Do I Let My Child Fail?

Updated on September 18, 2015
B.C. asks from Hialeah, FL
36 answers

My 5th grader is a good student. He's bright, learns quickly and usually makes As and Bs. Currently, his latest progress report said he had straight As in all subjects. So what's the problem? It's his organization, his motivation, his independent skills. Let me explain. Yes, he's an A student but that's because I'm on top of everything and it makes me wonder if I should be the one getting graded!! I'm on top of what tests he has and make sure I study with him. I make sure his hw is all correct and we do most of it together. What he doesn't understand, we review some more etc. I know some of this is just good parenting but times I feel like I do way too much and that it's taking some of the responsibility away from him.

Just today, it was the last straw! He came home with just questions on a paper with no story. I asked him where the story was and he had no clue. This was followed by an hour of my wasted time trying to figure it out. I had to email his teacher who then responded back very upset because she said she explained it to them several times how to go online to find their hw! So obviously he was not paying attention in class. His response to me later when I was upset was what's the big deal, you figured it out didn't you? :o and then it dawned on me.....I am doing him such a disservice and just doing it all for him, that I am not teaching him any responsibility for his own actions. In other words, the lesson should have didn't listen, you didn't know what your hw was, then you have to go to school without your hw and get a natural consequence!

Now easier said than done of course! So do I literally just let my child fail? I know his grades will go down if I remove myself from the situation! So How much guidance should i give or should I leave him completely on his own? When is a parent doing TOO much for their child? Can I get some suggestions from others on where they draw the line and what they actually do?

EDIT** Just to add a couple of things based on some of the responses....... He does have a planner where he writes down all of his HW. The problem is not writing it down, it's then remembering to bring what he needs home. Like he'll stuff things in his desk, instead of his HW folder. OR sometimes he will just leave his entire planner in his desk and forget to put in his backpack. He says it's hard to remember this! Organization is a big issue for him! So do I check his backpack as we are leaving school everyday, so he can go back and get what he needs? I don't know! And I have tried so many strategies that it's exhausting! I have an organized area of his HW with all the materials he needs. I have him check off as he completes things. I use a timer that goes off at random times and if he is on task when it rings, he earns a point. Those points are then exchanged for computer time.

EDIT** I've wondered about the possibility of ADHD and he does seem to fit alot of the criteria, but I think at this point I refuse to label him with a disability to excuse his behavior when he hasn't ever had the opportunity to even learn responsibility! You can't possibly be good at something you've never been expected to do. I think ADHD is way over diagnosed and labels are too quickly slapped on to children to explain their behavior, instead of holding them accountable. After all of these changes have been made and at least a year has gone by, then I would look into the possibility of ADHD if he is still struggling with this.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your advice! They are all wonderful! I did sit down with him and had a serious talk about the changes that would be coming. He just said "OK, OK, I know"! As if he absolutely knew he was taking advantage and mom finally caught on to his secret plan! LOL I started having him use a HW app in which I go over with him what he needs to do just to keep him on track. The assignments are put into the app and he checks them off as he completes them. They are also color coded by subject according to the same color of his notebooks. SO it works really well! He seemed to like it and he's in control of checking things off himself and he sees what he has left. No play time until it's done of course and he gest 10 min. of computer time for each assignment he did independently. Aside, from a few times that he had questions about his math. He did it all on his own and I walked away! So we'll see if it continues!

As for the ADHD diagnosis, I am not totally discarding it! I do realize that he may very well be ADHD. However, my gut just tells me that it's lack of skill, lack of opportunity to practice the skills, etc. Children are not born knowing these things and if everything is done for them, we can't fault them when they are incapable of doing them. I think that a lot of these behaviors are also exacerbated at home with me, because he knows he can get away with things! And somehow in the classroom, he is a different kid! I feel like if it were truly ADHD, I would have had at least one teacher by now tell me I need to test him for ADHD. Yet, no one ever has! and on his report card, he gets good marks (1 which is the highest) for things like staying on task, completing assignments on time, etc. All of the typical things ADHD kids have difficulty with. But yes, as the demands get higher with independence a lot of the smarter, more high functioning ADHD kids start to fall apart. So this will be the year to determine that! I have no problem labeling him, if it truly is ADHD! But I do have a problem with a Dr. that will have me fill out a rating scale and talk to me for 5 min. (not even my kid) and diagnose ADHD. And I will not allow that to happen. I actually did have him take a test once where it looks at the ability to sustain attention, while having to do other tasks. This is a test that ADHD kids would totally bomb, and he passed it! Again that was one test, so I am still keeping my eye out for it. For now, the plan will be to try all these things first and then evaluate if need be!

Thanks again!

Featured Answers



answers from Fayetteville on

I could have written this!!! He won't fail. His grades will slip, but he won't fail. He will learn some great life skills, though! Trust me, I'm in the same boat--5th grade boy, too.

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answers from Abilene on

Just to add a little humor. My sister told me when her daughter was in 5th grade that her idea of hell would be having to teach a class of 5th grade girls. She was amazed how her daughter was so forgetful. I thought it was hilarious at the time.

You're right, he wasn't worried about finding his homework online because he was confident you would help him. On the one hand it's great he has that level of confidence in you. On the other hand he will never take responsibility as long as you do.

I think you've had a lot of great advice. I've read two great books around this. One is love and logic. The other is Bright Minds Poor Grades.


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answers from San Francisco on

No, you don't need to let him fail, but it's time to start backing out. You've probably been doing a little too much for him. By 5th grade, he should be doing at least 85% of it on his own.

So keep some supports in there for him but yes, start backing out of his schoolwork. Kids his age, and boys especially, often need help in organization and reminding.

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answers from Boston on

Good for you for confronting this issue!

The remark about what's the big deal, YOU figured it out would be a deal-breaker for me. So you had your light-bulb moment and that's good.

Yes, you have to let your child fail, but not by just abandoning him. You set him up for a series of Mommy pull-backs and disengagement. He's in 5th grade so now is the time! Most schools are getting kids to start talking to the teacher directly rather than having Mom/Dad do it, getting kids to stay after school for extra help, etc.

So, tell him he's responsible for paying attention in class about the assignment. You are not going on line anymore. You are not emailing the teacher anymore. Go back to the PURPOSE of homework - it's to let the teacher see what kids understand and what they don't, it's a red flag for the teacher way before the test and quiz.

Your next step is to have HIM read the instructions to YOU. Then ask him to explain that in his own words. If he doesn't get it, you ask questions but provide no answers. No matter what he says, don't answer the questions, and absolutely don't proof them to be sure they are correct. They have to be his work. (And let him know that the teacher, any good teacher, is well aware of whose parents are doing the work. Which is why the teacher mailed you back indicating she was very upset.)

If he whines or says he can't do it, say, "Okay, you can tell Ms. Jones tomorrow that you didn't understand it. Then ask her when you can meet with her for extra help. That's what teachers do. They help kids learn."

Yes, he has to face the consequences. But look, he's in 5th grade. SO WHAT if his grades go down? They are an indication of what he knows. Propping him up with what YOU know just defeats the purpose. It's not the parents' job to help kids get good grades without knowing the material.

So start to wean him off it. You can have him show you his schedule/assignments, and help him break it down into manageable bits. But your goal should be to break away over the next 4 weeks.

And again, if he whines about stuff, then he's not old enough or mature enough for the privileges he's probably asking for (TV, computer, independence, allowance for no chores, whatever his payoffs are).

I think it's okay to say you've made some mistakes here too, and you've been doing to much. It's not all his fault. But it's going to change, not because you don't want to spend the time, but because it's not good parenting to handicap him that way.

Work out a schedule for stepping back, and tell him what it is. Let the teacher know what you're doing.

And look back at your description of him - bright, learns quickly, gets As and Bs. And ask yourself, who's getting the As and Bs? I think it's you. And if he only learns quickly because YOU are explaining it over and over, rather than requiring him to pay attention, then he's not mastering any of the skills he will need to get through life.

Good luck - you can do this!

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answers from Portland on

You are right-- if you don't give him the opportunity to be responsible, you can't fault him. You care more than he does.

Sure, do get an evaluation for ADHD if you think there's an issue. At fifth grade, honestly, I wouldn't wait any longer. This has gone on long enough. But I also need to say this, because I remember your previous questions-- maybe it's time to talk to someone about your controlling anxiety regarding your children's schoolworkschool experience. When my 8 year old doesn't understand something, I tell him "then write on your homework "I did not understand this" because she needs to know. He is responsible for getting his stuff done. I tell him that I'm not going to nag or remind him about his homework, but that if it's not handed in by Friday (due date) there's no video game time for the weekend.

In short, find out your own fears that are guiding your actions and then face them. Talk to the school counselor about coming up with a plan for him. And you.

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answers from Tyler on

The answer isn't to let him fail, it is how to allow him to learn. The phrase "learn from your mistakes" comes from a lot of experience. One zero on a homework assignment in the 5th grade isn't going to derail his dream college. However, it could cause enough strife and struggle within your student to actually TRY to not allow it to happen again. He has no accountability now because you cover his tracks. Not a bad thing, but he has to learn to handle it now. In middle school, he will likely encounter a much different learning evironment with teacher who expect more from him.

You can still be a loving and caring mother, don't remove yourself completely from the situation. Just give him a chance to fall down and pick himself back up again. It will be hard, very hard, for both of you. But the reward will be great.

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answers from Austin on

He needs to develop personal accountability and responsibility. Don't think of it as failing. Think of it as growing.

What you're doing, I believe, is hiding his lack of understanding and compliance from the teacher. She may have no idea that most of the fact that he turns in work and gets such good grades is due in large part to your staying on top of his work.

I think that you should ask for a conference with the teacher. Tell her that you've been enabling your child's freedom to ignore instructions, to procrastinate, and to depend on your skills rather than his own.

It's going to take some time and a great deal of effort for him to switch tracks. And there will be stumbles and spits and spurts. I wouldn't call those failures.

