At My Wits End with My Son Turning in Late Assignments!

Updated on September 26, 2008
C.H. asks from Euless, TX
10 answers

Okay I am going to get right to it. My son is in the 6th grade and I am sure this is a little bit of a change changing classes but he also changed classes last year. The six weeks is not even up and he has had 8 late assignments. Yesterday was number 8 and he was assigned detention. Little did I know every time he turns in a late assignment he has to fill out a form stating why. Yesterday's reason was did not take responsibility to get a paper that was passed around the class. He was like I didn't know they were passing it around. I was like so you are not paying attention and he kind of just looked at me. I was not home when the punishment was given because his dad picks them up from school. Dad was pretty upset so he is grounded from football, and he cannot attend the car wash that is suppose to be for a field trip the 6th grade is taking. I was kind of on the fence with that one but I was really upset that car wash form was turned in but not his homework. He has a planner the school provides(Its has calendar, dates, place for each class assignment, two notebooks, and pocket dividers that are labeled for assignments, homework, etc. I literally go thru his bag before bed time and ask what is this, where does this go, do you need this. His planner has to be signed daily and he is constantly late with homework and classwork. We stay up to 10 or 11pm sometimes doing homework and for some reason he just doesn't turn it in.

A couple of weeks ago he got a WII he has been wanting so badly but the deal was he has to go a week without turning a paper in late and that has yet to happen so it is still in the Best Buy Bag.

They next thing will be football and after that, there is nothing else to take.. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.. I am truly upset. Some have said well maybe he needs a tutor. I am like a tutor can't help him turn in his homework.
He is not failing but I know he is not doing the best he can.

What can I do next?

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answers from Dallas on

Ask his teachers if he can sit at the front of the classroom. If he's distracted, maybe he just needs to be closer to the front so he can hopefully avoid the distractions behind him.

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answers from Dallas on

Hi C.,
I feel for you! As an ex-teacher (and now a home-schooler- don't even get me started on all the problems with schools today), I can say this is such a common thing and I commend you for wanting to help your son NOW (rather than later).

One situation that turned into a positive that I can recall is very much like yours. Wonderful 6th grade boy student, super nice, not a trouble maker. Just unorganized and seemed over-whelmed. The mom decided to step in and really help her son and he did a turn around within a few months- it was awesome to see the change and, of course, he felt better about school, as well.

Here is what she did:
1. Contacted all the teachers and had them write down his homework/assignments each day on a special form she made. (Teachers should be more than willing to do this to help out especially if you are involved. They can even help him remember to do this at first.)
2. BEFORE leaving campus for the day, the mom would ask for the form, and then make sure her son had all needed papers/books, etc... If not, they went back into the school and got everything and even spoke with the teachers, if needed.
3. At home, she had folders for every class and a place to keep everything so it was easy to find. She also set aside a specific place for her son to do his work. It's all about ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE.
Within a week or two, he was getting much better about getting things in on time.
It took a lot at first, but it was so worth it- the success and self-esteem of her son!!

I wish you and your son the best.
R. B.

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answers from Dallas on

first of all........6th, 7th and 8th grade boys are difficult. Hormones are raging and it is a hard transition. Sweet little boys and girls turn into obnoxious teens over night. Being in his skin is tough stuff. It helps to keep that in mind.

If he is not failing after not turning in so many assignments then that tells me he is very smart. I'm just curious. Is this in all his classes or in just one or two? Is he overwhelmed? Does he have a focus issue? You say he has the work but doesn't turn it in. Does he just not care or is he really forgetting. This sounds like plain ole forgetful to me, or a focus issue. The schools notebook and planner is great. That you go over it with him is great! The trick is in getting him to remember to turn it in, right?
Keep trying different things. Can you drop him off early so that he can immediately go to all his teachers and turn in all his homework first thing in the morning? Can you work with him to look in that planner with all the files immediately when he gets to each class? Can he turn in all his homework to all his teachers after school? These are just ideas....

I agree with consequences to your actions. Just be careful not to double down on the consequences. If the school has a consequence, let it play out. Don't be the bad guy and add on to it. If football is where he succeeds I hate to see you take it away. He might shut down further and I'd hold that one as a last resort. To me it would make more sense to insist he get up early, go to school early and turn his stuff in. If he doesn't like getting up early he may start to remember...

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answers from Dallas on

Oh C., welcome to my world. I have a 12 year old step-son who is in 7th grade. Last year in 6th grade, you just bascially told our life story. We took everything from that kid, he was grounded the majority of the year, just from late assignments. I threatned football never had to do it. Plus he played for the city, so we had to pay for him to play and I was not happy about having to threaten him with that since we forked out money. I'm not really sure what happened with him, but it got to a point where I told him it's on you, I'm done checking your binder I'm done checking up on you. If you fail, you have to deal with it. I told all of his teachers what I was doing, basically putting the responsibility back on him. For some reason it worked. A light bulb went off and he all of the sudden started getting stuff turned in on time. Maybe I was babying him to much and trying to walk behind him with every little thing to make sure he did it. Now this year in 7th grade we started out the same way. We haven't even hit the end of the 1st 6 weeks yet, and there are 3 classes he has 0's in, from not turning in work. He already has no life due to other issues we've been having with him. (I'll spare you the details...just a warning though - kids these days are wanting/starting to do things a lot early than they should.)
I guess my advice is to put it back on him. Let him know the consequences; at school and at home. Let him know that it is HIS responsibility to get his work done and turned in on time. Let him know that you are there to help him in any way he needs help, but you will not do the work for him or make sure he's actually doing it. That's what seemed to work with our son. We have told him we do not accept you failing school in our household. Especially when we know you are fully capable of getting A's and B's.
Good Luck with it, I have 4 children between my husband and I and my husband travels for a living, so I deal with the day to day stuff on my own (with my husbands help over the phone). I know exactly what you are going through. Eventually they will get it, and I can promise you they do not want to fail. They don't want to look like the looser in school to all of their friends.
Hope I helped a little...just know you aren't the only one going through this, and your son isn't the only one who acts brain dead sometimes. :)

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answers from Dallas on


I, too, was a teacher. I taught 5th grade for 4 years as well as some middle school math. More recently I tutor. I've worked with several kids this same age on organization. I honestly believe that simplicity is the best policy. There are lots of ways to organize out there, but I like to go for the lowest maintenance way.

Think about it. Most likely for elementary school. The kids had a take home folder. Homework and stuff to sign went in one side. When it was done and ready to come back it went in the other side. Now they've got a big binder with lots of places for things to get stuck and lost. This takes tons of time to go through at home. Then the forgetting begins. Stuff is lost, sometimes because it just falls out. I'd go back to the old way. One folder for all homework and papers to get signed. Only file notes and graded papers in the big binder. The teachers don't care about where the paper is between passing it out and turning it in. even at that, I may tell him to put all the graded papers in the take home folder until you see them. This will cut down on time for you as everything is in one place. Then you can help him file what needs to be filed.

Also, I would make him write down something for every subject in his assignment book, even if it is "No HW." This will get him thinking about each subject. If this continues more severe punishment is needed.

I disagree with the "don't be the bad guy" mentality. His teachers certainly don't have time to teach him organization. They have the same passing periods as he does and hundreds of students. There is just not enough time in the school day for teachers to work as hard on these habits as your son needs. If you don't pick consequences and stick to them, he'll might never learn the importance of these skills. Hit him where it really hurts. You know your son. That may be pocket money, video games, extracurriculars, etc. However you must balance that with training. You're going to have to continue working with him like you're doing. Kudos for you for not just saying you're too tired to be a parent after work. I've seen the other mentality all too often.

Feel free to contact me for other ideas. I've got a few.

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answers from Dallas on

My daughter is now in 8th grade and this has been a problem since 6th grade. She is very intelligent (she takes several GT classes) and I get so mad that her grades are kept down by missed assignments, and then her reaction to it is "well, I'm not failing". She has all the same tools (planner, etc.) but what she really needed was someone to show her how to use the tools . . . we can't assume that just because they have it, they know what to do with it! In our school the kids are required to use one, big binder for all subjects, which also contributed to her problems. Finally last year we broke it down into individual binders which worked so much better for her. I think the big binder was overwhelming . . . just a big pile of everything, her mind didn't know where to start! Our school also offers a class called AVID which is essentially a class that really helps kids get organized and focused . . . essentially, it teaches them the basic skills to support their learning skills. I was told it was unusual to have a GT kid in AVID, but I said just because she's intelligent doesn't mean she is "common sense" smart.

As far as losing privileges, for my daughter it is her computer time. She loves to create video clips and write "fan fictions" (don't ask) and she is usually banned from doing so when I see her missing assignments, etc. It usually works for a while . . . she's thrilled when she gets to go back on the computer again . . . but when she starts to slip again . . . bye bye computer! But it is ongoing. She will never be really good at it, but I monitor her grades through our school's onlin tool, but other than that I try not to do too much for her because then it's an excuse for her not to do it herself . . . because I know mom will do it. That is one of the tough things to do . . . let go, and let them suffer the consequences.

This rambling response probably didn't offer you much except to know you are not alone, and you are doing the right things by revoking privileges, but at the same time keep working with him (not for him!) to teach him how to use the tools available to him. Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

Hi C.:

I have absolutely no help to offer but I can certainly sympathize with your situation. We have been dealing with this same issue with my stepkids (that live with us) for 4 years started in 6th/7th grade grade and we've done everything, taken stuff away, tried to let them do it on their own, let them know if they failed they would have to re-take the class...nothing seems to phase oldest is in 11th now and we are going through it once again this year. When we took stuff away, my kids would just sit in their room staring at the ceiling. When we give them their stuff with the warning, you are in control of your destiny, stay on top of stuff and you can keep your stuff, my son will spend 6 hours a day on his 360 and 10 on his homework and not study and fail. He is retaking Geometry this year and my sd had to retake Bio and Eng - she decided to move back with her bio mom...We've had him tested by the family Dr for ADHD, and every year the feedback from the teachers is that he is incredibly bright, he's just not applying himself. He'd rather socialize. Mind you, we're not asking for straight A's, we're just asking him to pass now...I'm at my wits end and will be keeping an eye on your post to see what other advice you receive as I've tried everything below...keep me posted on what works for you. Best of luck to you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I have a daughter in 6th that is the worst on this subject and always has been. We have tried reward and punishment and nothing worked. I found a book about underachievement at the end of last school year called "Bright Minds, Poor Grades" written by Dr. Michael Whitely. He has a website where you can buy the book and it also has other information but it was great. When I began reading that book I thought he had been peering in our windows. He was dead on. Might be worth a try anyway. She seems to be doing better this year although it is still early and I am reserving judgment, we are taking baby steps.

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answers from Dallas on

I can't speak from the parent side in this (my child is still a toddler), but in my former life I was a sixth grade math teacher. I can tell you that this is typical behavior, especially at the beginning of the year. I like the other suggestion of putting the responsibility on the child. I like it, IF it works. The problem is that this does not work for a lot of kids. They get overwhelmed and shut down even more than before. I would suggest contacting his teachers, whether that be via a conference or email. Let them know your concerns and find out what they are seeing in class. They may be able to clue you in on some things that you are unaware of and they may have some sage advice to offer. You may also want to request some sort of update - whether it be through weekly progress reports, email or communication through his planner. Be flexible with how you get the information from the teacher and they will be more willing to work with you. It may be as simple as the teacher assigning him a new seat (up front where there are less distractions) and initialing his calendar so you know what he needs to complete each night. I did this for several students and it wasn't much of an imposition on most days. Be patient, firm and consistent. Work with the teachers and counselors. You are not alone...many parents struggle it this year in and year out. Good luck.

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answers from Dallas on

I have an 8th grader who pulls this stuff occasionally. It was worse before we got his eyes checked. Turned out he needed reading glasses, and suddenly, once he started wearing them, he wasn't getting the headaches and could actually focus on his assignments. Also, make sure he's getting enough sleep and water. I have a different child when he's sleep-deprived, and it's not the one I want. Finally, since he is going through massive hormone changes, look at his diet. When my kids eat at the cafeteria a lot, they make poor food choices which affect concentration. I had both of my children (6th grade daughter & 8th grade son) go through NAET treatments to get rid of any food sensitivities, and that also made a big difference. A wheat sensitivity can manifest as ADD. I went to Dr. Steve Homoky at Coit & Spring Creek ###-###-####), and the added benefit is that they are rarely sick anymore. Good luck!

Oh, and one other thing about the to the coach. Our middle school has a policy where if they are below a 75 in any of their classes when they do a grade check every 2 weeks, they don't play. If they get a note from their teacher about bad behavior, they don't play. If they get detention or ISS, they don't play. In fact, they DO get extra laps and push-ups. It's been great incentive for the players to support the academic side of school!

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