Freshman Son Failing School Already

Updated on October 10, 2012
A.A. asks from Coeur d Alene, ID
20 answers

My son has always , always had a difficult time in school. He is smart, but he never completes work, lies to me and his father, along with his teachers about not having work, why work wasn't completed, etc.
I feel like the police with him. I am constantly monitoring his grades online, and his cell phone that I JUST gave him when he started 9th grade is already suspended because he has two D's and an F.
I don't really want to stand over him every night, painfully going through each teacher's website to see what he has to do.
Sometimes, even when I have done that, he'll simply lie and say he turned it in and it just hasn't been graded yet.
I work 40 hours a week and have two other younger children. I don't have time to be a private detective with this.
Any suggestions/
I have been in contact with the school counselor. They even have a success coach who has met with him.
Is it time for me to just back off?

What can I do next?

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answers from Kalamazoo on

School, especially college is not for everyone. Do.they have any kind of vocational programs or co-op programs at his school? I started going 1/2 day to beauty school in 11th grade, it was a real saving grace for me, I hated high school. My husband did the same but he went to vocational school for plastics and then then worked half the day, they had a program where he got school credit for working. He might be young for these programs, usually they wont let you do them as a freshman, but I would look into it.

There is also Jobcore. My friend sent her son there after they had similar problems with him.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

You need to find out why. Plain and simple.

Is he overwhelmed? Sometimes when kids get lost in school or overwhelmed, they just give up.

Is he bored?

Does he need motivation?

You really can't solve the problem until you find out WHY.

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answers from Philadelphia on

What I have learned.... You can walk a horse to water, you can not make them drink it. Just make sure he knows the consequences of his actions. (Possibly repeating the 9th grade, not getting his drivers licenses because if he can't be responsible in school how could you trust him with a car, not getting into the college he wants, living at home going to a community college for the first 2 years etc.).

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Yes, it is time to back off. But only to a certain extent. Part of growing up is learning the consequences of your actions, which you need to teach him and be extremely strict about.

Ask him what goals and expectations he has for himself for his freshman year and his high school years. Tell him what your expectations are. Be willing to meet somewhere in the middle.

Determine what will happen if he does not maintain his grades, no afterschool activities, no going out with friends, no computer, no cell phone, etc. Also, he will not be able to participate on any sports teams or go on any field trips.

I feel your pain. My daughter is really smart and is capable of getting straight A's, but often settles for a C because she's lazy. Sometimes we just need to let them fail.

Good luck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Here's one question hubby and I had to ask ourselves around 5th grade (our oldest started this in 3rd grade): would we rather have him fail now, and learn that failure will get you nothing in life, when it doesn't have any major consequences or would we rather continue to baby him, help him through, drag him along kicking and screaming...and then have him fail when he's in the real world and failure has major consequences?

We set forth the rules for all the kids. As and Bs are great. Cs will cost you anything electronic. Ds and Fs will get you grounded to the table with a book. I will not tell you what you need to do or turn in. If you want to know, then I will sit with you while check the teacher's website, or I will check the parent portal to see what you need to turn in...but you have to ask.

I have one grounded to the table right now. She's an 8th grader and she has a D. We went out to the park to play today. She brought a book and sat on the bleachers while the rest of ran around and played.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

the principal of my son's school once told me that she had her daughter carry a special notebook that the teachers for each class had to write in there what the assignment is and then when the assignment was turned in(not graded) the teacher had to sign the notebook by the assignment. it maybe embarrassing for your son to do. but if he forgets the notebook you need to have some kind of worthy punishment for him. it's jsut a thought!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

YES. Let him experience the consequences.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

It sounds like to me that he may have some learning disabilities. If you have never had him evaluated it is past time to do so.

As an adult my sister was diagnosed with dyslexia. It is no wonder she never learned how to read well or spell or even write a simple letter that everyone could read. Disabilities don't always show themselves. It could be a visual issue or a cognitive one.

For a young person to be so much of a failure at school there has to be something going on.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

What became of the meeting with the coach? Does he have new friends? Does he have new patterns of behavior? Has he ever been diagnosed with anything?

