Help: 11 Year Old Son Not Motivated in School

Updated on December 04, 2009
L.R. asks from Round Rock, TX
16 answers

My son has always gotten good grades. "A" Honor Roll, perfect score and above "Commended" on the TAKS (state standardized test). He is now in 6th grade and his grades are slipping! I've loosened my strings and now I'm giving him the responsibility to do his homework and study for tests. He's now getting "F"s on assignments and tests; and these assignments are over things that he knows. His problem is that he rushes through things and forgets steps, etc. He's mentioned "...I already know this - this is easy". I've eliminated Video games during the school week. Study time with him is like I'm "abusing" him, he gets very angry when I tell him to go study! How can I make him take this stuff seriously?!

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Beaumont on

Let him reap the consequences of his actions/inactions. You can't make him take stuff seriously, but the consequences of carelessness can serve to wake him up! And if he learns this lesson in middle school, he may develop an actual work ethic before high school, where every grade on the transcript can impact his college path. Hope this helps!



answers from Killeen on

I too am a mother of a 12 year old daughter doing the sames in 6th grade. She has always been an a, b student. What I did actually this week, is email all of her teachers, find out exactly what is going on with her in class as far as tests, homework, etc. and what I have found is that it is approaching holidays and she has not been studying for tetsts, etc. I also found that she has had chances to re-take these poorly scored tests and have failed to do that.I have taken television away, and her cell phone is taken up as soon as I get home. No contact with friends until her next report card showing a's and b's. And I sat her down telling her how this is HER job just like I have mine and she is failing at her job. etc, etc. I wish they came with manuals but they don't!! =) Hang in there, in my little amount of experience I just say keep on them. Be involved, like you are, in their school work and keep on those teachers. Good luck.

More Answers



answers from Austin on

Hi LR,
Oh my goodness....the middle school transition! It can be such a hard time for everyone involved. My daughter was so overwhelmed and could not juggle it all but also had the "I don't need any help" thing in spades! Besides being a mom, I am a parent educator and an occupational therapist and to answer your question, one thing I have learned is that you cannot "make" kids have your values...i.e. "take this stuff as seriously" as you do. He will feel about it as he does and the more you try to make him believe what you do the more he will fight it.

That is not to say do not have limits and boundaries....far from it. It is just important to respect his position and to make keeping a close relationship with him as important as your efforts to help him be successful. He does not have the brain development to see long range as you do. He is at the age where social contact may be more important than school work is to him.

I am so encouraged that you are asking for support. One piece of wisdom that helped me so much during that beginning middle school time is this....whatever you can do to help him love learning is so important! If the battle is so big that he hates school and doesn't like you then he will be always looking to avoid or get out of school work. If he loves learning he will become a lifelong learner. My teacher advised us....if you are saving for college, but your kid is drowning in the school he/she is in and you cannot make it better by tutoring, etc, consider using the savings now to switch schools. If he love learning, he will get himself to college. If he hates learning and school, then your college savings will be for naught anyway.
So I shifted my coaching and limits with my child to things like "I want to make sure you are a successful learner" rather than all the emphasis on her grades. I also told her that for me these issues were bigger than grades or school...that it was my job as her parent to help her grow to be a person of do what she said she would do! In order to "hold her to" doing what she said she would do I first had to create agreements with her rather than make demands. But most importantly, she had to know that no matter what I loved her with all my heart and that while I was firm, I would not be harsh and punitive so that she knew I was her ally not her enemy. I told her also that at her age, it was my job to teach her to become independant, so that if she needed my support by sitting with her while she did homework to help with focus and concentration, that that would be for a little while while she/we explored other options so that she could become more independant.

I have tons of articles and resources for parents about power struggles, and also inattention and impulsive behavior. If you would like more resources, feel free to contact me directly.
Peace and Blessings to you and your family,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

6th grade is a crappy year for boys. Not saying that to scare you or give him excuses....but telling you that 11 - 12 was about the worst year here for all 3 boys.

Their bodies are getting ready to grow, there is a lot of peer pressure to be "cool" in middle school. Their minds are a bit warped from all the changes and the stress. The social stuff becomes very important, where they never cared before.
One of mine became so concerned about the group he was or was not fitting into that his A's fell to C's in 6th grade. (I must tell you that if the group of kids he hangs out with do not value good grades and hard work...he is listening to their message.)

