One Class - What's the Deal?

Updated on October 17, 2010
J.B. asks from Lafayette, LA
21 answers

My daughter is in 6th grade...Today (AGAIN), her Life Sciences teacher told me she didn't turn in an assignment. This is the FIFTH zero in this class and she is failing it miserably. Our school has "no homework detention" which means she has to be at school at 7am. On the fourth detention (as this is the fourth one - grace was offered on the first "0') - Her DAY will be spent in "In-School Suspension"...This is nor ordinary suspension. She will spend the day doing service hours (ie - pulling weeds, planting flowers, cleaning the sanctuary, etc.).
I don't know what it is about this class? She missed one assignment in Math, but all her other classes she's doing GREAT in. She tells me Life Sciences is a boring class and she hates it. She loves her teacher's just the material.
We've taken away all her privileges (down to - she only has her bed and clothes in her bedroom). NOTHING seems to be working. We've pulled her from her extra-curricular activities, no electronics, turned off her phone, etc. We've even denied her spending the night at Nana's house...NOTHING WORKS!!!
She has failed so bad that this next quarter, she will have to get a 90 or above to pass the class. Her teacher says she knows the material and participates well. However, she did say Allison is VERY stubborn (hmmm...Wonder what tree that apple fell from?). Ms. Hanson says she's a good girl and knows she can do it. But for whatever reason - this class is the one class she couldn't care less about!
Any thoughts? Suggestions?

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answers from Washington DC on

I really feel that by 6th grade, we should be hands-off. It's time to let her fail and reap the consequences. You need to do it over these couple of years before high school when grades really count. If you don't let her fail now, when will you? Once she gets to high school, you'll be worried about her GPA and getting into college. The time to do it is now!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

let her fail-keep the privelages away, and let her repeat the class with the lower class level next year, she'll then be embarrassed when she's not in the same class as her peers next year or next semister (which ever).

maybe find a FUN way for her to learn the material, like video, or hands on of some kind. get a copy of her school book (or look through hers), see what she's studying and let her CHOOSE a way to learn the material such as a small science project that will only take her a week or less, or video's or what ever-in addition to completing her homework. help her make it FUN but still enforce the consequense's of privelages until SHE chooses to get an attitude adjustment

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Modesto on

I'd get with the teacher and get all the missing assignments and sit down with your daughter and do life science homework together. You will both learn something ;)
By you being determined that she learn this material you are setting an example.... as you do not want her to lack in Jr High or High School. Study habits are a learned behavior, suck it up and study with her so she gets the hang of it. Set an exact "homework" time everyday after school and then supervise it. Stay on board with the teacher so you know if she has homework or not.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Maybe try a rewards system OR can you have her start a study group with some of her friends in class?

Maybe you can talk to a couple of the parents and ask if on such and such day the girls could have a study group at your house which you will supervise. It obviously will only work if the other girls like the class!

We did something similar where a Mom asked me if my daughter could go over to their house once a week to do math homework with her daughter because she was failing. It wasn’t so much that she hated the class but she was struggling and lost a lot of confidence so instead of doing her work and failing (since she had already predetermined she was going to fail), she just stopped doing the work.

Since my daughter loves math, she really helped her out. Plus there were 2 other girls that joined the study group too and somehow made it fun.

Sorry that’s all I’ve got!


7 moms found this helpful


answers from Lincoln on

I agree with Grandma T, the only solution here is for you to get assignments directly from the teacher. Call the teacher every day and ask for that day's assignments, then when your daughter gets home sit down with her and do them together.
Make sure you ask if the assignment was turned in during your daily phone call to the teacher.
I know this is a lot of extra work for you, but your daughter will find out she can't win no matter how stubborn she is. :-)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

What's the worst that can happen if she fails the class? Does she have to take it over again? If that's the case, then tell her in no uncertain terms that she will take that class until she passes it - boring or not. Even if that means summer school, or maybe she'll be held back in the 6th grade and won't be able to move on with her peers.

