13-Year Old Constantly Trying to Get Out of Homework

Updated on November 11, 2011
A.A. asks from Sunnyvale, CA
13 answers

My stepson is in 7th grade and ever since the beginning of the year he has constantly been dishonest about what he has for homework so that he can get out of it. It hasn't been until I linked into the website of every class and constantly checked it that I was able to see inconsistencies with what the teachers indicate the homework is and what he says it is. I'm trying to help him build good habits and haven't been in his life as a full-time mom more than 4 years. I feeling like it's honestly pulling teeth and the dread is awful every day when I discover that he is lying about these things. I feel it is NOT OK and instead of nitpicking about specific assignments we have even tried the approach of "if we see one "F" on your progress report (this is the broken down grades and overall grades) you will not have priveleges for a week. He's had plenty of F's with missing assignments which is no surprise there. He ends up getting overall grades of B's on these classes and sometimes a C or an A. I am wanting to know am I being to hard on him and this should be the time I let go and let him fail? This week for example he tells me they don't have a reading and log all week because there is no school Friday. I just discovered on the weekly assignments there was one and he totally made that up. I deep down feel I need to catch him on these lies. And when I presented to him that what he's saying is homework is one thing and what his language arts teacher says is different he even had the audacity to tell his teacher that there's a glare so he could never see the assignments on the board. She verbally tells them everyday btw. AND she has a handout with the assignments everyday. He even stopped having us sign his daily planner but only had two classes on there anyhow and rarely had the correct stuff written down.

Anybody with any experience related to this I would so appreciate your input. I really can't stand being taken for a fool which is literally what he's doing every single day.

Thanks for your time.

Best, A.

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answers from Honolulu on

Middle school is a great time to fail! It doesn't carry over to what colleges look at in GPA, so let him fail!

I would set up a parent teacher conference and invite him. Tell them and him that you are going to let him take charge of his schooling and education and if you need to repeat 7th grade, that is his choice and that if that is what the teachers recommend, you will back them up.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

I have a friend whose daughter tried to pull stuff like that... She told her daughter that to shape up, get the homework assignments written in the planner and done at home, or my friend would shadow her at school all day every day including lunch and PE.
Then, she went to school with her daughter the next morning and followed her to her locker, chatted it up with her friends, and basically pretended to be a middle school student. The daughter was MORTIFIED. She assured her mother that she would get it right and that there would be no more issues. My friend told her that she would be trusted to get her act together this once, but the first time she messed up, she'd have her mom in every class with her.
Needless to say, that daughter is a highly responsible, academically strong, college kid now....
AND -- mom never went to class... just the threat of it was enough.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Where is his father in all this?

The only thing I can say is don't give him the opportunity to lie. Don't ask him what his homework is, or if he did it - you know what he has from viewing it on-line, so just be straight..."You are supposed to do these math problems, so let me see what you have done."

Is it possible he is struggling with the material and does not want to admit it? Does he need to spend some extra time after school with the teacher to make sure he understands what is being taught?

Otherwise, the only other piece of advice would be to let him fail a class or 2...grades in 7th grade don't count toward college, so maybe he needs to learn the hard way what happens when he makes poor choices.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from El Paso on

This is very typical, and what several parents of my students did at various points was this:

The student had to write down the assignment in their planner and the teacher had to initial or sign next to it verifying what the student wrote. (The signing took place after class so it didn't interfere with other students who need assistance.) Then, of course, the student had to take the planner home and show the parent(s) and do the homework. If there was no assignment, the process was the same, the student just wrote "no homework" and the teacher verified with signature.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think this type of behavior is fairly common. My daughter has similar issues of not turning in homework assignments, etc. However, the difference is she doesn't lie to me about it. She also gets A's and B's in most of her classes. I would have never even know about the undone assignments until our school started the process of viewing grades online. We as parents have expectations, if she does not meet them there needs to be a very good reason why, or there are consequences. I don't threaten that she will loose computer time, I walk into her room take her laptop and secure it in my room, and she has to earn it back.

I'm guessing by some of the things in your post that part of the reason your son is doing this is because you allow it. What happened when you caught him in the lie about the glare. Was he punished? Did you take away his privledges? Did you make him appologize to the teacher for lying?

I know this seems harsh, but this is the way I see it, as well as you admit he's taking you as a fool.

You say "HE stopped the signing of the daily planner". HE didn't stop it, you did. If you know the routine is to sign the planner, then why didn't you do it. Why didn't you say "where's your planner, I need to review and sign it"? The way you word your post indicates, it really isn't a big deal because it wasn't done right anyway so why should I even bother.

You say he will not have privledges. Are you standing behind that? Are you specific in the privledges that are being taken away? Do you give in after a day, or does he loose them for the full week?

