care because it's actually a struggle. Either way, I'm sure she's not happy with the situation.
Kids are all so different. I was very motivated by grades and would not dream of going to school with without doing my homework. My husband, on the other hand, couldn't care less about grades and rarely did homework. He actually ended up quitting school, taking his GED, and going on to get his Bachelors in Computer Science. I'm not recommeding that, but just pointing out that some children need to be motivated by individual interests or interesting material rather than outside praise (in the form of grades or whatever). This is actually a much healthier form of motivation, IMO.
So, maybe you can help her find out what inspires her and go from there. Grades are not the end-all-be-all of everything. I know that's not a popular way of seeing it, but there are more important things in life. (As you said, it's not the end of the world).
I know it's hard when you have a smart child that is not motivated. It's hard seeing your child suffer through depression. Being a parent is not always easy. Don't be too hard on yourself. You're loving her and doing the best you can for her.
If the depression continues or worsens, I would certainly seek counseling for her, if you haven't already. In the meantime, ask her what she wants in life, what she's interested in more than anything else, what makes her feel alive. I'm interested in what she has to say.
A.S. answers from Allentown on January 11, 2009
You got a lot of great ideas. Motivation is a very tough thing to figure out. There is motivation that comes from others (wanting to do good for you or the grade or a reward), but the best one will be when the motivation comes from within herself, but she might need help finding what that is. It is possible she could be bored, not all teachers take the time to motivate their students which is an important part of being a teacher. It's wonderful that you are involved, just continue giving the unconditional love and support, positive praise and research what you can do to help her. There are lists of ideas out there, if you google teenage motivation. Good luck.
L.B. answers from Philadelphia on January 11, 2009
Have you ever considered ADD? I just began a Behavior Modification Class for parents and children at A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children. It is common for kids with ADD to present with depression, as well. If she's "drifting off" in class, it could be an inability to focus on the task at hand. I would speak to your pediatrician. When I filled out an ADHD evaluation for my child, I was very surprised at how much he "fit the mold" for ADD and other problems, specifically anxiety. If it is ADD, it is something that she cannot help, and therapy would benefit.
Best of luck,