She has no excuse to not do the assignments and turn in her work, but really, she should live with the consequences. So, if she is held back, it's her own fault.

I say let her fail and have to deal with it. Better to learn this lesson NOW rather than in high school where her grades really count.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think its great that the in school suspension involves service hours but I think that should be more for kids that get into trouble. I think her in house suspension should be spent making up her missed work.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Its tough. I have a son very much like your daughter, from the sounds of it. He just finished up the 9 weeks with yes, Science, being the big issue. He was turning in late assignments right up until this morning... grades were due yesterday.

What might have happened... and I see it with my son sometimes (he is very disorganized and misses getting things turned in even when he HAS done the work), is that she got off track, missed an assignment (maybe didn't understand something and put it off and then forgot), and then felt like "what's the point? I'm already going to fail." At that point in their logic, there really IS no point in fighting with all the stress of getting the mess cleaned up. It is WAY easier to just accept the 0's and the consequences.

I can tell when my son is getting overwhelmed with something... and sitting down with him and working through some of it, helps him understand it and gain the confidence to plow ahead with the rest of the assignment. If I leave it to him, he'll give up and take a 0, almost every time. It's NEVER that he can't do the work. He just doesn't want to struggle so much at the beginning. He gets discouraged easily. Which is a shame, because he is very bright. (I just posted last week about him being offered an opportunity to take the SAT or ACT in 7th grade). Once he gets past the first 5 minutes of almost any assignment, he is fine. Sitting down and DOING that first 5 minutes is the WORST. Many many times, he will take a 0 over that first 5 minutes of effort.

You may have to have some direct daily contact with your daughter's teacher in Science class, and sit with her each afternoon to make sure she is getting the work done. Once she sees that you are right there helping her, she will build confidence and also see that it must be done. Taking the 0 isn't an option. She'll come around.

I know that (sounds like private school?) the teachers often want to push the kids into being responsible for themselves and not "let" the parents know the assignments ("that is the student's job" mentality)... and my son had a Science teacher last year just like that. She felt it was her duty to teach him to step up or fail, rather than her duty being to teach him Science, and my duty as a parent being to teach him responsibility. Every family is different and every child learns different things at a different pace in a different way. Don't let the school (or other moms with a different opinion) make you feel like the answer is to walk away from your child and leave them to sink or swim on their own. I don't believe that is an answer. They are still KIDS in 6th grade! 11 years old!! My son is 12 years old now, but he is like an 8 year old in a 12 year old body... My daughter is 9, but she is like a 14 yr old in a 9 yr old's body. Kids are different. HELP her figure out how to manage what she can't manage on her own yet.

And hang in there Mom, the 'tween years and middle school are some of the roughest...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

We're dealing with something similar with our oldest 6th grader. (We have two of them.) She's failing two classes simply because she won't turn in her homework. She's grounded and not allowed to play at home. She sits at the table and does homework and reads.

We look at it like this: Would you rather she learn hard lessons now, or wait until they have long reaching consequences, like in college, or when she gets out into the work force? We figure if she learns now that if you don't turn in your work, you will fail, it's better then if she were to get a job and not do her work and get fired. At least at this age she doesn't have to worry about bills and such.

Make sure she knows that if she fails she risks having to take the class over, going to summer school and possibly repeating the 6th grade. Then let her know that if she continues to choose the action (not turning in her homework) that you will allow her to deal with the consequences. And then you have to let her deal with it.

To the parents who seemed upset that the kids were doing service hours instead of being in class you have to look at the big picture. The kids are in there for all sorts of reasons. There is usually only one teacher. Is that teacher supposed to work with each kid individually to work on whatever their specific issue is? No, they don't have the time, and in many cases, don't have the knowledge to do that. So instead, they have them do some manual labor. If the kid has never had to do that before it's going to be a shock...and hopefully scare them straight.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

She does realize if she fails she will have to retake the class?
Have you asked her if she has some sort of plan to fix this?
Maybe she is not sure what her options are at this point and she needs ot meet with her teacher to come up with a plan..
Have you let her know you cannot fix this for her?