If you don't take some action now it will only get worse. The first step is to make sure that you and your husband are united and agree on what is expected and what the consquences will be. The next step is to come up with a game plan. Every day you will find out what the assignments are, you will look in his planner and see if he wrote them down, if not you'll have him do it. Every day the 3 of you (hubby, you and stepson) will review the grades online together. If you need to, get the teacher involved. The third step is you will be consistant and you will follow through on the consquences.

I wish you the best of luck. The first month or two will be a major battle, but hopefully if all goes well, it will work and you wont' have these battles throughout high school.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

This is actually pretty typical. I wish it wasn't.
My son is an amazing kid and a junior in high school. We got a progress report alerting us to the fact that he was missing homework assigments after he'd been telling us he didn't have any.
He got busted and that's when he got around to telling us he just didn't feel like doing it.
Thanks for the honesty....but that's not acceptable.
He now has a planner that all his assignments are written down and filed in. Me and his dad check them off when the assignments are done, the teachers check them off in the book when they are turned in.
He admitted he screwed off for the first two weeks and now we make sure there isn't any screwing off room left.
Kids will get away with what they can while they can so you just have to be in communication with the teachers and not leave sliding room.
It is a lesson for kids to figure out that it's easier just to get things done when they are assigned. They're happier, their parents are happier, the teachers are happier.
Yeah....work can be a real pain in the butt, but this is the easy stuff. And I don't mean easy in that it might not be challenging, but grades received now can make things easier later in life when REAL responsibility kicks in.
We told our son that we will be at his school every week if need be to confirm everything. As a junior....the daily planner is something he's suddenly happy to keep up.
You can't be taken for a fool if you don't take his word. You have to take the time to follow up and that kind of stinks, but he needs to know you will do it every single day. He may find, like my son did, that it's easier just to do it and get things turned in and signed off.
By typical...I mean kids will try to get by with things.
He just needs to know that nothing is getting past you.
Hopefully his dad is on board with this approach.
I've been divorced much of my son's entire life and we both are on board with the planners and checking his work, etc.

He's not evil for giving it a whirl. All kids try things.
You and his dad just need to be consistant. And....work with the teachers.

Best wishes.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

A., No one likes to taken for a fool. But don't think of it in this way, he's still a kid, keep that in mind. I know what you're saying, but you don't want this to turn into a battle or worse a war. The thing is you need to get to the bottom of this. There is a reason for this, it's not just a kid trying to get out of it. He has a reason even if he doesn't know what it is. This is just the beginning if you don't find out what the crux of the matter is. Don't let him slide through the cracks. Sounds like he's giving up.

Just a thought or two.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think you can try one of two approaches.

First would be to approach this as a team. Sit down with him as soon as he gets home from school and make a plan for approaching his work. Don't ask him 'do you have any homework in math?' Instead - ok do you want to do the math first or English first? If the teachers post their assignments on their websites when they are assigned, you could already have the info. Make sure he has a dedicated, quiet place to work, a snack and that he is only working for a reasonable time. (In reality, there is NO EVIDENCE OF ANY BENEFIT to homework for elementary and middle school children and very wishy washy evidence for high school kids). So if he can't get is done in a reasonable time, I wouldn't push it.

Second option - let it go. And let him face whatever consequences there may be. I can't imagine they could be too terrible or screw up the rest of his life, so maybe let him deal with it. If he is still getting mostly Bs - how important could the homework actually be to his learning of the subject? I'm guessing not very - probably just busy work.

Please read this article on lying. Apparently punishing kids simply leads to more frequent and BETTER liars.


Honestly, I was that kid. I got As in all my classes but frequently didn't do my homework (happily back then there wasn't nearly as much, we pretty much self corrected it and no one cared too much). I went on do get As in high school, only selectively skip homework and then went on to an Ivy League education and professional degree. I still do not see the big deal to homework. I am fairly sure my parents knew I didn't do a lot of the work but since I seemed to be LEARNING everything I was supposed to, they chose to ignore it. I only figured that out probably 15 years later.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Where will he go to High school? Is there more thna one choice? Have him shadow at HS so he can see what is ahead. My son who was very unmotivated wants to go to a very high gear HS(because he likes the dynamic teachers) and suddenly he is working very hard. I have also heard of kids at this age visiting a college (esp in their field of interest if he has any). Link it to what is ahead, give him a taste of it.



answers from Redding on

We are going through the same thing with our sixth grade son right now. We finally just told him the other day that he cannot do anything or go anywhere until he does his homework. So after school every day if he doesn't come home and do his homework or if he doesn't get it done in time, then he can't go to sports or scouts or what have you.

