High Achieving Son Stuggles w/Completing Class & Homework Assign.

Updated on January 30, 2009
A.F. asks from Los Angeles, CA
12 answers

Hi, I would appreciate some advice about how to handle my 9 year old third grader who is really struggling right now with school. It is baffling to me and his teacher because he has been identified as gifted, is participating in the gifted program at his school and consistently scores the highest in his class on regular tests and assessments. Let me try to give you a better idea of what is happening. He is very deliberate with his work, has been since he was pre-school age and in second grade experienced a lot of difficulty with his teacher who did not have patience with him, which caused him to act out in ways that were out of character. Thankfully, our principal recognized his type of temperment and worked with me to try to resolve the issues between the teacher and my son. After a long and hard second grade year she(the principal) told me that he would be assigned to a third grade teacher who would be better suited to him and his way of working. I am very happy with his teacher this year and enjoyed seeing him become enthusiastic about school again, however, gradually he has fallen into not completing assignments in class and getting less and less of his homework done. The homework thing is extremely frustrating for me because it has gotten to the point where it will be after 7PM and he is still working and by then I am frustrated because I would like not to be doing homework the entire evening. Also, its not good after being at school all day, they need some free time in the evenings to enjoy being kids and his teacher insists he should be able to complete his assignments in an hour. She has even given me the authority to choose which assignments I deem more important and have him only do those to try to reduce his anxiety level and mine but that is not working either. Additionally, he has a brother in first grade who completes his work fairly quickly compounding the problem because they are each others playmates. They can't be compared because first grade work is easier. I could go on and on. My question is should I be overly concerned about him not completing work because as I mentioned he is advanced academically? I worry if this type of work ethic is established now he will really be in for a struggle as coursework becomes more difficult and the education system less forgiving. He offers so many excuses about his behavior that neither I or his teacher know what to believe. Further, it has been suggested I get him counseling outside of school and I am skeptical, believing we seek therapy too much in this country and does it really help? Finally, because I am a single parent it has been suggested that that could be the root of the problem again I think its something I think our society is to quick to attribute kids problems to for stereotypical reasons. After all our new president was raised by a single parent and turned out just fine and I don't believe he is the exception given the divorce rate in our country.

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answers from Los Angeles on

A., I highly suggest taking your son to H.E.L.P. (The Hollywood Education and Literacy Project) located here in Hollywood. It is a free program, and what is amazing is that I've seen kids like your son come into this program and by learning the study technology they offer and getting their diet in order, they magically learn to study successfully. REALLY! You can definitely call H.E.L.P. for a free tour.

Here's their data:

Hollywood Education Literacy Project International
6336 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood CA 90028

Ask for Amanda or Ann. They definitely will be able to help you and your son!

I'd also recommend checking out 5 organizations validating why going the natural route is best for you and your son:

You'll also find some amazing data regarding alternatives at: http://www.cchr.org/solutions_and_alternatives/

And, A., please watch:



Another thing to take into consideration is that sugar, dyes, different food combinations and even toxins (in the environment and home) can truly make a difference in a child's behavior.

Please free to contact me at: (323) 906~2784 or via e~mail me at [email protected]____.com.

I'd love to help you and your son however I can.

With love,
L. (MAMA to 16 month old Dylan Orion.......29 September 2007) : )))

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My opinion is he is bored to death with it. My 6 year old son has an IQ 0f 150 and skipped first grade & is currently in second grade (still way too easy). All of his work at school is completed without errors and on time, scores in the 99.9% across the board on standardized tests, but hates doing his homework. There is no challenge. At school he does what he is supposed to do because it is expected of him. At home, he knows it expected but tries everything in the world to avoid it.

HOWEVER, if I give him spelling words out of the book "1100 words adults should know" (e.g. perspicacious) he is happy as can be and will not leave his desk. If he is working on addition with regrouping 4 numbers, he wont touch it until I make it with 20 or more numbers! Science day, we will extract DNA from a banana. I want him to keep his love for learning but it is very difficult when the work is so easy.

What has worked for us at different times/days of the week:

1.He is unable to go on the computer until he has completed his homework. He can do other things until then but no computer. He loves the computer so he gets his homework done but he usually waits until after dinner.Since he is only allowed to use it for an hour a day he knows he has to get it done or go without. This has always worked. He still learns time management.

2. Sit with him while doing his homework and give him challenging work. For every easy spelling word give him 2 challenging words. My son's face lights up when we do this. Add a few more numbers onto his math problem. It keeps him interested in learning.

3. Story day can be miserable at our house (creating stories using your spelling words). However, if he attends the after school program on that day, the teacher says he completes it in 10 minutes!!! Arrgghhh....at home it would be 5 hours. Now,I find out which day this assignment occurs and let him attend the after school program. Problem solved. No more power struggles and he still learns time management.