You have a tough choice.I would suggest you just let her fail. This is a safe place for it to happen. If you attempt to save her, she will know you will always be willing to do the work that she is not willing to do..

You are doing great right now if she is doing without all that you say she is doing without.. You could go further and say no going out with friends either. No TV... just keep taking away.

Let the teacher know what you decide to do, so he will know you at least are aware, but that you want your daughter to save herself..

I am sending you strength. I promise it gets better once she realizes it really is all in her hands to make this work.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

try focusing your effort on finding out why she is having trouble turning the homework in and then focus on how you can help her overcome whatever that issue is. May sound obvious, but sometimes I think as parents we spend our efforts trying to persuade a child to do something through punishing when in fact the problem may be that they just don't know how to do the thing we are asking no matter how hard they try. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Find a smart, handsome 7th or 8th grade tutor. This could be just the motivation she needs! And possibly a big reward when she passes the class, like a cell phone or something?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I feel your pain on this one. My daughter was in 6th grade last year. I'm assuming that 6th grade is middle school for your daughter as well...let me tell you, I've certainly got a few choice words for whatever bozo thought that making 6th graders be middle schoolers was a good idea! Of all the 6th graders I've met over the last year or two, only about 2 of them were really ready for what middle school is about, both academically AND socially. My daughter was NOT one of those two!

Our struggle was language arts. She got the material. She made great scores on the TAKS. But I think the highest 6-weeks grade she got all year was a 74. I was CONSTANTLY having to email or be on the phone with her teacher about her not turning in work. Every time I asked her about missing assignments, she would only say, "I didn't feel like doing it." When I found out how the class was being run, and the amount of responsibility each student was expected to take, I sort of understood that feeling! She went from elementary school, where there was a lot of supervision and encouragement from the teachers, to middle school, and an environment where the teacher expected them to turn in several weekly grades, all of which were supposed to be self-paced and self-monitored, as well as keeping up with projects and whatnot. She was NOT ready for that level of independent study. She got along with the teacher, but she was just not ready for the demands put on her.

At any rate, the ONLY way I was able to motivate her to get ANYTHING done was to literally ground her to the kitchen table. Once homework was done, she could either sit there and read, or she could just sit there. Those were her only options. It was MISERABLE {for ALL concerned!}, but it was the ONLY way I could get her to do her work. After 3 or 4 weeks of just sitting there, I guess even homework starts to look attractive! At any rate, this year has been a bit better. Our struggle this year has been history {she's done perfectly fine in LA this year!}, but it's not nearly the struggle it was last year. Hang in there!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

you maybe should start checking her homework before she goes to bed, to make sure she's finishing it whether she likes it or not. if you don't get on board your daughter will fail. maybe she just needs to realize homework is non-optional. but if taking away stuff (activities) and that's not working, then start treating her as a young child who needs supervision when it comes to homework.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

For the in school suspension why aren't they educating these kids in the classes they are struggling in? Have you tried getting your daughter a tutor? I think you have to find out if she is really getting the work or not before you start punishing her. I agree with Grandma T.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

So what happens if she fails? Maybe failing will teach her to take responsibility for her school work. If she repeats the class, that will be super boring. I would talk through with her, ask her if she knows what will happen if she fails.

I also like the suggestion that you find something that motivates her. Ask her to set a goal - something she really wants to do, and then help her set up a system for keeping track of her schoolwork to achieve her goal. This teaches her goal setting, but it has to be an attainable goal and something you are willing to follow through.