Since he has done the work and gotten the grades before, you know he can do it and is bright.
Rather than setting out for punishment, set up a plan for REWARD instead. When our Mr. Social Butterfly had grades fall apart, we took away video games, TV, etc....and he had to earn them back! But 3 of us sat down to devise the plan for school work and responsibilities. We had our son come up with ideas and write them down. For example, he felt it was very important to have about a half hour to blow off steam after school, so he could listen to music, have a snack, go outside. Then he came up with a study plan. After it was on paper, we agreed on how the video games, etc....could be earned back. Bringing all his grades back up to A's and B's got a special, pre-decided reward. And then all 3 of us signed it, like a contract, and put it on the frig.

Should he ever complain about studying or homework, remind him of the contract that HE helped create and show it to him if necessary.

There is a great set of books we used. Trevor Romain has written the BEST books for pre-teens!!! He has a whole series: How to do Homework Without Throwing up, & Cliques, Phonies and other Baloney, & a School Stress book are just 3 of them. There are on
All 3 boys read these---it's life lessons told to your kid by someone else. (After all, everyone else is smarter than you right now.) Excellent books! For Christmas gift or before!!! Every 11 or 12 year old should get them!

Oh, hang in there this year. Pray a lot! 7th grade gets much better once they have gotten the hang of middle school! And 8th grade is even better.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

As a former middle school teacher- they are not ready to be on their own in 6th grade- clear the kitchen table- give back the video games for an hour when he gets home from school and then have his favorite snack ready - sit down at the table together eat a snack- bring your favorite book if he has worksheet type homework and be together- for the first few days really do that snack thing up good- fresh choc chip cookies or whatever but make it awesome- be an encourager not a discourager- he may roll his eyes but his ears still hear you- he is 11 and while he is fighting for his independence- he is not ready for it!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Middle school is a time for you and him to come to an agreement about his responsibilities. He is totally testing you, but the hardest part is that to get his attention, you may need to let him fail.

You are telling him it is is his responsibility and yet you keep reminding him. Hands off and and then have consequences.

Many, many bright kids say the work is too easy, but then he fails? Maybe he does need to study and do the work, cause it is not that easy, it actually takes effort after all.

Carl Pickard has said that allowing your child to take over their school work and face the consequences is the best way for the child to realize, this is their responsibility.

You should contact his teachers and let them know that this is your plan. They are to give him his true grades. If he becomes upset, ask him, "Why do you think you made a failing grade? "What are YOU going to do about it?"

My daughter was just like your son, an excellent student that always blew through tests and classwork, but the few times she blew off her studies or put off doing her work, she was very disappointed in the results. She was also jealous of the good grades others made around her.

I never asked her about homework or projects once she was in middle school. Boy she learned real quick that it really was her responsibility. She knew she could ask me for help and I would always be there to assist, but she knew they were her grades.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I can recommend a very good book. "Ending the Homework Hassle" by John Rosemond.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from College Station on

I see you have two responses up to now. Both are very good responses! I know how you feel. BTDT!

I have boys, ages 15, 10 and 7, and I have learned a lot of things to benefit my oldest -- all the hard way.

One of the things my husband and I use is a period of homework time for everyone after school. I actually allow a snack but otherwise have no TV, video games or computer games allowed.

I found that my boys are more focused right after school and they seem to get more done at that time. Our rules are pretty simple. For at least an hour, there is no TV, etc, and a snack is allowed. My boys choose to get all of their homework done, to get a portion of their homework done, or read (book, magazine, newspaper, or whatever). This is a great time of day for me to read to my youngest and now he is reading to me!

It is all very individual. For instance, my fifth grader really likes riding his bicycle. I like that he spends some time outside when he bicycles. With getting more work done after he bicycles (and getting that time in before dark!), he is able to "knuckle down", so I encourage the bike riding.

Discussing that he isn't in elementary school anymore and is now old enough to assume responsibility for his homework would help him feel some importance. Also, there might be some compromise where you do some reminders (maybe only in writing) and you don't speak up so much.