Hope this helps. Email me if you need more info.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi there!
I have 2 boys and am raising them as a single mother as well, mine are almost 10 and 8. 4th and 3rd graders.

My youngest son was always real quick to get his homework done. Brilliant is the word his teachers from previous years would describe him during all of the conferences. However.... his third grade year he began to have some serious focus issues and we were doing homework until 7-730 at night.
I still haven't found the answer to why this sudden change began but what has helped is that between each page of homework completed we take a 10-15 minute break. The breaks come fewer and further between now as we have been doing this for about a month already. I hope it helps!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I FEEL YOU! It is as if we have the same child, except mine was never invited into the gifted program.

What is his after-school set-up? I discovered that my son does better in a small independently-drive study group in the library versus a large loosely structured after-school program. It gives him autonomy, but it also teaches him more effective study habits as he watches his trusted peers. My son is older by a few years, so you will likely need to find the friend and suggest library study dates.

Good luck,

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answers from Los Angeles on

Kudos to you for identifying your son as gifted and finding the right fit for him in school. Part of the credit goes to your insightful principal, granted, but most of it goes to you - you've done a great job being your child's advocate and guide.

That said - and I haven't even looked at the other responses so I hope I'm not being redundant - I can tell you one sure thing from my own experience growing up as a gifted perfectionist:

Get Him The Therapy.

I wish DAILY that therapy had existed for kids like me when I was a child. I did the same thing your son is doing. Baffled and frustrated everyone. "She has so much potential." "If she could just apply herself without defeating herself." "She's the smartest child we have but she thinks she's the dumbest." On and on. Bad news: for some of us it never goes away.

So let me give you what little insight I can that may apply to your son.

Here is what my internal dialogue amounted to: If I make a mistake, I need to erase it so well that it doesn't make the paper messy; if I can't do that, I must throw it away and start over with a fresh, clean paper." This idea applies to every task in my life. To this day. Most tasks in life cannot be neither erased nor tried anew. Therefore, it was (and is) less painful to simply not attempt them at all. It is agonizing to make a mistake. In the name of 'knowing my limits' I perverted the principle by simply not doing things at all. I didn't know this as a child - but I knew my patterns of behavior because all the adults in my life kept going over them with me. I needed real help to overcome those patterns. No one knew how to give it to me.

Those behavior patterns cancelled out all that marvelous potential - all of it. Except my memories and experience that may - God willing - help someone else to avoid my wasteful path.

Get him the help he needs - don't think of it as an overreaction. Think of it as the next step in helping your son channel all that marvelous potential into something that doesn't cause him pain.

The next thing coming, if it hasn't already, is the overpowering self-recrimination, the self-loathing, the "why can't I just be NORMAL and do it the way everyone else does?" The sense that you know you can do it perfectly "if you JUST TRY HARDER - why are you so lazy, so inept, so stupid - when will you get it RIGHT?"

That fear of failure, the self-sabotage never diminished for me and those who are like me. They just enticed a growing entourage of nasty feelings to tag along on our lifelong journeys.

If you can save him any portion of that anguish, go for it. It's a crummy feeling to have a blow-out IQ and all the curiousity and drive that goes with it - and never let yourself enjoy it. Therapy will help him to unlock the enjoyment. And then his 'gift,' for the first time, will actually FEEL like a Gift.

Does that make any sense?

Best of luck - and give your brilliant boy a big cuddle from all of us who walked in his shoes. He's fighting a big battle against himself, but he CAN prevail. :-)

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answers from Los Angeles on

A book I suggest is "How Your Child Is Smart". It offers up differentiated learning and has great tips on how certain kids learn using appropriate techniques. I wish I had read it when my boys were small. A lot of ADHD kids are above average in intelligence, but have a harder time learning in a standard environment. My oldest is ADHD and we chose to have him not take meds but instead focused on behavior management. My second son hated school from day one but somehow managed to graduate high school with honors. Good luck!

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answers from Los Angeles on

You might want to have your child evaulatued for learning disabilities - 25 percent of the population have some sort of learning issue, and the first age group of diagnosis is 4th grade. In the beginning bright kids are able to compensate, but as the work gets more demanding and difficult it becomes harder and harder for them. It's common for parents to say things like you're being lazy, you're not trying and it's just not true. The pity of it is that left unaddressed these bright kids become demoralized and battered. All you need to do is ask your school to test your child. They are obligated to do it within a certain time period-ask for the time guide lines when you make your request.

As the mom of a super smart child with learning issues it's amazing what intervention can do for the long term success of your child. Good luck!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.,

First of all, it sounds like you're doing a great job as a single mom raising two fabulous boys, and I commend you for being so involved in their lives. It's a real testament to you that you are not ignoring this issue; for your son's sake, it will be important to look at this issue objectively and to solve it constructively.

Honestly, if counseling has been suggested, it is worth looking into; surely the people suggesting it have your and your son's best interests at heart. It would not reflect poorly on your parenting skills or be admitting shortcomings in your ability to be a fabulous parent as a single mother for you to go to counseling with your son. Quite the opposite; your williness to seek out solutions for your son and to enlist professional help in doing so only reflects positively on you. Counselors are professionals; what is unclear to you because you are in the situation, they see hundreds of times. Consequently, they are able to offer up solutions because they are both objective and knowledgable; this can be immensely helpful.

There are a lot of factors you mention in your e-mail, and it is difficult to discern what the underlying problem is that is causing your son's behavior. It could be any number of things: environmental, developmental, a learning disability like dyslexia, or a psychological issue like OCD. In all of those cases, there are many concrete things you can to to channel his behavior from negative and destructive to positive and constructive. If your son was having trouble with his motor skills, you'd take him to a physical therapist or a doctor; this is no different. The principal of the school is on your side; ask her for a referral. I am sure she'll give you a good one.

These problems are solvable; only, as you have witnessed so far, they won't solve themselves if they are just left alone.

Lastly, in my experience, for any type of counseling to be the most successful for children of that age, you will need to go with him because so much of how children behave comes down to how they are reacting with their immediate surroundings; as the parent, you have the greatest influence over that.

Good luck to you!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Strange as it sounds, it could be vision related. Our daughter had many vision problems, totally undetected by regular check-ups, etc. She received reading glasses and then a year later we saw an optometrist who specializes in developmental optometry and while my other daughter and I had no problems, my older one, now 11, had many problems. Some ways of telling can be: really smart but struggling with schoolwork, hard to focus, handwriting not great (there are many others I can't think of right now). Worth getting a regular vision check up with a developmental optometrist about anyway. We saw Dr. Derek Tong in Temple City (southeast of Pasadena). I'm sure there are other good ones out there. G.

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answers from Los Angeles on

First of all, you're doing great. Sounds like you have a great family. The third grade is when learning disabilities manifest. There is a huge amount of learning disabilities within the gifted population. My son was your son's age when we started realizing that something was not right. The struggles to get homework done were amazing, and I found myself hiding in the bathroom, after trying all sorts of homework remedies. Is your son experiencing any kinds of vision issues? I always recommend having a thorough eye exam. Sometimes they just need glasses but don't know it. This is the age when the print in the chapter books gets a little smaller, and kids have difficulty with tracking, and comprehension. (By the way, avoid vision therapy, it's quackery.) Sometimes there's a more complicated issue such as dyslexia, ADD, etc. but stick to the simple stuff first, and talk to the teacher. Your son is probably not the only one in the class having homework challenges. Sometimes a study group can help, and sometimes pulling in a nice teenager to help, and pulling yourself out of the equation can be a lifesaver. Kids like peers. Best of luck, your head is in the right place! I've been there.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi, A.,

You sound like a caring and intelligent mother. I think that you have already received much thoughtful advice, but I'm going to offer you my two cents as a teacher, graduate psychology student and student who was in a gifted program:

Your son may be behaving this way because he is a perfectionist. My sister, a clinical psychologist (PhD), and I are perfectionists. We've had to battle that tendency to finish most of the things we start. Perfectionism makes things take a long, long time.

He might benefit from going to a tutorial center, such as Sylvan Learning Center. An environment away from home, as wonderful as home may be, might help him finish his work more quickly.

I would encourage you to find a good child psychologist to meet with you and him, not because you are a bad parent or because he is a bad kid, but because the two of you might learn why your son is in this predicament and how he can get out of this predicament and, more importantly, pave the way to a happy adolescence and adulthood. You may find that you like or are more helped by certain psychologists than others. My rule of thumb is to give a psychologist/psychotherapist at least three visits before giving up or searching for someone else.

Good luck,
Lynne E

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answers from Los Angeles on


How fortunate to have a gifted child! I can imagine how frustrating this must be for you. I am a child psychologist and actually do have some advice. I would be concerned- not overly concerned- but enough to seek professional advice. Of course I believe therapy can be helpful to children but I do not know what your son needs. An evaluation would assist in determining what is underlying his difficulty completing tasks. I too am a single working mother (my son is 12 months old) and I do not believe that most child problems are related to growing up in a single parent household! I commend you for being flexible and trying to work something out with the the principal. You may, however, be missing something more serious that is going on.

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