Seeking Advice on 13 Year Old Son Lack of Interest in School and Follow Through

Updated on March 27, 2008
K.B. asks from Houston, TX
6 answers

I have a 13 year old son who chooses to not complete school work in class or pretend that he misplaced is work, and also likes to be the class clown. His grades are on a continually downslide and he acts like it isn't a big deal. When I speak with him about the impact the decisions he is making right now have on his future, he just says enough MOM!! He recognizes that his behavior in class (shouting out and talking loud, not finishing work completely, etc) is not the right thing to be doing and he will correct it for a few days, but falls back into old behaviors. There are two teachers that I get frequent e-mails on about him. I have noticed that he does better with some teachers if the classroom is more structured and the teacher interacts with the kids more. When the teacher is new or has a "whatever" attitude he acts out and talks back to them. He has an amazingly creative mind and when he was younger would sit for hours building these intricate buildings and vehicles with LEGOS. I sometimes think he isn't being creatively stimulated to keep his attention, but not all classes can have this as part of their curriculum. I'm at a loss now as to what to do for him to get him focused and back on track in school. He has also lost interest in sports which he has been playing baseball and football for 6 & 7 years.
Does anyone have an answer how to bring my son around or knows of a good Psychologist or a good educational tutor?

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answers from Seattle on


Having been a teacher of 7th and 8th graders for nine years I can relate and can maybe offer some perspective from the school's point of view. Often the tone of the classroom has a lot to do with a child's behavior and I feel that most behaviors are the result of poor classroom managment on the teacher's part. Are the subjects he's misbehaving in ones that he doesn't like, or just the ones where the classroom has a more relaxed atmosphere? I would suggest that you ask to go in and observe in the rooms where he is having trouble, obviously, he may behave better while you are there, but you can get a sense of how things are done in the room (remember that the teacher is probally behaving better also). It can also go a long way with the teacher, showing how committed you are to solving this problem. Others have said to have him evaluated academically, the school can do this, however, any types of learning disabilities are usually detected long before the age of 13. I would also suggest that the teacher set up some sort of consequence, if he doesn't complete his school work for that day, then he stays after school with her/him to complete it, I have employed this method many times with great success. Seeing a therapist can help, but it is also important that he has a consequence to his behavior at home as well as school. If he chooses to act out in class, then he chooses to not attend baseball practice. It has to be important to him to work. The most important thing to do is to establish a good working relationship between you and the school to help your son be the most sucessful that he can. I hope this helps.



answers from Houston on

K. - I have a 13 yr. old son too and part of what you describe sounds like being a young teenager and all that hormones bring to that age.
The *class clown* made me wonder if he's trying to divert attention away from the fact that he may not feel confident in certain subjects. I have been through this with another son.
I would highly recommend having him evaluated to determine his learning style and if he might have a learning difference. I have found 2 people that we have taken all 5 of our children to with great results.
Dr. Ann Voss
Bellaire Family Eye Care

I cannot say enough good about Dr.Voss. It will be worth every penny you spend to get the very detailed and informative report from her. She will sit down with you and explain all of what they found during the evaluation. Go to the website and read.

The second person is very good too. She is a Psychologist and works with children/teenagers. VERY good.....also expensive but worth it to give the help needed.
Dr. Elizabeth Dybell
She is located in the Galleria area

Tell your son you see how creative and smart he is but that talking back to you or his teachers is disrespectful and NOT allowed. Period. Losing a cell phone, iPod, or computer time works well here when needed to remind ours to think before they act out.
I think this is a difficult age for boys.

I agree with your thought of a private tutor.....although I am not a fan of Sylvan at all.
I can give you the name of a good tutor in the I-10 area if you decide you want to do that.

Stand strong and make him talk to you respectfully. He may also have anger and confusion about losing his father and not having him in his life daily.....I don't know. It sounds to me like you are doing a very good job of trying to hold it all together. Welcome to Houston!

mom to 5 ages 8,9,10, 13, 14



answers from Houston on


Have you looked into a Sylvan or Huntington Learning Center in your area? Years ago I was the assistant director of a learning center in Chicago (not either of the chains above) and they do work really well for most kids. They can help with his academics and his study skills while a psychologist can probably help you with his behavior.

Also I would suggest that you talk with the principal or counselor of the school before the end of the year. He/She may be able to help get your son into classes with the right type of teacher for next year.

Good Luck!



answers from Houston on

Reading your note is almost like reading a diary from my own home! I too have a 13 yr old son experiencing many of the same difficulties. In addition, my son copes with ADHD, with a healthy dose of ODD (very common). In seeking answers, I couldn't tell you anything specific at this point--just where I'm heading based on info I've learned very recently.

I have a meeting with the school district LPC in a week or so. From her I am hoping to learn of nearby social skills groups and what type of testing may be done for learning skills/screening. In my case, although my son hasn't said anything directly, I think he has been dealing with some bullying at school, and is compounding the problem with his antics/class clowning & slipping grades. The learning skills assessment is based upon feedback from a psychologist relative who points out his very high intelligence, but how he doesn't always catch on quickly to conversations, etc. She pointed out that as peer pressure & culture are blossoming in my son's life, if he can't process it quickly, the kids often are left behind & ridiculed--and because of high intelligence, teachers don't recognize it easily, or cope well with it unless student speaks up & asks for help--a rarity for a 13 yr old boy! It is all becoming a snowball rolling downhill.

My son is in 7th grade..perhaps yours is too. I had been warned that this year is absolutely horrid for young men. Being involved in smaller groups such as sport, band, clubs is key. My son has slso backed away from all activities like yours. I am seeking more involvement at church & LOTC next year possibly. The social skill group, if I find one may also create a small group effect (hoping!)

Know it's not much help, but please know that you are not alone!



answers from Houston on

Please don't let anyone label your child as being bad. The class clown most times is the result of finding it easiest to get peoples attention, especially when your unable to focus on your school work. I struggle with this with my 12 year old. I think there is several reasons why this becomes more apparent in junior high. They are having to learn to be responsible to get from class to class and organize to be ready for each class. Their testerone levels rise and if you have a child that is having a hard time focusing he knows things are different for him, no wonder its easier to be class clown. I would have him tested and go from there. Alot of times you don't have to resort to medicines, diet and being taught how to recognize you learn differently can make a world of difference. Some people do better when a structured class than having to learn on your own. Your doing good because your seeking help. When I was young you just thought and others thought that you were bad, lazy and didn't take anything serious. Good luck.


answers from Houston on

I would try and take him to see a Phyciatrist and see what they say cause my son was like that too and he's only 10 right now.I take him to a Physcatrist in the Red Oak Professional Building on 1960 & Red Oak.The phone # is ###-###-#### and the staff and the doctors are great and you are going to like it.Your sn will get all the help he needs from them good luck.