My 10 Year Old Son Keeps Getting Bad Grades. What Else Can I Do to Fix This?

Updated on September 23, 2013
M.T. asks from Chandler, AZ
21 answers

my son is in 4th grade and the first semester of school he made the honor roll and this time he got a D in social studies and a C- in Science on his report card. i took away his playstation,i-pod, cell phone and told him if he got an A or B on his next test i would give one thing back and i made him study, he got a D on it today and also today his teacher called me and told me that he didn't bring his math homework home the day before so he got busted for copying someone elses homework. so now i took the t.v. out of his room and made him right lines. i know he is capable, he is just lazy and his teacher agrees. what else can i do to fix this?

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answers from Springfield on

Forget about the punishments. They aren't going to help. What you need to do is get involved. You need to be very active. Make a list of all his classes. Ask him every day what he did in each class, what they will be doing the rest of the week, what he has coming up, tests, quizzes, papers, projects, etc. Talk to him about each assignment. Ask him to explain the assignment to you (make sure he understands it). Talk to him about how he plans to approach the work. Help him learn HOW to study. Quiz him before exams. Look over papers and homework assignments. You don't have to do it form him, but you can talk to him about it.

Did you help him study for the exam he got a D on? Did you watch him study or ask him questions about it?

You need to be very involved. In 4th grade he's just beginning to understand what homework really is and what studying really is. He cannot and should not be expected to do it independently. You need to be a part of it.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Spend time with him while he does his homework. Sit there and make sure he completes it. Allow him to ask for help if he needs it. Forcing and punishing aren't going to work - you need to be actively involved. Writing lines isn't going to inspire him to work more; it's going to burn him out more.

Do you ask him why his grades are low? Is he confused? Is he having trouble with the work? Is he really just lazy or is there something else going on?

Also, help him create a weekly homework plan. Buy a planner so you can write out - together - what needs to be done each night and approximately how long it will take. If he sees it written as a plan, it might be easier for him to follow.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I had a son that was getting D's and F's on a consistent basis. When I asked him about his homework or tests in class he was telling me he was done and turned it in. His teacher in the ninth grade told me he may have to be held back.

I graduated 45 out of a class of 89. My wife graduated #8 out of a class of 1200. My brother could sleep through class and get A's and B's while I studied and got C's and an occasional B.

I asked my third son's teachers to let me know what the assignments were. I asked my son to bring home his assignments. He "forgot" most of the time. I gathered my kids together in a family counsel. My wife and I told our kids that we expected them to do their best in school, in church and everything else. I told them that I expected them to get straight A's as an A was the best. If they didn't get A's then it was my job to find out if they weren't able to get A's or if they just weren't doing their best.

So I had a meeting with all his teachers. I told them I wanted my kids homework assignments home every night. My son still "forgot" to get his assignments or to turn in his assignments every night.

So I started out with history and got his book and read the chapter he was on. Then I read the chapter questions. (Strangely enough history hadn't changed much since I was in 9th grade history. The biggest change was some of his "History" was my "Current Events". ;~)) ) I had him answer all the questions for home work. He protested that he only had to do every other question. I told him, since he hadn't brought his assignments home, he was going to have to do every question so I could be sure he got the correct half of the assignment. Then would over his answers. If he got one or more wrong, I would give him the questions and he would have to correct them. If he got those questions wrong again, he would have to tell me where he got the answers to the questions. He then had to correct the questions and put the answers in his back pack. His grades went up almost immediately. But still his teachers told me he wasn't paying attention. I told him the net time he got a "not paying attention" complaint from his teachers, I would go to class with him. He didn't believe me.

His teacher called me and I called my boss and asked for two weeks vacation. Monday I went to class with him. By lunch time he was begging me not to stay with him all day. He said I was embarrassing him. I told him I would go home, but did he know what I wanted him to do? If I got one more complaint about him not paying attention or him not doing his homework, and I would take him to school and home in my truck. He promised, and I left. His grades went up. His homework got done. He paid attention in class. (I apologized to him for falling asleep in one of his classes. ;~)) )

I worked with him in his math class, social studies, etc. He went from almost failing 9th grade to graduating Salutatorian. Salutatorian is #2 in his high school. Valedictorian is #1.

Another wonderful, nice thing that happened was when one of my other kids started slacking off, all I had to do was to ask them if I needed to take some vacation time and go to class with them. My student I spent time in class with would chime in and tell them they really didn't want that. And I didn't have to sit in class with them.

Was all this worth it?!? You betcha ! ! ! The son I spent so much time with leaned to study. He was able to get into the USC Medical School and is practicing in Northern California. He is the first doctor in our family. YES, YES, YES it was worth it ! ! ! (read my profile)

Good luck to you and yours.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Get him an after-school tutor. Does your school have a homework club? If it does, send him.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

For what it's worth, 4th grade is where my daughter first had problems with Science and Social Studies. Not as bad as your son, but definitely the straight-A girl brought home some B's and I think actually a C on a test (she was devastated). Math and Language Arts come pretty easy to her, and before 4th the Science and Soc Studies had been easy enough it was no issue. But in that grade it got harder and she actually had to learn how to study. Luckily my husband took her under his wing with it (those were my two weakest subjects in school and bore me to pieces) and they would sit together before tests and study with flash cards. So I agree with the other posters that you will need to become a big part of his studying for the time being, or you need to get him some extra tutoring help that can do this too. Eventually once he learns how to actually study he should be able to do it on his own again.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Make sure it's not more than laziness. Check his eyesight.
Sign him up for a study skills class.
If it is just refusal to do his homework that's much easier to fix than a learning problem! Check his homework every evening and have his teacher let you know on a daily basis if he is turning everything in.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I think it would help more if you had been in regular contact with the teacher when you first heard about this. I would have been talking to the teacher to find out where the problem(s) lay: homework not returned, kiddo just not comprehending the material, reading issues, or something else.

Kids who go from honor roll to lower grades: to me, that signals that something might have changed or that there may be some stress. Kids don't respond to stressors or upset in life the way an adult might. That said, I find the 'punish them and take everything away until your grades are better' is less supportive than sitting down with them while they are doing their homework, staying in contact with the teacher, and creating a distraction-free space to do homework-- all of these things can be more helpful.

Find out from the teacher what she's seeing, where she thinks that he needs the most help, and then give that sort of help. If he needs tutoring, get him to a tutor. If he needs help on his writing, ask for resources so he can practice at home. Please do not leave this problem to be exclusively his to solve. Please do not think that taking everything away in his life will make him want to do the work. (I have been here, by the way, as a ten year old and it evolved into being one of the worst times in my life---everyone expected that taking things away from me would 'make' me understand how to do a project 'better'-- I REALLY needed help. None of the grounding or other punishments actually solved the problem of my confusion at comprehending a task I'd never done before. It was treated as a behavioral issue and with the failing self-esteem from that experience, I only began to act out more. I'm sure my family thought I was lazy, too. I just *didn't* understand.

So make it a habit of going over his work at the beginning of the afternoon, reviewing it, 'do you understand how you are going to do this part of the assignment? tell me your plan?' and then double-checking the work when he's done. I think there is something deeper going on at this point, to be honest, so try to turn things around as much as you can-- for his sake. If it is to the point that you are doing what's suggested and he's still not doing the work, then it's time to talk to the school counselor for more resources.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I want to second the excellent answers advising you to get much, much more involved with both his homework and his schoolwork. Please take another look at those.

If you are afraid you'll become (or be branded by others) a "helicopter parent" if you do the things suggested -- please don't let that stop you from knowing what he has due in every class, every day, and ensuring he not only has homework completed but that you (or his dad) go over it with him, consistently and calmly, every day. You will not have to do this forever, but it's important to do it now, and to work with him and help him study for tests and think through projects.

Here's why it's important: Around fourth grade is when kids really do have more assignments and are expected by most teachers to do more independently.

But kids at this age and grade often don't know HOW to study for a test. Just telling a child, "Go study for that test" and seeing the child go off to his room, books in hand, won't work; studying is learned skill that requires some guidance and practice. Be sure you're never saying, "Go study" and then saying, "Why didn't you do better on that test? You studied!" He will start to think that he's not smart because "I study but I still don't do well so I must be dumb." Not true! He needs to learn how to organize information; go back to previous homework and learn from the mistakes there; use his notes; use textbooks and other resources, to study for a test.

Have an in-person talk with the teachers for the subjects where there's trouble. Emphasize that you'd like some specific techniques for helping him learn to study -- not just learn the material, but learn how to study it. They will likely guide you toward helping him make his own flashcards; making "notes on the notes" so he's summarizing material for himself; and other specifics.

Homework is all about making the errors there, so that when the tests and other projects come along, the child has learned through trial and error on homework. That's why it's so vital to do it. By the way, I hope you let him know clearly how unacceptable it is to copy someone else's homework or anything else; if he pulls that in a few years in middle school he could end up suspended for a day and it will go on his school record -- that's how seriously that is taken there, so start now to emphasize that it's better to take the zero for not having it than to copy anything, ever.

Talk directly to his teachers. Ask for specific ways to help him. Think in terms of building his study skills so that by about sixth grade he is taking responsibility. And don't focus on grades to the point that he thinks that's all that matters. Try to build in him an interest in the subjects themselves so he wants to learn the material and isn't focused on just the test and the grade. Good luck -- he is having some typical growing pains for this age and grade but if you get involved now, you and he will be glad of it in a few years.

And yes, yes, do get his eyes tested no matter what! Never hurts.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Communication with his teacher is key! And you are going to have to become super involved. I understand the thinking behind removing his electronics, but it will do little to no good if you don't stay on top of it. In our school, parents are well aware of the homework assignments, so we can stay on top of them getting done. If your school doesn't have a similar system in place, then you need to start emailing the teacher and asking daily. THen sit down with your child and help him...not do it for him. Make sure he understands the assignments and materials. I would also ask the teacher for tutorials. Most teachers build this in to their schedule before or after school. Yes, he is old enough to know what his homework is, and he SHOULD be responsible for it. BUt he is not being responsible, time to step in mama.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

A few things pop to mind.
1. Have you had his eyes checked lately? My son was struggling in 3-5th grade because he needed glasses.
2. Is it possible that a 'cool kid' made a comment about his good grades and now he is getting bad grades so that the kid will like him?
3. He might be getting picked on for good grades. This happened in 6th to my brother. Went from A's to D-F's. My mom had him to a shrink before the ink could dry on the report card! Turns out there was a kid that was picking on him for being smart.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

You cannot punish him into becoming a life long learner. And that is really what school is supposed to be about. A teacher thinking a kid is just lazy is an excuse for not figuring out what the problem is and how to keep the kids excited about learning. Does he know how to study - how to organize his tasks, make a schedule, allocate his time, organize his notes (actually make notes to study). He may never have learned this. Is he having trouble with something that is making him feel stupid? Many kids would much rather be thought of as lazy than stupid. You need to be much more involved in his learning and figure out the problem. It may be as simple as a bad teacher, not wanting to be the 'smart kid' or poor organizational skills. Kids live up to our expectations. If you and his teacher both believe he is lazy - he will likely live up to that.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

First chill with the rules because all you are doing is making him hide his failures. Use the things you are taking away as tools for success. He gets home from school, he plays for 30 minutes to unwind. 30 minutes of homework....lather rinse repeat until the homework is done, placed in his backpack and then the rest of the evening is his.

Trust me it works.

What you need to realize is before the work was easier and he could get it done quickly, he can't now so he is lying about what needs to be done so he can go unwind. Problem with lying about having your work done, you can't pull it back out later without you not believing him the next time. So he tries to copy other kids work and slip by.

By accepting he can't get it done in one chunk, by saying I get it, lets work through this you are now an ally in the quest, he will be honest with you and that really is the only way you will know what is going on.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

Be careful. What looks like laziness to an adult may be something else. A kid who is in over his head may find it easier to give up and act like he doesn't care, because admitting he needs help makes him feel dumb. If he doesn't care, then not doing well doesn't hurt as much.

He may be smart, but does he know how to study? In many cases, study skills are not overtly taught at school. They should be, but they aren't. You can help him by studying with him. Does he know how to work independently? Is he organized? Is he expected to take notes in class? If so, does he know how?

Are they using textbooks as the primary teaching tool in science and social studies? If so, does he know how to read a textbook? I know this may seem like a dumb question, but in truth, reading a textbook and pulling out main ideas and supports is a different skill from reading fiction for pleasure, and I think in many classrooms it's not well taught. Does he understand how to use subject headers to anticipate main ideas (and test questions)? Does he know that in history and science books illustrations and captions bear information that shouldn't be ignored?

You can help with all of this by getting more involved. Do you sit down with him at homework time? Do you look at his work? Do you check to see if he has understood it? Do you communicate regularly (maybe even daily) with his teacher?

Also, have you ever observed in his class? It is possible that the problem may not lie 100% with your son.

Finally, if he went from good grades to bad very quickly, is it possible that there is a non-academic cause? For instance, is he being bullied? Does the playground culture at his school or his circle of friends discourage being smart? Is he having friend problems?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My middle daughter really struggled in 4th grade. What helped us was checking her assignment notebook every night. Helping with homework if she needed it or more importantly, being there while she did it.

The school provided extra math help and she became a member of the "homework club", which pulled her 20 minutes before school ended so she could have an aide present to explain anything she didn't understand when she did her homework.

Eventually, she didn't need the extra help or homework club. I cannot say if your child is truly "lazy" or he needs some help. Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Fourth grade is definitely a transitional time for most students and requires more study.

There is some great advice already given here and I want to encourage you to help him now. By doing so will help him as he moves forward. The study habits you help him to develop now with stay with him the rest of his life.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

I do think taking away those things was good, but NOT as punishment, I just think they may be contributing to his lack of love of learning in general. You DON'T want to get into a punishment cycle on school work, or he'll hate it all that much more, but you DO want to nurture an environment in which it is natural, easy and interesting to study. I know your son is bright by his early achievement and luckily his failings are just starting so it's not too late...I don't understand how he got on honor roll first semester already? Do you mean last year?

This is not meant to be critical at all, it's only addressing the fact that he is not focusing properly on school work in studies that may not interest him (very difficult to do but important to work hard anyway). You mention a play station, ipod, cell phone and TV in his room. That is a LOT of electronics for a 4th grader. I know it's fairly typical these days, but I wouldn't have done all my school work either with all those screens taking up my time. Plus those mediums BREED lack of concentration and focus. His mind is in a passive state when wathing TV (even educational) and learning is not as deep on the electronic gadgets because your mind isn't forced to create the visuals it needs from text etc. It's much easier to "watch" colorful graphics than to imagine things. And it sounds like his concentration abilities are suffering if he's forgetting things and being lazy.

I'm not saying he should never do any of those things, but it would be more conducive for his study habits to NEVER have a TV in his room, but have limited TV time with family. He doesn't need a play station or ipod. Those are luxuries. The cell phone depends on what your families schedule/safety needs are, but meh, if it has games and texting and other other ways to distract himself, you could limit it to just calls.

My oldest is only in second grade, but she has yet to have ANY electronics and won't have any until AFTER 4th grade even for learning. She has always only had access to books and paper and crayons and limited TV watching, some games in waiting rooms if her friends share, etc. As a result, there was nothing else for her to become but a really good reader who loves to draw or build with legos etc, and she's got great concentration for her age from sheer practice. Also, we've always made educational books part of fun reading, so she's used to "enjoying" educational books, studying for tests etc. She can read a difficult history chapter and take a test on it all on her own. The key is keeping it FUN and keeping the distractions limited. If she doesn't feel like reading or drawing or building, she can play outside or with dolls, but she has to use her mind, not check out on a screen. I know my attention span has suffered as I've increased use of a computer and children's minds are just developing.

If your son feels like all his electronics are the "rewards" for doing the bare minimum of his school work (passing), then it doesn't seem like a recipe for long-term success. Can you remove most of them permanently, but leave TV in the in shared room for some enriching movies or shows on a limited basis, and then start doing some fun activities together that incorporate the studies that he's not showing an interest in? What is he studying in social studies? How does it pertain to life? Are there activities you could do together and point out in a non-pressured way how the real world relates to what he's learning? We're studying medieval times right now, so this week we're sewing some renaissance gowns and heading to the Rennaissance festival. That's kind of elaborate, but sometimes we do normal errands and I'll relate it to the news or get a fun library book about a mundane topics so the kids can hear about a "lesson" a few different ways at different times to set it in.

If you get into ways to help the studies become more interesting, AND give him a little TV to unwind, AND set up a special reward for a certain amount of achievement, like a special day trip with him or something after x amount of successful school weeks, those might be some ways to help. You want him to love learning, not HATE school.

And I would make the electronics disappear for good and he just has to accept he doesn't have time for playing with those when he's not managing to learn things that are important to his life. Maybe he can have them back in the summer if the grades come up this year....but I would lose them personally. You're them mom, he's not ENTITLED to electronics that suck away his time and attention span unless he shows he can work hard in school AND play those in his left over spare time.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Have you asked him why? I had a A/B student who was getting Ds all of a sudden and found out his girlfriend thought he was too smart, so he started "throwing" the tests and not turning in the homework. When he realized that she should like him for who he is, he went back to getting good grades. Also, you might offer him something more than getting back his electronics if he does well for a full semester. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would talk to my son and the teacher, find out what's going on. Is he being lazy or does he really not get it. If he's being lazy, then at 10, it's really on you as the parent and the teacher to make sure he gets his stuff done. Frustrating, yes, but necessary.

I would take away electronics as well, but don't have the end goal be the next report card. Maybe if the teacher can send a note home weekly to tell you how he is doing - or even a quick email daily. You two need to stay in contact and work as a team to help him. He is struggling and only getting in trouble, not getting help.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

What does his playstation, I-pod, and cell phone have to do with him doing schoolwork? Is he playing it at school instead of listening to the teacher and instead of working during class?

To most kids you take away something like an electronic item it's pretty much out of sight out of mind. They don't miss it after a day or so and then it has very little effect towards what you're trying to do.

I suggest that your child probably doesn't like these topics or doesn't understand them.

He may need tutoring or he may need a teacher that is able to teach him in a style that he learns his material better.

I'd say his punishment needs to come through school too. So many times kids get away with all sorts of stuff at school because the parents are not making the teacher take responsibility for the kids actions while they are at school.

If he's just sitting there and not doing his work then his teacher has an issue that she is not taking responsibility for. It's her job to make him do his work. Telling on him to mom or dad isn't the right thing to do. This teacher needs to get in there and teach him in a better way.

So I guess I'm turning this question around and asking why the teacher isn't teaching him, why he isn't doing work during class-time if he's attending class, and what is he doing in the classroom during class time where he's just not doing any work.

The teacher has to take some responsibility in this. If they are teaching and working with him then he should at least be getting an average grade instead of barely staying above flunking the subject.

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answers from San Francisco on

the first semester is usually a review of last year, so it's not surprising that he did so well. He may be having trouble with those subjects now and doesn't really know how to ask for help.

I would sit with him for a night or two during homework and see if you can get a sense of whether he's in over his head, or he's being lazy.

If he's in over his head, get him a tutor. But if he's being lazy, then he needs to see what REAL work looks like.

For that, I would assign him loads of chores to do after school. Things like pulling weeds, edging the lawn with hand clippers, washing out garbage cans, etc. I would tell him that if he doesn't pay attention in school and put his best foot forward, these are the types of jobs he will have so he'd better learn how to do them now. Make him continue doing this until you see some better work coming home or the teacher contacts you and says he's doing better. DO NOT go by what he tells you; he's already shown himself to be less than forthcoming about school.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

It doesn't sound like it, but thought I would ask.. Does the school use Micrograde? it's a system that allows the teachers to immediately post grades online (before report cards) and too, in the event that a child doesn't bring their Math book home, the work is also posted online... so no excuses... It's a great system but not all schools use it.. Anyway, if your school doesn't , then I would advise this..ALWAYS check your son's backpack for homework and returned graded assignments... my son is in 7th grade and to this day, I still check in with him on every subject...
Does your school offer any kind of after school tutoring? if so, put him in that... even if he complains about it..... I would also ask the teacher to meet with you once or twice a month to get status checkup.... To me, you have to take an aggressive approach... if he doesn't have good studying habits now, it will only become harder as time goes on. Also, my son reads each day.. it can be something of his choice, but he must do it..
reading is another good habit to get into..

good luck and keep us posted

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