As many of you know, my daughter has many medical problems. I realized just this year that I was doing something similar to what you're doing, even though my daughter is much older than your son. I was managing all of her medications, dosing, refill requests at the pharmacy, etc. She literally did not have to think about a single dose of the many medications she requires. I set them all out, and reminded her to take them, and requested refills. So this year, when it dawned on me that I was enabling her to completely ignore this important part of her life, I talked with her about the medication problem. I bought her a pill organizer. I gave her a plan. She was to inform me when she was low on a certain med. At first, it went pretty dismally. She ran out of some meds and I had to run to the pharmacy that same day for refills. So we developed a better plan. She has to put, in writing, when she's down to 5 doses of any one medication. And she has to put the note in one particular place where I will look for it (she doesn't drive so she can't go the pharmacy herself). The first time she wrote the note about being low on a medication, she left the note on her Xbox. "I wrote it down", she told me. Well, I don't look on top of your Xbox for life-saving medication reminders, and I let her know that such notifications were unacceptable.

So, giving her tools, helping her develop some organization and a plan, and helping her understand the importance of taking over this on her own, has taken some time, has had some missteps, but now it's working pretty well. Her doctors did not realize that she didn't know what meds she takes. I had hidden that from them, and that was wrong. Now they know, and they've made sure she is more aware of her own medication needs.

So I suggest that you don't just withdraw. Change. Improve. Sit down with the teacher. Include your son in this meeting. Don't blame, or accuse, or get angry. Just be honest and willing to help make a new plan. Make sure your son knows that he's capable, but he doesn't have the tools. Work out with the teacher what tools he needs (a calendar? a white board? a notebook or assignment book? a schedule? checking in with the teacher on a regular basis?) and provide him with those tools. Let the teacher call the shots. She's the professional. You're the encourager. And don't be afraid to tell your son that you've made some mistakes. Say it in a way that implies that you haven't allowed him to be responsible, to be independent. If he played Little League baseball, you wouldn't go up to the plate with him and hold the bat. Do it with kindness and with patience and with support and he'll get it.

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answers from Los Angeles on

You don't have to stop helping him cold turkey, but it does sound like you need to encourage to be more independent.

Example: In fifth grade, he should be able to call a friend and/or email the teacher himself to ask for help with his assignment. It is not your responsibility, nor should you spend an hour doing it. The consequence of him not reaching out to someone is that he doesn't do his homework and has to face the teacher the next day. He won't like it and will likely be more responsible the next time.

Does he have a homework planner of any kind where he can write down his assignments? Our school gives planners to all the kids (nice ones for grades 4-6, just a sheet of paper each week for grades 2-3) and they write down their homework in class so it is clearly laid out for them at home. If he doesn't have one, get him one this weekend. Take him with you to the store and let him choose one that works for him.

He is going to be starting junior high in a year or two, right? You won't be able to hold his hand there, so you need to start teaching him how to take control of his school work now. Help him by giving him tips and answering his questions, but not by doing things for him.

For tests, let him study by himself. When he feels he knows the material, that is when you review it with him. You shouldn't be part of the initial studying though. You also shouldn't do homework with him. He needs to complete it independently, then go over it with him when he's finished.

My son is 8, and since first grade (he's in third now), he's been doing his homework on his own, then I review it. If I find mistakes on his math, I simply tell him which page has the mistake, and he has to find and fix it himself. He finds it almost every time. If it is reading comprehension, and I don't feel that he's answered a question well, we talk to make sure he fully understands the question, then I guide him to look for certain ideas in the story. This is a newer skill, so it takes more time. For spelling, I tell him which word is wrong, and have him try to work through it. If he truly doesn't know, I spell it for him, but then will quiz him on it again later that week.

Good luck. Hopefully by winter break, he'll be much more independent and can finish the school year well on his own.

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answers from Dallas on

Here's the thing - what is "organized" to you, may not make any sense to him. There are different styles of organization - visual, tactile, etc., and figuring out what works for HIM is probably hard. He needs to be involved in this, so when you say "I do x FOR him", instead do it WITH him so he can learn the skills - you said he hasn't had a chance to learn responsibility, so work with him in this transitional time.

Re. the ADD/ADHD, if he has it, he has it, and "training" isn't going to help. The behaviors and the disability are intertwined. Don't NOT consider it just to avoid labeling. But yes, try to work out with him what his style/skills are and work around him.

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answers from Norfolk on

It's kind of a gradual hand off thing.
First you help him along like you have been doing.
Then you supervise as he takes on more of the hands on responsibility.
And then you gradually cut back on how often you check up on him and hopefully by then he's juggling all his own balls so to speak with little/no help from you.

Just so you know - middle school (starts here in the 6th grade) is a HUGE transitional time for kids when they are learning to deal with multiple teachers/classes and handling all the homework/assignments.
Some kids flail around a bit before the get the hang of it but for many it's a sink or swim experience and they HAVE to learn to take it on themselves.
Guidance counselors hear about this ALL THE TIME!

Every kid needs a planner and they need to learn how to USE IT to keep them on track.

Also, fun time (tv/recreational computer use/video games/cell phone time) are all constantly earned by good behavior (staying on top of chores and homework, etc).
If the fun time is not earned - then they get none.
That might certainly give him the time to think about how he wants to get himself organized.

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answers from Amarillo on

I know things have changed over the years on homework. But it is still the same homework to finish what was not completed in class and to learn more about what was presented in class.

Parents should have a place for a child to do homework that is quiet and does not distract him for everyday learning whether it be the kitchen or a place in the livingroom or den with no TV. You can give child a snack before starting HW and show him how to go about studying beginning in 1st grade. You should continue this method with the child leading the way to learning and coping with issues that will come up over and over again in life. If he is used to playing a lot before doing homework then that will have to be cut out until homework is completed.

