My Son and Homework

Updated on January 30, 2008
J.C. asks from Garland, TX
6 answers

Ok I have had difficulty with my son Josh - he is 11 and started 6th grade this year which in GISD that is middle school. Getting Josh to do his homework has been like a war zone ever since he started school. I'll admit that he doesnt have great study habits, his organization skills are poor and his home envrionment has not always been the best. My ex and I got divorced when he started school. I was a single parent for a while and didnt always have the time or energy to help him focus on his school work. I have tried going through his backpack looking for incomplete assignments, talking to his teacher daily about assignments, taking away things when he does poorly, rewarding him when he does well, we have tried couseling, and just about everything I can think of. I spend so much time and energy on Josh and his school work that I just get frustrated. If he knows he has to choose between doing something he wants and doing homework - he lies about having homework. It's not that the work is too difficult for him - he scored commended grades on the TASK test and now is in all honors classes. I know that part of his issues are his dad and his grandfather (on his dad's side) constantly baby him and dictate every action he needs to do to him - so he doesnt have to think about it. Josh get your pants on, now your shirt, let me brush your hair, let me fix your belt, let me carry your backpack, let me do most of your homework for you, ect. So since my new husband and I DONT treat him this way - we're mean, we dont help him, we're too hard on him, we expect too much from him - which in subtle ways my ex reinforces to him and of course he denies it. We have told him this year that his homework is his responsiblity and he has to keep up with his assignments and remembering to do them, ect. I dont want him to fail, I dont want him to struggle, but I feel that we do him no favors staying on him about it - not to mention it creates a wedge in our relationship with him. He has been tested numerous times for learning disabilities - he has none - in fact all results are that he is extremly intellegent, knows that his behavior is 'wrong', knows what he should be doing, ect. It's just a lack of motivation or something. I dont know how to motivate him - he knows that when he is doing good everything is great - he gets just about everything he wants. My (new) husband says he does it for the attention - since we have 3 little ones that require a lot more hands on attention - but when we do try to spend one on one time with him he's not interested - he wants to read or play on the computer. I am at my wits end trying to figure something out that will work for him. I dont know what else to do except let him figure it out on his own - but then I feel like Im being a bad mom.

Anyone else have these difficulties, did anything work, is it hopeless?

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answers from Minneapolis on

I totally understand your situation. When my son was 11, I remarried and 2 more boys. My ex pulled a lot of similar and different stuff just to cause problems at our house. It wasn't easy. The one thing I can tell you that I did was sit down and have a heart-to-heart with Jared when the little ones were asleep. That way we had no interruptions. We put the rules down in writing and we all had input in the rules. That way, Jared had a say in the matter. I told him that I'm his mother the rest of his life whether his Dad likes it or not. While in our house, there will be cerain things that will not be tolerated. When things go as they should, everyone gets to enjoy a few extra perks. When Jared chooses to disobey or misbehave, there were consequences. We decided together on the consequences so we all knew what was going to happen. My situation was very complicated.

You are not being mean or too hard on him. He is 11 years old. Around 10-12 is when children need to be held more accountable for their actions. It's the in between stage of their life. They aren't a little kid anymore yet they aren't a teenager either. If you continue to baby them, that is what they'll expect and take longer to grow up. If you set down the rules on paper and copy them for each person (reduces the I didn't know answer), it helps. We had a weekly family meeting to go over chores, homework, attitudes, and would try and resolve any issues. It helped with Jared.

We still had issues come up. The consequences changed as he got older. His senior year, we had many tough love consequences. Jared was mad at me for a long, long time. A lot of it was because he expected something for nothing. I told him he would understand more when he gets out of boot camp. He went in the Marines 7-24-06. I'm expecting to meet a young man when I go to his graduation in October instead of the 19 yr old little boys that left in July.

Do not despair. There is a book called Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline at Barnes & Noble. Excellent book. It has tons of great strategies especially for the 10-12 year old transition age. Believe it or not, letting them participate in making the rules helps give them some control. Trust me, we aren't giving them the control over the situation but we are giving them some control over themselves and their actions. Giving them choices is another awesome tool. The book goes over that in great detail.

Example - by 6 and 7 yr old boys at the park. I tell them when we get there that we keep the rocks/pebbles on the ground. If you throw them, then you are telling me you want to go home. Do we understand? They say yes. Sometimes I have them repeat what I said back to me. There have been a few times when they've thrown the rocks. I tell them that we are going home and to get into the van. When they start to cry, I tell them the discussion we had when we arrived. They chose not to listen so they must not want to play at the park today. The next time we go to the park, we have the same discussion. I remind them of what happened last time. They need to make better choices. They may think I'm mean when we have to go, but I remind them that I'm not the one who threw the rocks. They chose to throw the rocks.

I hope that helped.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I do not have any advice on the subject, but wanted to let you know about something that is new to my son's school (Plano ISD) this year. It is called "Parent Viewer" and it basically allows us to monitor our child's attendance and grades online. It also generates a missing assignment report and we can sign up for alerts via e-mail. You may wish to call GISD and see if they offer anything like this, or if it is in the works.



answers from Dallas on

Darla had some fantastic suggestions. And, as she suggests, do not despair, your mind and your heart are in the absolute right place in terms of wanting to deal with this now. The ages of 10-14 are the most critical years. He's wanting to read or play computer right when you're wanting to give him that time because he's trying to avoid dealing with his emotions. He's also too young to figure it out on his own - he's at a critical age where your guidance is imperative.