As you've found out, nagging doesn't seem to work with the stubborn child. I like Dr. Kevin Lehman's book "Have a New Kid by Friday". My take away from that was "say it once, expect it to be done, and if it isn't done, then the next thing doesn't happen." Sounds like you have taken everything away, so not sure how motivating that will be. So then natural consequences, (failing the class) will hopefully be more motivating. Better for her to fail and face the consequences now, than later on when the stakes are higher. No one wants to see their kid fail, but don't feel guilty if she does since it sounds like you are a very involved parent and trying to motivate her. It may just be a life lesson she has to learn this time to avoid next time.

Other than that, does the teacher have any suggestions other than detention/punishment for dealing with the problem? You might tell her you've run out of ideas and maybe she has some or the school counselor has some ideas?

Good luck.



answers from Austin on

Hi there,
I am so sorry you and your daughter are struggling. My daughter is in college now (yes she made it that far!), but we sure had similar struggles in 6th grade.

My suggestion comes as a parent and as a parent educator. While I believe in limits and consequences, I feel strongly about saying uncle when what you are doing isn't working. Also, in the situation you are dealing with, you may be running the risk of creating such distance in your relationship with your daughter, that she won't turn to you if she has being pressured for sex or drugs, etc.

Here are some resources I suggest:

The Redirecting Children's Behavior Course

The Center for Collaborative Problem Solving:

Finally, here is part 1 of an article I wrote about power struggles (if that is what you think this is) that references Nonviolent Communication (

Transforming Power Struggles with Children
Part 1: No I Won’t and You Can’t Make Me!
By Kimberly Smith Cavins, OTR, CPE, EFT-Cert

Coercive vs. Authentic Power
In the parenting classes I teach as well as in individual sessions with parents the most frequent question I am asked is some form of “how can I get my child to….go to bed, brush his teeth, do her homework, finish his chores, practice the piano, etc. etc”….you get the picture; as parents, we’ve all been there!
First, The Bad News
When it comes to getting kids to do what we think is best, many parents try to “get” or “make” kids do what we want. Unfortunately, this can be a losing proposition; oh sure when we attempt to use force to get our kids to do things they sometimes actually do those things, but usually at a pretty high price to either our relationship with our child and/or to our own peace of mind. We end up “riding herd”: nagging, yelling, threatening, reminding, punishing and saying the same things over and over again….no wonder so many parents are so exhausted!
The thing is, when a child is fighting for her autonomy, all of the nagging, threatening, punishing, etc. that we do today rarely makes a difference in the same behavior tomorrow. So it’s like you are Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day” all over again…every day it’s the same struggle over the same things.
Out of the Mouths of Babes…
When my daughter April was 3 she taught me one of the most valuable parenting lessons in my life: many kids need autonomy like we all need air. I’m not kidding and I am not even exaggerating that much! If you have one of these children you know what I mean, and you know what it is like to have any agenda you might possess on any given day challenged at every turn!
Here’s how it went down. My daughter had fairly significant asthma as a baby and young child. On this particular day she was sick and home from school with a respiratory infection and her asthma had kicked in something fierce. We were working with a holistic physician who had prescribed herbs that really helped April breathe with more ease and she had been taking these herbs for several months as needed.
After lunch, I announced that it was “time for herbs” as I got up from the table to get them. She calmly informed me that she would not be taking them that day. Confused, because she was having so much trouble breathing and the herbs were so effective for her, I asked why. She, again calmly, told me that she “would rather be sick than have anyone be the boss of me”. (Trust me I know that most power struggles don’t occur calmly….I truly believe that there was Divine Intervention keeping us both calm just so that I could learn this lesson!)
This is when the light dawned. April’s need to have freedom and choice…to be the captain of her own ship…was so high that she would rather wheeze and cough than have me dictate when and if she received treatment. At that moment April was willing to sacrifice her health for her autonomy. Oh man! I could see that my need for control was stimulating April’s resistance to having good health!
Ok, I Get It! Now What do I Do?
This experience (after having many others, most of them way less calm) sent me on a quest to learn to parent a child with a high need for autonomy more effectively. How could I live harmoniously with her without being a doormat? How could needed things like herbs, bedtime, and good nutrition happen without all of the force and punishment? How could our days flow smoothly without so much struggle?
There are in fact some great strategies and tools for handling power struggles with kids. What years of study and experience have shown me is that tools alone will not transform ongoing power struggles with a child who has a high need for autonomy. In my experience, before we can effectively apply new tools and strategies we as parents must first undergo a change of paradigm and a change of heart. (Trust me, I hear the desire for tools! I will offer more tools and strategies in an upcoming article.)
Shifting Our Focus from Obedience to Cooperation
The way most of us have been taught to raise or interact with children is that we need to manage and control their behavior. Another way of saying this is that we have been taught that parents should use force or Coercive Power in order to get children to do (or not do) things. As I mentioned before, trying to “make” someone do something they don’t want to do doesn’t work in the long run; it is like plugging holes in a leaky dam. You plug one leak and another one springs right up!

In order to be more effective with a child with a high need for autonomy with whom we are having frequent power struggles it is important to begin to surrender our own desire for power and control. We can then begin to shift our focus to creating cooperation and closeness. This is the paradigm shift to Authentic Power. There are some simple but powerful steps toward a relationship based in authentic power.

"Power consists in one's capacity to link his will with the purpose of others, to lead by reason and a gift of cooperation." ~Woodrow Wilson

Step 1: Practicing Self-Empathy
It is very challenging to raise a child who has a high need for autonomy or to have a child in one of those developmental stages where autonomy is paramount, such as when a child is two or in his/her teens. It is really important to take time to connect to your feelings such as frustration, discouragement, anger and/or powerlessness. In the practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), the teaching is that our negative emotions are signposts that direct us to unmet needs. In the situation with April, I can see now that my emotions were primarily fear and powerlessness
Now that I know about unmet needs, in this circumstance I can identify my unmet needs as: contributing to April’s well being, good health, ease, competence, and cooperation. (FYI: I can now see that in trying to control April, I was decreasing the likelihood of my needs getting met.) After connecting to your needs, the next step is taking those needs to your heart. Go to for lists of feelings and needs. Contact me directly if you would like the “Steps for Self-Empathy”.
Step 2: Practicing Empathy For Your Child
After you practice self-empathy, you can then begin to have empathy for your child. Note: You will not be successful with this if you are still having strong emotions about the situation; if you are, return to self-empathy or find a friend who will give you some empathy. If that is not doing it for you, you might get a mentoring session or consult with a therapist. It is almost impossible to have empathy for another before having empathy for oneself.
Connect to your heart. From this connection, envision the event from your child’s perspective. What can you guess/intuit that he/she is feeling? In the example with April, I can now guess she was feeling tired, powerless, frustrated and angry.
Connect again to your heart. What needs do these emotions point to in your child? For April in that scenario, I can now guess that she was needing autonomy, freedom, choice, understanding and empathy. When I am able to connect with another in this way, I become way less attached to my agenda and more willing to seek harmony and a solution where everyone can win.
Step 3: Create a Win-Win
The next step is to create a solution based on the interests/needs/values you have identified for each person, and then start brainstorming solutions where everyone’s needs are met: a Win-Win!
In this example, one win-win solution might have been for April to set a timer with an amount of minutes that she had chosen and then she could have taken the herbs when the timer went off (this option would have given her more autonomy and still met my need for her health). I have never seen a situation where a win-win is impossible if people are willing to negotiate from the place of needs and are committed to closeness with the other person.
With a willingness to surrender your need for control, to practice connecting to your heart, and to practice empathy for yourself and your child, you can begin to build a foundation for cooperation in your family. You can begin to replace power struggles with ease and cooperation.

I hope this is helpful;
Kimberly Smith Cavins, OTR, CPE, EFT-Cert
"From the Heart" Family Healing

Helping people with:
~Parenting or Family Struggles
~Emotional Issues or Unhealed Trauma
Who need Peace, Love, and Connection
[email protected]



answers from Dallas on

What are the consequences if she fails the class? How does she feel about that?

Have you tried incentives along with the grounding from items/places? I'm not one for bribery, but I used it once and it worked for me when my son didn't want to take Pre-AP Math - now he is glad he took it.

I look forward to the responses you will get b/c I am sure I will run into a problem like this somewhere down the road.



answers from Houston on

Dear JEB,

As a mother of 3 grown kids, I feel ya' girl!!! Jr.High/Middle School years are the devil!!
First things first!! Jr. high is a BIG time of adjustment not just academically but socially, too. Many things can affect their school work. So, when your dtr. says "I don't feel like doing it" , do you say something like "you don't feel like doing it because?". The first step is to break it down with her as to why she doesn't do it. My guess is when she says it "boring" that's tween language for I don't really get it or there's too much of it and I am overwhelmed or just plain middle school is overwhelming me.
See if you can get to the bottom of the cause for not doing the homework. At this age, too, for those who are really smart but have ADD/ADHD, you will begin to see hiccups in school work. They might be doing really well in all but one or two classes and the next six weeks they will do really well in all but one or two of the other classes. This is their way of trying to compensate. AND..they will DO the homework but forget to turn it in! So, moms be on the look out for this. They manage to bump along in mid. school this way but HS will really get them about Soph. year. Better to catch it,now.
After determining her real reasons for not doing well, you will have the best way to approach the subject whether it is studying with her, or just motivating her a little or getting a tutor, etc.
Also, please look at her social environment both at home and school. Ask her about the kids in that class. Ask her who she sits next to, etc. Also, double check things at home. Has anything changed recently that may have affected her.
Be there for her comfort and to encourage her. Let her know that you understand how hard middle school can be and even share your own experiences if that is appropriate and let her know always you are there for her.
It wouldn't hurt to speak to the teacher about sitting outside of her class discreetly but where you can hear just to get an idea of how she teaches and classroom dynamics. But, not where dtr. sees, she would be mortified! Unless, you talk to your dtr. about it first especially if she verbalizes difficulty understanding the teacher.
Middle school is just that for you as a parent, too. It is the time to be active with them when they are having difficulty and it is also the time to start stepping back and encouraging their independence in class work as well.
Be very proactive during the difficult part and then step back as she starts to get it!
And about the failure thing....guess what if it happens it's not the end of the world. Most of life's valuable lessons are learned through failure. Think about it!! And as alot of the moms have stated...better to learn this lesson now. When my kids failed at things, we would talk about it and discuss what they did, how they did it, what caused the failure and how they would do it differently to get a better result. I've always taught my kids that failure is as much a part of life as success and the only time you really fail is if you don't learn from your mistake/failure. I don't want them to fear failing or taking a risk when they need to.
Best wishes for you and your dtr. My prayers are with you and remember....this too shall pass!!!



answers from Houston on

We had/have the same issues with our son, who is now in 8th grade. We took everything away. Very smart kid, tests wonderfully, all his standardized tests are very high, took SAT in 7th grade and did very well....just couldn't ever get him to either remember to do homework, or if he did it, didn't remember to turn it in or would lose it. Turns out he has focus issues and was diagnosed ADD/ADHD. He is now on medication which helps quite a bit, but still occasionally he forgets to turn some homework in, but at least he's passing with the grades that he is capable. I will admit that on occasion he has also mentioned that he's bored with a class or two. In my opinion, if he's bored, it means it's too easy, which also means it's not beyond his capability to ace the class. It's all about motivation, which is a day to day process. Good luck.



answers from Austin on

Instead of punishing the bad behavior, start rewarding the good behavior. Give her points towards something really fun on the weekend.

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