Our computer grading program gives us a calendar of the assignments and homework every week so we know what he is supposed to do and that helps.



answers from Salinas on

You mention that you are the step parent. Where are his parents? Not to say it is not wonderful for him to have another adult caring and helping him succeed, but i think his parents' values need to be first. If they do not 'act' like they care about homework, then that is his example (his parents' actions). Maybe you need to first work with his father about this issue. His father should take the 5 minutes to look at the website and let his son know what he thinks about the lies. Or better, yet do not ask him questions that set him up to lie. Say "Let me see your homework." or have him read out loud to you if it is a reading assignment.

I also agree that public humiliation works for some kids. If you or his father can sit in the class and say, "Ethan (e.g.) can not see the chalkboard because of the glare, so I will be here to make sure we get the assignment or until he figures out a way to get the assignment." I have heard about other moms doing this. The kids get pretty embarrassed at this age and would rather just do the work than have a parent in the room.

I also agree with 'LoveTeachingMath' that the teacher should initial his planner.



answers from New York on

I've seen others reference love and logic for this sort of situation.

Here's something which may be on point:

When To Help With Homework

Alex and Jason come home with the same math homework.

Alex complains to his mom, "It's just not fair. Mr. Jenson gives us too much homework. I don't know how to do this. He never explains anything. You need to help me. It's going to take too long!"

"How did he explain this homework?" asks mom.

"I don't remember. You need to help me," says Alex.

Mom opens the book and points out the answers. She gets the task over quickly and then lectures, "You'd better start paying attention in class!"

Jason makes the same complaint to his mom.

"How did your teacher explain this homework?" asks mom.

"I don't remember. You need to help me," says Jason.

"How sad," answers Mom. "I'll be happy to help when you work harder on your schoolwork than me, and I know that you are listening in class." With that, she tells Jason to open his book and try to remember how the teacher told him to do the work. "You can watch your program when it's finished," she tells Jason.

Which mom did the best job of parenting?

Which kid is more likely to start listening better in class?

I bet you know the answer.

Thanks for reading!

Jim Fay

You can sign up and get free newsletters, or buy some of their parenting materials.


answers from Jacksonville on

I don't know the complete answer/solution for you. Some of this is just the age. REally. It is. Seems unbelievable to me sometimes, too... but our son went through something very similar in 6th grade. He turned 13 over the summer and is now an 8th grader. Last year started out about the same as 6th grade, but by midyear he was doing much, much better.
I noticed that he did much better in classes he enjoyed (ummmm who doesn't, right?), and ignored/lied about/tried to manipulate around doing ANYthing for classes he didn't like or didn't like the teacher. Or didn't think he was "good at". By the end of the year, he was still not totally organized, but he was doing better with attitude and actually doing the work.

Something we did earlier on with him, was a system that allowed him to earn rewards AND punishment/demerits at the same time. Saying "if you get one F you lose privileges for a week" works fine, until he does get an F. Then he has NO incentive to do better on any other work, or to care, b/c he knows that he is going to mess up somehow, so why try? We set our system up for "time" playing on DS games or TV/Movie watching or other electronics. For EVERY "A" he earned (homework, quiz, whatever it was---incentive to turn things in!) he earned X amount of time (say 30 minutes). For ever "B" he earned "15" minutes. A "C" was neutral--worth nothing. A "D" deducted 15 minutes. And an F deducted 30 minutes. The proceeding week (or whatever time frame you decide works best) determines the next week's privileges. Total them up: If he's in the hole, wellllll... no whatever. If he is to the good (positive time) then he gets whatever that earns him (whether 15 minutes or 7 hours). If our son had "90 minutes", we would let him trade that block of time for a "movie"--even if the movie was 2 hours long.

Maybe some sort of system like that will work for your guy? Or, I have seen other posters mention that actually going to school and sitting with him in classes can be highly effective.... ;)

There is another aspect you should probably consider as well... If he is lying about and not doing a lot of his assignments.... yet still earning Bs and sometimes As.... perhaps he is bored to tears and finds the assignments to be nothing but mind numbing busy work. Not saying that justifies his choices, but perhaps he needs more challenge to keep him interested and involved. OR, maybe there is still some backlash from his parents' divorce. There is likely a whole combination of things at play (nothing is easy with middle school or teens)... but a lot of it sounds fairly typical. I used to FREAK OUT when I'd discover how poorly my son was doing at this or that. And how he would not approach the teacher for help, or what to do to get his grade up. But when I'd talk to his teachers, they were all SO understanding and insisted that it IS THE AGE.
Good luck, and stay on him. If you quit on him, he'll think you don't care. :)

By the way, my math hating 8th grader, who struggled a bit in 7th with some things, is doing fantastic in math this year. We just went thru a rough patch last week again, but this morning he told me algebra was pretty cool. And sometimes FUN. :))

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