My oldest nephew was unmedicated ADHD when he was younger (he wouldn't take it, his parents wouldn't make him). He did fine in fast-paced summer school, but ultimately dropped out of HS after failing and getting into legal trouble. He got his GED later and attended community college and holds a good job now, but from about 13-16 his parents were at their wits' end. I don't know if he's gotten on medication as an adult, but now he has a kid to worry about so he really needs to stay on the ball. I wonder if your son may have an undiagnosed problem like ADHD or depression.

I also ask about new friends b/c a young man I know is hanging out with a rougher crowd and I found out from his mom yesterday that he's failing school. Um...not good and I'm pretty sure it points right back to the college kids he's associating with.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I had the same problem you describe without the cell phone.

I am poor and my family was poor. My wife and I struggled to get me through college so I could earn a decent living for us. I wanted all my kids to go to college so they could earn a decent living. I knew the only way I could get them through college was to push the grades so they could get in AND get financial aid or a scholarship. And since we are white there are no race based scholarships for us. (i.e. United Negro College Fund)

My #3 son was in your son's position. I felt he was just lazy. So I talked with his teachers. I found out he was not doing his homework or not turning the assignments in. So I got the assignments ahead of time from his teachers and told my son he was to write in a notebook I got for him for each class what the assignments were. (All during this time I'm working 12 hour days.) At first he told me he didn't have any homework. I told him he what his assignment was. Then he told me he already had it done and it was at school ready to turn in. (Either it wasn't or he didn't turn it in.) So I the had his teachers sign his notebooks that he had turned his homework in or not.

When he came home with a history assignment to read, I asked him the questions at the end of the chapter. When he didn'y know the answers, I told him what the answers were. He would ask me how I knew when I found where the answers were in his reading. I told him that I had to go through the same classes he did 25 years ago. He was surprised. (HE he ha ha!) Then when he had an assignment, to answer all of the even numbered questions (He was surprised I knew his assignments), I'd have him answer all the questions. When he claimed, "NOT FAIR", I'd tell him, well, if you are honest with me and tell me your assignments, then you have to do just your assigned work. BUT if I have to tell you the assignments, then you do what I tell you, and tonight that's all of the questions. Your choice. My wife was a math major and did the math assignments with him.

If he had just a reading assignment and I didn't know the answers (often) I'd read his book and then listen to his answers. If he didn't know the answers, then he would have to read the entire chapter over again.

When he complained about not getting to watch TV or play video games, I'd tell him that if he got his homework done he could watch TV or play video games.

I even took a week's vacation and went to class with him. I embarrassed him so much he begged me to go home and he would pay attention in class and bring home his assignments. I warned him that if he didn't, I'd be back in class with him. I smiled all the way home.

My other kids went though the same thing. I told them if they got "A's" then I'd let them study and do home work on their own. If they didn't get "A's" then I had to find out if they weren't capable of "A's" or if the were just not doing their work. Most of them decided to do their work on their own so they wouldn't have to follow dad's study plan.

My #3 went from earning (!) "C's", "D's" and "F's" to earning "A's". He graduated salutitorian (#2 in his class). He received a full ride scholarship for his first 4 years. Then he had to struggle through his post graduate work and finish medical school.

My #3 graduated USC Medical School and is now a Pharmacist in Northern California. Was it worth all of the crying and pouting and "Not Fairs" and working an extra 3 or 4 hours after I'd already put in a 12 hour day? He is the first Dr. in the family. YES! YES!! YES!!! it was more than worth it ! ! ! !

He's earning a very good living and married a wonderful lady as intelligent as he is that keeps him on his toes. They have have 4 kids and are hoping for a 5th.

Would I do it all over again? You betcha! In a New York minute!

BTW, useing dad's study requirements, All my kids did well to the best of their ability. Most, but not all, of them had straight "A's".