When I did homework it was a rule that homework was done before any playing so it meant you didn't get outside, you didn't get outside. You learned that if you wanted to do something you HAD to get the homework done and do it correctly. Parents back then would review that the paper had answers to all questions and sometimes quiz you on what you were doing but they did not do the work you did the work. If you failed you did so because you did it. Many times the parents could not help you with your work because they had not completed junior or high school. Things have changed but there are still issues with schooling and parents. Enough.

Time for mom to figure out a way to back off and let son learn the lessons he should have been doing on his own. Owning up to the fact that he might not be an A or B student and that he is the reason for the grade level and not mom. Mom can't sit in on his whole life to help him. He had to learn to walk before he ran, now he has to learn how to learn without mom. You do a disservice doing so much for him. The world has enough of these students in it now. Other countries look at our schooling agendas and shudder to think that we can create geniuses with what we do when their students out shine ours. Enough now.

Mom has to be mom and not the task master. Just a mom who loves him or her unconditionally. You have to break a few eggs to make omelettes.

Have a great day. I am glad that you recognize how much help you have given him and now know that it was a bit too much.

the other S.

PS I don't see you sitting in the seat next to him at college taking his notes for him. I hope not.

Disclaimer: I have written from the heart and do not mean this to be mean but to be objective and to point out that we might do too much parenting in some areas and not enough in others. Cyber hug to you.

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answers from Portland on

I only step in when they've done as much as they can themselves.

So if I know for example they haven't looked something up, I don't help then until they have.

And yes, we've let them fail sometimes. It's like hockey. If they don't have their gear ready, or they forget their skates, we don't drive back home to get them. They lose out.

Don't worry - they catch on very quickly. It won't take your son long to realize what's involved, and it will be a good lesson for him. Still be available, just not so quick to jump in :)

I know, I'm the same. Sometimes I want to take over when they do projects because I'm into that stuff, but I had a teacher email a "We like your work very much but we need to see what a grade one student can do". Lol. Very true.

Good luck :)

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answers from Washington DC on

First, I would rule out a learning disorder. He maybe getting straight As, but his organization and his inattentiveness sound similar to my nephew who has a learning disorder. Once it was diagnosed, he was given specific tools to help him and he excelled.

Second, I wouldn't necessarily leave him out to dry right now. It's the start of the year. Maybe instead of helping him so much with his work, you can discover tools to help him with his shortcomings. It sounds like your trying, but it maybe a matter of finding out what works for him. Do you have education specialist near you. Maybe schedule an appointment to get him evaluated. He may just need the right tools for him.

After giving him the tools, then yes let him fail. He is in 5th grade. It's not like colleges are going to look at his transcript and say he failed a few assignments.

I would also let the teachers know what you do to help him, what you plan on doing to get him more help to become independent, and let them know that you plan on letting him fail a few assignments in hopes of him learning his lesson. Get the teacher on board, maybe she has some ideas to help him. I would also let the teacher know because it could be a red flag to a problem that he suddenly goes from straight As to failing. You want the teacher to be aware of your plan so she doesn't think something else is going on.

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answers from Rochester on

I think you've gotten some good advice.

I don't know if you follow the Humans of New York Facebook page, but just last week there was a portrait that fits this perfectly. The young woman talked about how she always had perfect grades, perfect behavior, etc. She went to college and really had a difficult time. She failed at a couple of things and couldn't handle it. She dropped out of college and was now trying to learn how to survive when she wasn't perfect any more.

Better to learn that lesson as a 5th grade student then as a college student. Let him make some mistakes and learn from them. Give him the tools to do it on his own. If he doesn't learn some personal responsibility now, he will really struggle in middle school. Worse case scenario, he will still be living at home when he's 35 and you'll be waking him up for work and packing his lunch for him. ;)

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answers from Washington DC on

Rather than stand over him, I would teach him to use his tools like his planner, the online HW page, etc. Then I would follow up for a while on big things like a test or project (we have edline, so we can see these kinds of things) but only using the parenting tools, not the tools he's supposed to use himself. I would also reiterate to him that it is HIS job to do this, and the big deal is that you took x time that you could have done for yourself. Is your 5th grade still in ES? Ours is. Sixth grade was a big difference in expectations for my stepkids. I wouldn't drop him cold turkey, but I would back way off and make him more responsible for his own HW and learning.

Also, if your own worries are feeding into you helping him to this extent, then talk to your own counselor about how to guide without doing it for him. Teach him to fish. This is a life skill - to find solutions on one's own. I expect kids to be forgetful, but I would also expect him to be able to do what you did (look up the HW, email the teacher) instead of you doing it for him. Instead of you going over the work to be sure it's right, let his answers stand on their own, so the teacher gets an accurate view of his knowledge. I wouldn't consider it failing. I would consider it making him have a stake in his own education.

RE: the computer, we said the kids could take til x time at night, but if they took forever and left themselves no computer time, then that was that. Their own natural consequence. I tell my 7 yr old to do what she NEEDS to do so she can also have time for what she WANTS to do.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Mine is 4th grade. Where do I draw the line? I ask him every night if he has homework, and when he says he's done, I look in his assignment book (which I have to sign every night per the teacher) and make sure it's there. But I don't do it with him or check the answers. And if it says he has a test, I ask him if he's ready for it, but I don't study with him and I don't quiz him to make sure he knows it. If he forgets his homework in class or forgets the book, I don't contact the teacher. I let him take the late grade (for his teacher, late homework gets 50% of the grade earned).

At meet the teacher night, she said that we shouldn't ask about homework at all. That we should make it our child's responsibility to bring the assignment book to us when homework is done without reminding. I haven't gone to that step yet though. I remind, but don't check the answers and don't hover.

One exception - if he ASKS for help with a particular subject because he says he doesn't understand something, then I help him. But he has to give it a solid try on his own first.

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answers from Washington DC on

As someone rightly said below -- he needs a homework planner notebook that becomes as attached to him as his own arm. This will be given to him in middle school by the school itself, probably, but he and you AND his teacher need to get together and discuss how he will start using one now. Major consequences, whatever will really get his attention, for losing that planner. And he must write every assignment every day so when he gets home all is clear. If you can make the teacher your friendly ally here that would help. Explain that your son's issue is organization and focus, and ask her what techniques she would recommend, and if she will get on board with you in instituting a planner system. She would need to possibly agree to check that planner before he leaves for the day, if she's his main teacher.

I think it's good you know what tests he has coming. Do ensure he has a quiet place and specific time to do homework - don't let him put it off until too late, and if he has an after-school break and snack, which is good, keep it limited -- make it the same amount of time each day for the break (example, he gets home at 3:15, he is on break until 4:00 or whatever) and then at 4, it's homework time, period, no waffling. Don't sit and do it with him but have him where you can do other things and still see him. If he's being distracted during homework by any siblings, you need to get them out of his hair and their noise away from him. (As you will do for them when they have homework.) Check that he's done it but don't pore over it to ensure it's all correct. Always end by checking everything against the planner--"Did you complete this worksheet for English? Check. The math pages in the textbook? Check." Make HIM do that listing, out loud, for you.

You will not have to do this forever. But please bear in mind: It's easy for adults to say "Let the kid fail and take the consequences and that'll teach him," but children are not born knowing HOW to study, how to sit down and keep focus, or how to organize and set priorities. These are learned skills and need to be taught. So when an adult tells a child, "Go study for your test," that means exactly nothing until the child has some concept of how to go about studying. It's not helicoptering to work with a child and find out how he learns best (some kids need to write out stuff over and over; some do well with making their own flash cards; some just need to read things over; in math, some need to be doing extra problems--ask the teacher for some or go into his textbook for some,, and so on).

But kids don't know how to study unless adults help them develop study skills. Talk to that teacher and be clear that you're not about doing things for him and not about coddling him, but you do believe he needs adult help with developing his organization and study skills, and you will focus on that.

When he does as you describe and comes home clearly not having listened to the directions, or not having picked up the needed worksheet or whatever: Ask him: "You don't have what you need/don't know the assignment. What do you plan to do about that?" And wait for him to figure it out. He should be calling a friend from class to ask, for instance. If he cannot call someone, or borrow a worksheet to scan in time, or he cannot contact the teacher himself via e-mail, yes, he has to take the consequences the next day for sure. But if he's disorganized and scattered, it might never occur to him, "I can call Billy and he will know what the homework was, and if he's not around I will call Sally next." Work with him on thinking through stuff like that, at first. But he should be the one making any calls.

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answers from Washington DC on

when my (very smart) older boy was in 1st grade he went all limp and squishy about his homework. he's never been aggressively confrontational. this was the sort of thing he did, right up until i started homeschooling him (and consequently figured out what makes him tick more effectively than i had before.)
i was very fortunate in having a terrific teacher. i went moaning to her, wringing my hands and gnashing my teeth, and she smiled gently at me and said 'mrs T, why is this your problem? if brian doesn't do his homework, he comes to school without it being done, and then he has to deal with ME. and i make it HIS problem. all you have to do is create space for him to do it, and then it's up to him whether he wants to deal with the consequences or not. you enjoy your family in the evening.'
a week later we had no more problems.

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answers from Williamsport on

I think you should forward this exact letter to his teacher! Let her be aware that you are basically keeping him afloat and you are going to work to step back and let him learn work habits and be open to any tips she may have.

It has helped me this year to make a big snack before the kids get in from school (grades 4, 2 and 1), and then sit with them while they eat and go through all their papers, ask what they need to do and discard, an make a neat pile for each of their work. The I let them relax a while before they have to do it. I also make sure to have that table cleared off and well lit with sharpened pencils and erasers on it, so it's easy for them to get at the homework. Last year was a lot more of a train wreck, so I made these changes. Mine are a bit younger and still need nudging, but I'm hoping the "get organized right away, then take your break and then do homework" idea will set in time. My 4th grader is independent with actually doing homework once she starts, I just have to keep telling her to start it.

And yes, when they've forgotten it, I let them pay the price, and when they didn't really read their daily reading, I don't sign their form...and I make it clear their grades matter very much to me so they feel terrible when they make mistakes. But I do let them make them.

Good luck!