I can tell you from firsthand experience that part of the problem is a natural developmental milestone for this age in terms of pushing limits and asserting his own viewpoints. My oldest son is 13 1/2 and my younger son is just turning 11 and is starting to exhibit some of the behaviors that his older brother had at this age. Consistency is really important and I think you're already aware of some of the problems in terms of organization and having a dedicated space for homework. The latter is really, really important - laying on the floor in the family room in front of the TV isn't the place to get homework done, although my older son still tries this (despite having a dedicated space for homework). And, sometimes, the kids do need the step by step instruction to get going and to learn how it should be done, but you shouldn't have to do this everytime. You mentioned you had tried counseling, but you may not have had the right type of counselor. You have alot of factors contributing to the situation that it might help to sort through with a professional. His behaviors may just be a symptom of other issues, rather than the root problem themselves. As Darla suggests, the best place to start is having a heart to heart with him when there are no other distractions. I have found that my older son acts out when he feels that my younger one is getting too much attention (which he often does due to his disposition). If you can give him that dedicated time DAILY, then you might really see an improvement.



answers from Dallas on

We are having the same exact problem with our 12yr old who is now in middle school. I thought it was just my kid, but now I am hearing that we are not the only ones going through this. Everyone tells me that it is the age and the transition from elementary school to middle school. In elementary, the kids were use to having the teachers hold their hand. Now they are learning to do this without anyone holding their hands. Luckily, with our son's school we can get online and check his assignments and grades anytime we want. Having that option has really helped, because we can stay on top of things. ALthough, my son does not like that we can do that. We found out that he was failing two classes because of not turning things in. He was grounded until the next progress repot which was 3 or 4wks. He was grounded from video games, computer, going outside, and extracurricular activities with friends and family. I think I was being punished more thatn he was, but it worked. He brought those grades up so fast, and we made sure that we made a big deal about it. I just thought I would share my story and so you would know that you are not alone. I personally think that grounding my son until the next progress report worked for us. We are still having problems but not nearly as much as we had been. Good Luck!



answers from Dallas on

As a teacher of 8th graders (and previously high schoolers), I have seen this all too often. First, it's never the same for any two students, so any and all advice must be "taken with a grain of salt." You know your son better than any of us, so you will ultimately make the best decision for your family.

Having said that, I'll go on. Since he does get a lot of what he wants, then the reward system may not work as well with him. More than likely, he knows he'll end up getting what he wants regardless of the grades. A kid has to find a way to be intrinsically motivated (motivated by himself rather than something else). Although he may want more attention, this doesn't sound like it's solely based on that need. It may be good, though, for you to set a day aside for just you and him. Have your husband keep the young ones, and you two do something that he wants to do. Make it a day about him. At some point, you may even feel an opening to where you can talk to him about what he thinks is the reason his grades have dropped. Keep telling him how intelligent he is. Give him some encouragement and an opening in yourself where he feels comfortable talking.

Also, if you haven't already, you really should call a conference with you and all of his teachers (ones with good and bad grades). That way you may find a trend in behavior or work habits in the classroom. It's up to you if your son sits in or not. It all depends on your son's personality. You only want him to feel encouraged and not discouraged, so if you think it would be a negative impact, then don't have him sit in.

As a teacher, I send a weekly email to parents letting them know what to expect during the week and any important upcoming dates. Then, if I see something unusual or something that needs attention, I stay in constant contact with my parents. Honestly, some teachers dread the parents who ask weekly for a report, but don't let that scare you off. YOu have a right to know what's going on, and it is the teacher's job to keep you informed (especially if it's dealing with the possibility of your child failing).

You also may want to give him a half hour to an hour free time when he gets home from school, and then set aside specific time to study. Even if he says he doesn't have homework, have him look over notes or worksheets that he's made errors on. If you know a test is coming up, you can make sure he studies for it during that time. He can make corrections on errors he's made. If he really does have homework, he'll probably end up doing it if he has to sit there anyway. Don't hover over him, but let him know you're checking up on him and ready to help if he needs it.

I know you wrote this a long time ago, but I hope this helps in some way. All kids (although they'll never admit it) want boundaries and discipline. They will test those boundaries as much as they can, but stick to your guns, and he'll catch on. Also, you need to talk with the grandparents. He is your child, and you should tell them what you will and will not allow. They need to back you on this. Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

First of all J., I want to say that I'm sorry for the struggles you and your family are experiencing right now. Second, kids usually respond to stress very differently. I would encourage you to talk with your son and ask him how he's feeling and be prepared to listen to him without any interruptions. Kids want to know that they are being heard without judgement. You said that he get everything that he wants. That is a mistake, as much as we want our kids to be happy, we are doing them a disservice by not saying "no" sometimes. He will not "hate" you if you said no. Kids also need consistency. If you want him to do his homework then you have to spend time with him and make sure that he is doing it. He may also feel left out because you are spending so much time with the younger kids and he may feel because of this you don't care if he does his work or not. So, first thing would be to let him know that you love him and that you want to know what's going on in his heart. It may take some time for him to open up but stay with it. Once he knows that you really do want to listen to him, he'll want to talk. We first need to know what's going on in our kids heart before we can help them. I'll be praying for you.

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