Good luck to you and yours.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I have two teens. High school can be a rough adjustment - the level of work expected is so much higher, such a heavier load, than middle school. If your son has always had issues with completing his work, how is his school work, how are his test grades? Have you ever had him tested and evaluated for any learning or behavioral disorders?
Your son is just a freshman, he is failing and no, it's not time to just back off and let him get away with not doing his work. I'm no helicopter mom, but just letting it go and not caring any more could be seen as educational neglect and also shows him that if you don't care, why should he? I wouldn't necessarily stand over him while he does his work, but if this was my high schooler, they'd be competely grounded. No extra curriculars, no social outings or hanging out with friends, no electronics, unless his work is done. Good luck. I hope the counselor and coach can offer some helpful guidance. You might also want to go through the evaluation process and/or get your son into some counselling.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tyler on

Time for your son to realize that he is paving his own path for his future. What goals (if any) does he have? Give him a firm deadline, graduate high school and a) you will pay for community college or college he can get admitted into b) he can work full time and pay rent or c) he's out on his own. At age 14/15, kids just don't have the adult point of view, yet. What they don't realize is that the choices they are making NOW will affect them greatly in only 3 years. Put it in terms he'll understand, but don't lecture (he'll tune right out!). It sounds like lack of effort, not lack of intelligence. If you don't know his friends, get to know them. He may be getting involved with characters who are steering him down the wrong path. Fitting in is all that matters at this age. Even if you have to take off from work, your time devoted to him at this point is critical. Good luck and God Bless!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lewiston on

You have some good responses. As a retired HS teacher, I have initialed student assignment books, so the parent knows what the assignment is, and the parent has initialed the book saying that the assignment was completed.
Peer tutoring also has helped students.
Job corps and vocational programs also help students. Some of the vocational programs have a min. grade and credits earned in order to be considered for admission to the voc. program.
You may want to have a meeting with the guidance counselor and ask about having a meeting to establish whether your child qualifies for an IEP- individual education plan or a 504. (another program).
Checking class websites for assignments is also important.
I think it is important for you to continue to show concern and be involved with your son, his assignments, grades, guidance counselor, and teachers. Feel free to email or call the teachers and talk with them. Set up meetings with them.
Good luck to each of you. Have a improving school year.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I had the same problem with my daughter. I implemented "homework time." At homework time, school work MUST be done EVERY DAY. If the child says they have no homework, then you grab one of his/her books and YOU assign some homework. Once they realize that they are going to be doing homework regardless of what they say, they will do their actual homework because lying about not having any is not going to do them any good.

And if you do assign the homework, make them take it and turn it to so the teacher at least knows that they were doing something.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

Granted-he's got to "buy in". I do feel that it's up to the paid professionals to help sort this out-and you probably will have to be involved on a daily basis, as well.
Someone has to figure out what interests him, how he learns and what motivates him to do well. Best of luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Has your son been tested for ADD or ADHD?

He sounds EXACTLY like my husband at that age. I have known him since we were in 7th grade.. He has always been this way and still is.

Here is the deal.. My husband is very intelligent. He can repair and fix anything. He can read technical manuals and understand all of it, But ask him to sit down and write it out? It is like torture. he also got D's and F's in his high school classes, not because he failed the tests, but because he just could not complete homework.. IF his parents sat down and beside him to work on the homework, the next day he would not turn it in!!!! He would forget.

He flew through the SAT, so he was accepted into college back in the day, but his grades were really not that great.

His parents just could not figure any of this out.

His senior year in high school, he was in an internship program, working for a local TV station.. He was able to work with the engineers. He ran Cameras in the studios.. He even repaired an old Studio camera that even the engineers had not been able to repair!

He was offered a job, while still in his senior year of HIGH School. It was a perfect job for him. He was accept to college, but only completed 2 semesters.. he HATED sitting in class, hated the homework.. etc.. so he started working at the station full time.

I wish, he had been evaluated and given medication to help him, lift this fog.. He just really never had a chance. His parents were always grounding him, yelling, begging, pleading with him to do his homework, they threatened to send him to military school.. but it was almost painful physically to my husband to have to sit still and do this work.. None of this was his fault, it is the misfiring of his brain.

Please, please, take your son to be evaluated. If they suggest medication, please consider it.. My husband is 51, and this is the 1st year he has ever taken medication, and he says it is as if a fog has been lifted. he can concentrate, with out so much effort. He accomplishes so much more each day. He can complete projects without jumping from one thing to another.

I hope this helps.



answers from Portland on

When I re-read your letter, what stood out is that your son has always had these struggles. It sounds like you have done your due diligence in trying to support his academic endeavors and they haven't worked. I love that you contacted the school counselor and that your son has met with a success coach. All of these are great strategies. If these continue to have no impact, I would encourage you to "refer" him for special education services. I am a special educator with most of my experience in high school. We find that a lot of kids are able to skate by on various skills, but that the rubber really hits the road in high school where kids are responsible for more of their own studies and with organizing assignments. Your son may or may not qualify for services, but at least you can have some answers to your questions and this may spark some added interventions the school can utilize to help your son. I wish you much luck! Take care and best!



answers from Amarillo on

It could be called an adjustment period. My grandson went through this last year. He went to summer school to get caught up with his class. His father informed him that he had to keep up or he would not graduate with his class.

I spoke with him earlier this semester and he was having some difficulty but he states that he has it under control. I hope and pray that he does or he will be 19 graduating high school.

Some students take a bit to adjust from junior high to high school with all the other students. They have to find their pecking order in their grade and in the school like jocks and nerds and the in betweens. It is their first taste of "grown up" life and they are now really responsibile for their future. Overwhelming experience for many going from mid size to large size school. My grandson's high school looks like a prep school with rolling lawns, football fields, basketball courts, track (like college) and soccer fields.

Just hang in there and keep the lines of communication open. Do know who he is associating with and get to know their parents. When son wants to go to x's house tag along and meet the parents. It can't hurt.

The other S.

PS I did it to his father and his aunt.



answers from Pittsburgh on

A., I'm so sorry for your frustration. I watched this play out for 8 years w my parents and brother. NOTHING seemed to motivate him,positive or negative, from fourth grade on. He was so smart, but didn't think he should have to do the work to prove it. In the end, he was recruited by the marines but was told he couldn't be accepted until he brought his grades up. He pulled straight As, the bugger! Sometimes it's just about the right motivation at the right time and that may or may not be you.

That said, if there are certain standards in your home, you shouldn't need to compromise them for the sake of backing off. Responsibility is responsibility and there are only so many ways a teen can show it, so if he isnt, the loss of privileges is warranted. Maybe just give up the fighting part of it by being matter of fact when the natural consequences begin to play out.

It takes some kids awhile to get it in high school. As a freshman, college still seems really far away. I know I didn't really get my rear fully in gear until 10/11 grade. Thankfully I hadn't done too much damage, but Im surprised when I think back how long it took me to really start paying attention.

Good luck to you. In the meantime, never stop looking for teachable moments. Use his interests to guide the conversations about future careers, etc. Get him in touch with a mentor in a field hes interested in. Sometimes hearing it from someone else really makes the switch go off.



answers from Minneapolis on

My son was like this in school also. We tried a lot of different things and nothing worked long-term or really well. What worked the best was to withhold privileges from him i.e. getting his driver's permit and license, etc. We had an A's and B's rule at our house which we thought was perfectly reasonable for all of our children. He did improve right around his 16th birthday for awhile because he realized we really did mean he could not get his driver's license. He was always a terrific kid, very smart and personable, he just would not turn in his homework. At one conference his Physics teacher, his first hour class at 7:00 a.m. , said that he slept through her class everyday yet he got 100's on every test. It's so frustrating but you do have to do the work to get him through school. This was my most challenging and frustrating issue with parenting, when you see such a smart kid just doing as little as possible to get by. I don't have any answers for you, but I do sympathize, you have a lot of nights of arguing and policing ahead. Good Luck! By the way, my son is now in the Air Force, going to college and just got married, so in the long run it did pay off.

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