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answers from Baton Rouge on

My daughter's homework was HER responsibility, not mine. I did not ask if she had any, did not check it when she was done.
If she needed help with a particular assignment that she didn't understand, she knew that she could ask me and I would help her. But it was on HER to ask.
If she didn't do it, she took a zero. If she did it and forgot it at home, she took a zero.
She got two forgotten homework rescues a year, but she had to pay for them. That's twice per school year that if she did it and left it at home, I would bring it to school. Bringing her homework to her meant that I had to leave work to go home and get it and bring it to her, so I deducted my missing time from her allowance.
She very quickly learned to keep up with her own stuff.

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answers from New York on

You are right, You need to step back a little. And that doesn't mean step back and watch him fail. School is his job and he needs some coaching and mentoring but not someone standing over him. If he forget his homework or something similar, dole out a punishment and let him go to school without it. Your reward system isn't working.

I'd talk to the teacher and see what she can do to help him. Tell her to tell him that if he doesn't have his homework that she will send you a note with an extra dose of homework to do (maybe write an extra few sentences or add to reading time).

Make him do his homework in a set amount of time and then you can check it. But don't do it for him.

I got so sick of my daughter asking how to spell things that she now sits with a dictionary so she can at least attempt to look up the words she can't spell. Old school!!!

Good luck!

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answers from San Francisco on

I was so happy to see that you recognize that this is a matter of him learning personal responsibility rather than ADHD. It really won't make a huge difference in his life overall if he gets some bad grades in 5th grade. I believe you have to let him slip - I doubt he will fail. I think you should quit doing homework with him - he's more than old enough to do it on his own. IMHO, You also should not have e-mailed the teacher - if he were my child, he would have gone to school tomorrow without the assignment being done. How is he ever going to navigate the world just 8 short years from now if you hover over him constantly over every little thing. This is HIS life, not yours. Give him a chance to learn how to live it. Put that timer away; stop with the points; give him specific computer time daily (in my house it's 8:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. I make it that late so that there is no rush to get through homework to get to the computer and there is no upside (longer time on the computer) for not doing the homework. I give my GD from the time she gets home until 8:00 to get homework done before she can even think about the computer. That way, if homework isn't done, it's because she made a conscious decision not to do it and she will suffer the natural consequences of that decision.

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answers from Atlanta on

It does sound a lot like ADD to me.

My oldest was like this. Only, I *knew* he had ADD. I just expected him to learn to compensate. I didn't help, and only in rare occasions would I swoop in and help him with disorganization/forgetting assignments/etc. His grades started suffering for it. A's became B's in 1st grade. By 2nd grade, B's became C's, and even a D. By 3rd grade his midterm report was C/D/F mainly because of not finishing assignments and forgetting to bring home assignments/etc. I finally got him officially diagnosed and on meds. In the matter of weeks, his grades were back up at A's. Within a semester he was labeled as most responsible and most dependable by the teachers. Now, in 4th grade, he's got straight A's and I never see his homework. He is responsible for and handles it all. I feel such guilt that I let him suffer for so long, hoping he'd figure it out.

As a 5th grader, you have to let him sink or swim. Middle school gets A LOT harder. And it is so much more on them to be responsible for the assignments and classes. And you certainly don't want him to have to figure it out in high school when it "really" counts. Yes, his grades will drop. Yes, he will be in trouble with the teacher. But, he will either figure out how to stand on his own feet or it might be time to see if there is an underlying issue.

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answers from Dallas on

My daughter is 20 and a junior in college.

She's a 4.0 in college. In high school she was AP, honors and varsity cheer captain.

In 5th grade through 8th grade, we had a private tutor .... Not just for academics but she taught my daughter so much about organizing her thoughts, things to do, planning, etc. I truly believe the tutor we had ( not every week but we did hit it harder with exams) taught my daughter how to study, how to write a winning essay, and so much more. The money we spent on this tutor was well worth every penny.

You are not alone. This option helped us and to this day, my daughter is an excellent student who has a main focus on academics but also manages organizations, community service, etc.

We used Princeton Review for SAT/ACT training and they also help with study habits and practices.

One thing I learned was to not ask questions and listen a lot. At that age.. Children think you are the stupidest person in the world. The good news... When they are 20 or so... You've become the smartest person they know!

They have to learn to be accountable and responsible. A few mistakes along the way will happen and they learn from the mistakes.

I never backed out or away from daughter, I tried to give her the tools she needed to become responsible and independent.

Good luck.

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answers from Santa Fe on

I think you should sit him down and say this is the start of a new year and this year he is old enough to be in charge of his own homework. He is to keep track of what to do and he is going to be in charge of making sure it gets done. If he forgets something then he is the one to talk to the teacher the next day about it. It is not your responsibility. My son is in 6th grade and this is what we are doing this year. I just ask if he has any homework and then I ask what his plan is for getting it done. Then I don't nag him about it. I think you are doing too much as it is. It is OK to let him fail now and then. It is OK to let him mess up and to be in charge of his own stuff. I do not know yet how my son's year will go, but so far it is working beautifully. I think 5th/6th grade is the perfect time to start expecting more of them. The worst thing that can's not so bad really...the teacher gets frustrated with him and either gives him a bad grade on that homework or him them re-do it. You son might actually learn he better start paying better attention! PS - I agree with those who say make sure he has a weekly planner where he writes down what homework he has to do, when projects are due, and when he has tests, etc. Last year in 5th grade my son had a monthly calendar page we printed out and we made sure each day had written down what he needed to do for that day. He had to do this because his teacher's method was to give out all homework on Monday and it was due on Friday. If he wrote out what 2-3 things he would complete each day it made it more manageable and less stressful for him. And then he knew what to do each day. This was very helpful for him.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Get the guidance counselor involved. He/She can got with your child for 5 minutes EOD to give him time to get it together.
This is NOT your job!

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answers from Seattle on

I am like you.
I have to constantly make sure that my 4th graders homework is done, check over it, make sure he fixes it, get through the tears and the anger that *I* don't know what I am doing. His notebook is a disaster, he is totally disorganized. I am emailing to make sure he is on top of stuff. It's exhausting.
And he is VERY bright, probably bored in class, gets "A's" and tested in the top 95% in both math and english state testing.
So, I decided to let him "fail." I stopped harrassing him, I stopped nagging, I stopped checking homework.
Then the emails started coming in. I showed them to the boy. Told him he better shape up. Got more emails from the teacher and was asked to come in. Apparently I am a bad mother. She lectured me about needing to do a better job parenting. That I was allowing my son to fail. That I needed to care about his education.
So, I came away with this. My 4th grader doesn't care about his education. He cares about playing with his friends, soccer, watching shows on TV, telling me stories about his day, hanging out with his family. I have to stay on him to make sure that he "cares" about school.
I feel ya....but for me it totally backfired.

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answers from Wausau on

Does your son know how to be organized? It might not be obvious or a natural skill for him, so it has to be taught.

When a kid is disorganized, it helps a lot to have an established system. In the beginning the parental oversight is quite involved, but over time the system becomes routine for the child and the parent can back off as independence develops. It's best to start in Kindy or Grade 1, but Grade 5 is certainly not too late.

Develop a logical organizational system for schoolwork. Involve him in the process and get his input. It has to be something that works for his needs and situation. Monitor it's use but expect him to participate. You want to guide as he learns to use it, but don't micromanage or save his bacon all the time.

My kids color-coordinated their subjects. Red for math, green for science, etc and used those color folders and notebooks. In elementary school kids were taught how to use student planners to keep track of current and upcoming work, communication between home & school, etc. It was required then, and parents were to sign off each day. It established a habit that lasts through high school.

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answers from Dallas on

You recognize your error, that's the first step. Sit him down and explain to hi all that you do, then tell him you will gradually be transitioning most of it to him. Start with homework, he does it himself, by himself. If he needs help, AFTER he has tried on his own, then you will help him. Forgot his homework? He emails the teacher. If he can't figure it out then yes, he fails that assignment. Help him set up a system to stay on top of it. My kids use planners this year, but last year my dd had great success with post it notes. Ask him what he thinks will work for him then help him get started, just resist the temptation to do it for him.

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answers from Chicago on

My older son is currently a junior in high school. In 3rd grade we noticed he is really not an organized person. I have seen lots of moms on here ask for help to get organized so it is not just our kids with that problem. He would get work, and just stuff it in his backpack. And not look at it again. He would forget to bring home work. 6th grade was a disorganized mess. Finally, his counselor pulled him aside and walked with him to his locker. She could not believe the amount of papers at the bottom. They spent an hour--he missed PE--going through that stuff. And then they made a notebook for him to record EVRYTHING from all his classes. At the end of the day, he went through that list to make sure he brought things home. Did it take time to really get into it? Oh yeah. Did he lose track after a while? yep. Lots of reminders and yes some fails. But sometimes failure is necessary for us to see our mistakes. One way I have found to help a bit is not plcing blame. "You did not do whatever so it is your fault". I tried to approach it as teamwork. Last year he really got into gaming online and he messed up. This year, I am oon him to make sure it does not happen again. And I have repeatedly told him I am not saying he screwed up but we need to stay on top of things to make sure he succeeds.

Sit down with him and talk about it. No blaming or negativitty. Make a plan he can understand and work on. Give him the responsibility to take flight with it, and ready to catch him and help him again if needed.



answers from Chicago on

I have a 6th grade boy. I'm a lot like you with being organized and on top of my children. I think this year he has been way better with getting things done on his own. I'm thinking my son has matured a bit and is becoming more independent this year, finally!!

I would talk to the teacher to explain whats going on. Come up with a plan with her then all 3 of you sit down and go over this plan. I really think going in to middle school is when they start to become more independent, hang in there!!

It's so nice to see that you won't label him, yet at least!! Unless is blatantly obvious, I wouldn't do anything about it.....we all have something, but we all don't need meds.



answers from New York on

Back off. You did 5th grade already. You don't need to do it again. Maybe he will fail. Maybe he won't. You will find out. Sink or swim. My guess he will eventually swim. Might just take some time. Good luck.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Thing is that you're going to have to teach him how to think for himself. And yes, that's going to take some time.

You've made him dependent on you and if you drop the ball now he will be like a newborn baby that's been abandoned in a box. He won't have any idea how to think for himself.

So you need to work on his critical thinking skills, google it and find some activities you can do with him to help him develop this.

Talk to the teacher and ask her to make sure he's written down the correct information so at least you don't have to contact her anymore. That's just...I can't imagine ever doing that.

I can honestly say that in our area the kids just don't bring homework home. They just don't. If they don't get all their work done at school they might bring home something to finish but they don't have assigned busy work outside of class time. I'd refuse to do it if they did. They have nearly 8 hours a day to teach the kids. There is way too much evidence that homework doesn't make the kids smarter. When tested side by side kids that did homework actually, across the board, made lower test scores than the kids who didn't have homework assigned.

The results were suggesting that kids need a home life and a break from school at home. They seem to be right.

I suggest that you start working with him on figuring out how to do this himself and take the time to teach him how to think for himself. He's not capable at this time.


answers from Kansas City on son is ADHD and he sounds a LOT like yours. Super smart, but zero organizational skills. All over the place. Does yours happen to be ADHD or is this just typical boy stuff, do you think? (I don't know because I don't have a typical boy.)

I was just wondering (this morning, as we sat at the kitchen table trying to finish homework before school), how much longer I'd need to sit and help him with it. Looks like I have a couple more years at least lol.

I just want to say that you're a great mom, and your heart is in the right place. Kudos to you for seeing that light bulb come on. I think you're right. Time to start cutting the apron strings a bit. I would have drawn the line at looking for /emailing/calling about a missing piece of homework for an hour.

I think where you make the changes is the enabling when he screws up. I don't see a problem with making sure he gets it done, even sitting with him if he needs help focusing. But if he doesn't bring what he needs home, he needs to deal with that consequence. It's not on you to search the globe for him.

With my son's homework, I always keep in the back of my mind- this needs to reflect HIS work. Never, work I've done. If he confidently puts an incorrect answer, even if I try to tell him it's wrong, or ask him if he's sure, and he argues with me, I just have to bite my tongue. "Okay." and move on. It needs to be HIS work. If the handwriting is sloppy, I may let him know it's sloppy but if he chooses not to fix it, "Okay". and move on. What will happen in the real world when you're not there to fix everything? That's what I keep in the back of my mind. Anything else, is dishonest, and a disservice to him.

*Caveat - I would also have a serious talk with your son about responsibility and let him know you expect him to do these things going forward, that you're not going to run yourself ragged fixing his mistakes. You will "help" - but not do it for him. There's a very distinct line. You've got to let him know that expectations will be changing. And then hold him to it.

Good luck mama!



answers from Grand Forks on

Sorry no advice, my boy's only six, not there yet, but I could totally see myself doing that. Not that you're *doing* anything wrong! But I think it's awesome you caught yourself and are looking to correct it. That's how we get better, all of us! It's never too late to improve. I've enjoyed your responses bc I know it'll be needed for me. So I'm glad you asked. I think it's a struggle most parents have. Ok that's all, stay strong, sounds like this could be kinda challenging for you both. I'm proud of you though!



answers from Miami on

Before you let him do this all on his own, go to school at the end of the day and come into his room. (Get permission from the teacher beforehand.) Tell him to clean out his desk. He goes NOWHERE until the desk is cleaned out, every paper looked at, every paper and notebook checked and organized.

YOU cannot organize him anymore. HE has to do it. Tell him that everyday when he gets home from school, he has to empty his backpack and show everything to you. He has to tell you everything that he is supposed to do and how he is to do his assignment. If he does not know, then HE has to email the teacher. His teacher will give him a consequence if he didn't listen in class. Tell him that if he doesn't know his assignment, that YOU will also give him a consequence.

What is his "currency" at home? Computer? Gameboy? Ipad? TV? What? He doesn't touch ANY of his favorite things until he has done his work and his backpack is tidy. Period. He doesn't bring home a book for an assignment? He loses the privilege of any of these if he's not prepared, if he hasn't listened to the teacher. If he gets a bad grade on an assignment that he didn't tell you about, then he loses MORE than that. You give him a cleaning project at home, and not a pleasant one. That keeps him from hiding homework assignments from you.

I want to tell you that your thought process of refusing to label him with a disability because you think it will excuse his behavior doesn't make sense. IF your son has ADHD, none of this will consistently work because he cannot help it. If he does NOT have ADHD, then this is just his inherent personality and you have enabled him by managing the process instead of making him manage it.

So for now on, make HIM manage it. Give him real consequences when he doesn't. Don't let him have any privileges until he does his homework on his own and does a good job. LET him have a bad grade if he does a bad job. But don't let him have anything fun at home. That way you aren't doing his work for him. You aren't having to fight with him. You aren't managing him other than to look at everything. And you MUST work with his teacher in this. If he doesn't turn in an assignment or doesn't do it correctly because he didn't listen, you need to know so that he can do manual labor at home as a consequence.

If nothing works and he STILL can't hold it together even with all the consequences? Then you had better get him to a child psychologist/pyschiatrist who can figure out if he actually has ADHD. If you don't, he will not make it through middle school. And by the way, your idea of a "year" just means that he will feel so terrible about himself falling on his face that he will become a behavioral mess. That's what happens with these kids who cannot succeed despite the help they get.

DON'T get caught up in what YOU want. Do what is best for him. But definitely do what it takes to determine if he really has ADHD and don't let some doctor tell you he does just looking at him. He needs testing. He needs evaluations. Take your time. And be part of the process. If the medicine's side effects are problems, tell the doctor and insist on trying something else. There are too many choices to just put up with side effects that make your son miserable.

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