I found that I had to stop asking my oldest "do you have any homework". I started getting lied to. I started simply saying "please show me your homework", most times without the "please". He came to expect it and fussed sometimes but it beat getting lied to.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Is he in "Above level" classes?
I was really shocked when I helped at the schools long term like a whole week all day in the same set of teachers classes. There are are on level classes and on level with "co-teach" kids (4-8 kids) brought in. There is another adult in the room when they are there but the whole atmosphere of the class changed. Instead of teaching the whole period was spent on classroom mangement & the teacher was just working to get them to write down answers.
Find out if that is the situation in your son's classes if he is not in above level. That would be a major demotivator.
Also are his classes challenging? If they are too easy he may be just getting sloppy because he is bored.
I sent my oldest to an organization class in 7th grade in the summer. I tried to explain planners etc but thought it might be easier if she was with others.
The other idea would be to help him see a goal for being in school. My oldest was the queen of 89. She could turn any grade into a high B by report card time especially the A's. When we took her to start visiting colleges her grades shot up. You might go to a "sales" day. NOT just go visit the college. Go to Baylor's premieres or UT's Rise & Shine. or Sam Houston's Sat. Let them here about a few of the majors & careers. On the "sales" days these people are great motivators. My husband & I are Aggies. You would think they would have a great talk too. If you want to be an Aggie it is great but if you want to get your child motivated to do something they are terrible. So if your son is already an Aggie fan run him up there.
Also, what outside organizations? Church, Boy Scouts, sports, Science Olympiad, Destination Imagination, Theater, Band etc? The kids need to be around something that excites them & makes them want to excel.
Good Luck,



answers from Houston on

Has he also lost interest in things he used to enjoy doing? I used to work in the middle school, and many kids his age flirt with drugs. (I hate to bring up such an unpleasant subject, but it DOES happen.) You should check into this because his behavior has changed so drastically. That is a huge red flag for me--it always means something is going on--if not drugs, then some kind of emotional pain.

I'm so sorry for your situation. Raising kids can be so draining, but there is nothing more rewarding than having them grow up to be decent, responsible people. My daughter was a real handful--a sassy mouth and HUGE attitude about pretty much everything. We were always "butting heads" about something, and she honestly didn't like me at all until she had kids of her own. Now we are really close, and she actually asks my advice about things. My, how a few years can turn things around!

I pray that you get the answers you need.


answers from San Antonio on

I would set up a one on one with his counselor at school. Something is not right. Going from an "A" student to getting "F"'s? Too much of a drastic change.

Is he hanging with the wrong crowd? Being pressured to use drugs? Is he being bullied @ school? Are all questions, you need to ask the counselor.

Good Luck.



answers from Austin on

Could he be getting bored. I know, it sounds weird but my very intelligent brother did something like this when he was a kid. There was no challenge so he put no effort into it (even though he knew it all). He lacked the maturity to understand how serious the consequences were if he failed a class. I would start by talking to his teacher(s) about a possible solution. He/she might have some good ideas.



answers from Austin on

I agree with the thought that your son may not be challenged enough. If the work is truly too easy for him he may not be doing it because it is boring. I would talk to the school counselor about options to keep him challenged. You may be able to set up a plan or work with teachers to get him to get his grades back up and maybe get into a more challenging program. I would also link his grades to his favorite activity. In order to do .......... you must maintain your grades at ..... He may test you but you must follow through! I disagree with just let him fail and he will see as he may not. I know I did the same thing in school and failing did nothing to motivate me. Linking my grades to things I cared about did though! Most schools have Parent connect or a way you can regularly check on his grades so it should be easy to follow. Remember also make sure he is getting challenged by his work, if it is too easy he will get bored. I would also explain to him that good grades now open up harder classes in his next school possibly. (if that is true for your district). Good Luck



answers from Austin on

Not sure if this is your son or not but my niece was labeled gifted and then just became lazy because she thought her intelligence was fixed. She stopped trying if things got difficult. Only by teaching her that intelligence = hard work did she finally start being an active learner.



answers from Houston on

Do the work with him, find out where he is getting frustrated and begin parent-teacher conferences and email status updates. Be on his team. 6th grade is tough, prep work for high school. 6th grade is tough in general, if I know boys (3 brothers) they ARE NOT going to tell you when something is wrong (embarrassing) he may be getting picked on by 7th or 8th graders.

I hope everything works out, good luck!
Find a good balance - 30 minutes or 45 min of "free time" when he gets home - no excuses - then silence in the house and homework atthe kitchen table (with a snack) and with you in the room ready to help if he needs it)

PS I know it sounds too young, but drug pressure for boys esp. starts in middle school. Cliques are HUGE in middle school, b/c the kids don't know who they are w/out their parents and they feel pressured to express their identity at this age and (find an identity that will be accepted as "cool" by their peers) gym class can seperate former friends and allies as well)



answers from San Antonio on

Because you already know it's not a learning issue, but a laziness issue, then use consequences for bad grades and rewards for completing what he needs to. You also need to plan to spend some time with him - more than one day - and give him time to open up to you to see if there is anything going on.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions