How to Get a 12 Yr Old Boy Intersted in School

Updated on January 14, 2008
D.K. asks from Greenlawn, NY
10 answers

It's a daily battle around here. I take keyboards off the computer, power corads from tv's, and just about anything I can to do to try to stop the battles. He just won't study and homework is like pulling teeth. I've had him tested no LD's but I feel deep down there has to be something. He's very social, not disrepectful, or a bully. All his teachers say he's a pleasure to have in class but they wish he would apply himself more. What can I do. Punishment does't work, rewards doesn't work. I'm at my wits end.

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answers from New York on

I have the same situation with my 12 year old son. Punishment works but only for a short time. A week without Video games, computer and tv, gets me about a month of better school behavior. If you come up with a better solution let me know!

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answers from New York on

It sounds as if he just doesn't see any point to the hard work of learning, which is not unusual at his age. I'd suggest you see if you can find him an interest that might spur him to work harder to achieve it. If computers are his thing, for instance, instead of taking them away, buy him software so he can write his own programs or see if you can find him a class in computer technology. Talk to his guidance counselor about programs that might be available to him in or out of school. Or go to and see if you can find him a mentor who might be able to show him that there really is a purpose to it all.

Mostly I suggest you stop punishing him until you work out a plan. Trust me on this. I spent 25 years teaching junior high and high school, and random punishment isn't effective. Set reasonable, slightly flexible rules regarding "down time"--when can he watch TV or play computer games, when is homework time, etc--and be matter-of-fact in enforcing the rules logically (if he doesn't do his homework between 5 and 6 PM, he has to give up an hour of TV time to get it done or he has to miss an event he was looking forward to and do his homework during that time slot--there's no way out of the homework, just a negotiation over the time schedule). Sit down with him and work out a contract that you can both live with and that is very specific in its scope. There needs to be agreement and it needs to be in writing and signed by both of you. Oddly, this works better than you might think. List the goals you want him to achieve and let him list the rewards, then hash it out until you've got a workable deal. Kids like to feel as if they have some control over their lives, even if in the end they wind up doing exactly what you wanted.

By the way, at least one expert recommends that he should take a break every 15 minutes when he's studying. A mechanical kitchen timer would be a great gift to get him started on a new study plan. Ten minutes off every 15--he can talk on the phone, have a snack . . . whatever--and 30 minutes off after every full hour. I taught that to my students and saw a huge improvement in their productivity.

He sounds like he's really a good kid. Praise him for what he does well. If he does one more page today than he did yesterday, notice it and tell him you appreciate the effort. Be fair and loving with him without giving in to his every desire, and you'll see a surprising change in no time.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Hi D.--
I'm a teacher of middle and high school students and I can tell you I feel I know your son, simply because I've met so many boys like him. This very thing affects so many students at this age, especially boys. As wonderful as our schools, teachers and administrators may be, we simply are living in a new age-- one that does not inspire this generation of children as it should. We just haven't kept up with their changing needs and the culture they live in. And, if our schools happen to be among the many that are struggling, the problem is compounded even further.

First, I'd say you can feel proud of your son for who he is-- he sounds like a wonderful child. You have clearly done a great job parenting him and from your description he seems to have a strong sense of himself. That's more than many can say at this age. It sounds like your frustration is that he seems to be just waiting out his time in school for his real life to begin. Kids this age just don't have life perspective to understand that what they do now affects them later and somehow the adults in their lives have to find a way to help them start living now. The question everyone asks is HOW?!?

I wonder, Does he have strong interests in anything outside of the classroom? Music? Acting? Sports? Technology? Is there any one class or teacher that he responds well to? The best thing you can do to support this very difficult time in your child's life is find the key things that motivate him and find as many ways to support him in THAT as you can, and put as many like-minded adults in his life as you can. As he sees you and other grown-ups showing an interest in his passions, he will start to achieve. I really believe this, and I've seen it work. As a teacher, I beg you, please do not turn to punishment. It will backfire on you every time. As you've already seen, it will never inspire or motivate him to love learning and it will not teach him any value of doing the required work, even to get to the things he love. That doesn't mean there should be no consequences, just not punishment... which is quite different. (That said, I do think all parents should limit computer time, gaming time and tv time, but that should be part of a daily schedule that your family creates that includes homework time, family time, and yes, down time that could include computer etc.)

You could also check into the many on-line programs that go along with most textbooks these days. You usually have to register, some with a fee, but they provide practice games, quizzes and tests with the information taken directly from the textbooks. It's amazing how just doing the practice questions on line can change a kid's willingness to study. I've been very impressed with the ones I've seen.

Also, I think a great book for parents of kids this age (any age, really) is: HOW TO TALK SO KIDS WILL LISTEN & LISTEN SO KIDS WILL TALK, by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish. It's a really easy read (cartoons included!) so even a busy parent can find some time to get through it pretty quickly. It might help you get HIM to help solve the problem himself, with your help, rather than you trying to solve the problem yourself. It can help you become a partner in the problem solving.

And in this case, I recommend THE MINDS OF BOYS: SAVING OUR SONS FROM FALLING BEHIND IN SCHOOL AND LIFE," by Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens. This is a GREAT book, written as a call to both parents and teachers to change the way we evaluate and educate our boys. I can't recommend it highly enough!

I wish you the best of luck. You are not alone. Your son is not alone in this, and I am so thankful to hear that whoever evaluated him for LDs had the wisdom to see him clearly. So many evaluators just plug a kid (especially boys) into the system and way too many are medicated and placed in programs that are totally inappropriate and ineffective.

Hang in there! You can do it! And so can he! Do check out those books- they can give you the encouragement you need!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Hi D.,
I wish I knew the answer to this. My son had a really tough time last year, never doing his homework, projects or studying for tests. He wound up going to summer school which was not fun since it was quite a distance from our house.
He did pass summer school and we hoped that knocked some sense into him, but first marking period he failed two subjects because of low test scores and homework not turned in.
Well, this time around we told him that summer school will not be an option, if he fails this year, he will have to repeat the 7th grade. I think that helped because as of right now, he is doing his homework and passing all subjects.
I am keeping my fingers crossed because I can not go thru another year of argueing and threatening just did'nt work.
hang in there, I think it's a maturity thing too.



answers from New York on

Did the school test him for an LD or did a specialized doctor test him? The reason I ask is because a specialized doctor will tell you how your child learns and then you can have the school implement the way he learns. 1) school can be boring for him and he needs to be challenged.
2) He has a different "style" of learning.

I feel for you because my son went thru something sooo similar and until I fought and fought the school for 3 years following my GUT feeling we were finally heard. School changed the way Steven learned and I was told by his teachers that he was a pleasure to teach and constantly volunteered to read and would help out other students. All along I KNEW something was just not right. Follow your instinct - Noone knows this child better than his mother... good luck!



answers from Buffalo on

Sounds like you've tried quite a few things and your boy isn't buying it. I guess I would try to find an activity outside of school that he would enjoy, but also provides him with a role model who would encourage him to "stay in school, and try hard." Maybe there's a rock climbing instructor, tae kwon do or karate teacher, etc. who would be there for him to give him advice and put pressure on when works not getting done. No offense, but kids just start to tune out their parents after awhile. Hearing, "You really need to step up and apply yourself" from a role model is a little different from getting it from Mom. Also, maybe your kid is just bored with all of it. Would he want to volunteer somewhere (horse barn/children's hospital/library) to get some excitement?



answers from New York on

I have a 12yo girl and I've found that even tho she is not receptive to me helping her with ther homework, she is receptive to someone else helping her. I have her in the afterschool program and they have a designated homework time period and all kids have to be in that room at that time and do their homework. If they are done early, they have to stay there and read until the time period is up. They have a library (limited) of books so that the kids can pick out one of their books if they didn't bring their own. I once had her in a different afterschool and they didn't enforce the homework time. I spoke to the director and told him that was the part of the program that was very important to me and I wanted her in the homework room....etc. and they complied with my request for her.
Also, a tutor. Even if he is very bright, it's hard to teach your own child, children are not always receptive to their parents when it comes to school work. If you had a tutor that would just stay with him, keep him on track, praise, praise, praise, that may help. You can get a certified teacher that tutors p/t ($$$) or you can put an ad up in your local college (or on Craig's List) and pay a student hourly, maybe you only need 1 hr a day?? As long as he works with the tutor for x amount of time, then u have that time free to do other things w/o being stressed about unplugging the computer etc.
Or, I don't know with boys, but with my daughter is very social and likes doing things in groups. You can invite some of his friends over for homework time. have a designated period where the books have to be open, and then let them do something when everyone is done, a special video game, movie.
I know u said rewards don't work, but I work f/t and found since my daughter does her homework in the afterschool, I wanted her to apply herself more for better grades and developed a system where for every 5 points above 75 I assigned a dollar amount and it increments $1 dollar every 5 points. And for every 5 points below 75, a chores was assigned. She's never had a failing grade. And even tho the dollar amount is just $1-5 dollars, with a few tests a week, she has a little spending $$ and can buy things I wudn't normally buy her (candy, teen mags, snacks at fast food rests, the 1006th flavor of lip gloss). All this has made her feel more independent and I trust her more now doing it on her own.
Hope it works out!



answers from New York on

Besides all his punishments for not doing his school work, what is his home life like??? Is there something else about his home life that he's having a problem with???

Maybe he's having a problem in the classroom...maybe not with the teacher but with other students??? Maybe some who may not even be in his class????

Maybe he needs some space with play time when he comes home from school before being told he has to do his homework????

Maybe if you sit down to help him with his work, you should try humor....find a way to make it fun for him.

Besides insisting he does his work....have you just sat him down to talk with him....ask him what's going on....ask what he thinks you can do to help him get through this hard time. I would, and would listen closely for clues to what is really going on inside of him. If you can't get him to open up to talk, maybe another family member or his teacher can????

I would also explain the last thing you want is for him to be left back because of falling behind with his work and studies. Tell him you think this will make him feel bad...

Does he find the teacher and the work boring??? Maybe he needs to be moved into another class???

Is there a friend he likes well enough who does study and do homework???? Maybe set up a study and homework time with this other child who might influence him in a good way??????

Is there any support groups at his school who can teach him some study skills?????



answers from New York on

Is he failing? If so, he may have given up and getting some tutoring from a real motivational individual might really help.

But.. If he is getting by with minimum effort and the lowest possible passing grades.. thats another story.

My nephew had that problem last year ( at the age of 13) the problem he was bored. He was really too smart for the classes he was in and was disgusted by the low expectations of the teachers. ( we live in a very good school district) Yet the work was not his "style" He was passing science with flying colors. He loved the hands-on work and the process of experimentation and logical thinking. But everywhere else he was just bored to death!

My SIL told him if he got left back.. so be it. No one was going to jump through hoops too help him. Here Summer School costs $500. If he needed to go it was coming out of his allowance.

He passed everything.. Yet he never did one scrap of homework..

He really WAS too cool for school.

Now that he's in the HS, he's doing great. He loves the environment and that he can change classes to get other teachers if he decides to do that in the first week of school. He has gotten teachers he likes and is doing great.

He may not have a learning"disability" But does have a learning "style" that needs to be met in order to be successful.



answers from New York on

My son was like that too. We went to the bank to get a blank check book register. We used his grades as deposits and withdrawals and used a catalog for shopping. He picked something out that he really wanted. For every test grade "A" we "deposited" $5, (not real money) for every "B" a deposit of $4 and for every "C"a deposit of $1. Anything less than a "C" was a withdrawal. "D" subtract $3, failure subtract $4. Eventually he tried very hard to get the better grades...that included homework. But we didn't just send him to do homework. I had him at the kitchen table while I made dinner. We discussed the homework. Keep a picture of the "prize where he can see it". When he gets his report card...all A's and B's gets the prize. Anything less...gets a different choice. Average out the A and one C = B. You can work it out any way you want however, these days the prices are expensive!

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