Teen Girl Not Interested in School

Updated on September 22, 2010
C.F. asks from Folsom, CA
21 answers

My 13, almost 14, year old daughter could not care less about school. She likes the social aspect and a couple of teachers but doesn't feel successful so she doesn't try. I am at a loss about what to do. She doesn't put any effort into studying. She doesn't care if her grades are bad. I threatened to take her phone away if she fails a test that she doesn't study for, and she said that she won't let me. I guess I can have the phone carrier just turn it off for a week. She has never been a strong student and it just gets harder for her as she gets older. She refuses to use a tutor. She is just being so stubborn! She struggles to stay focused in class. I am going to have her evaluated for ADD soon. Is there a way to get her to care? I tried bribing with money and that doesn't even work. I just want her to try and to not have a defeatist attitude. How can I help her? Thanks in advance!

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answers from Dallas on

If she is capable of doing the work and is choses not to, I would just tell her what you expect her grades to be overall. B's and above, C's and above - whatever you think is realistic for her. Explain to her what the consequences are if she doesn't meet that. If her grades fall below X then you are taking the phone until they are back up, no friends, money..whatever you decide. BUT FOLLOW THROUGH and DON'T NEGOTIATE. Stay off her back day to day...if she choses not to study then she is ultimately chosing the consequence. She will eventually decide to either succeed or fail. My daughter is real good at self-regulation but took me a while to realize this, we would fight over grades daily. When I stopped monitoring it daily and told her what I expected at the end of the six weeks it eventually got better. She did have a couple of hiccups, but realized it was her fault and I took away her ability to say if you would stop nagging me maybe I would do it.

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answers from Seattle on

What does she want to be when she grows up?

I've noticed most kids who are successful at school fall into one of three categories:

- Those who just love school... it's more fun than mardi gras
- Those who have been told to do well and do it for no other reason
- Those who are passionate and driven about becoming __________
( _________ can change as they grow, but since they're already used to defining, researching, and working towards goals, change is FINE. It means they are continueing to evaluate).

Your DD doesn't love school, so that one's out. Thank GOD she's not just doing well because you told her to (these kids just end up LOST... because they never think for themselves, they just do what is expected... probably 2/3s of college kids I know have no real clue how they got there, what they should be doing, or how to go about it... they're just crippled)... so that leaves finding her passions.

Which can be FUN. Especially if you 2 do it together.

Seriously... Sit her down and say "Lets completely ignore school for a few hours, lets just care less... NOW what do you really love to do? If you could be any of 4 things when you grow up what would they be? ((AND let her say things like tennis player, or rock star, or even gold digger. Take *whatever* she says, no matter how outlandish... completely seriously. The start researching what it takes to a) get there, and b) what the actual job/carreer is like.)) She'll probably spoof you on at least a couple. That's fine. That actually builds trust as you put as much effort into the "ridiculous" answers as you do something respectable like "doctor". Let her know that the answer "I don't know" unless she's trying to come up with some (you know the difference between IDK blowoff and IDK yikes! I have no idea!!) means that you will choose for her. If so, try and choose 2 plausible (based off of things she likes to do) and 2 really silly (but not insulting) ones.

The whole point is to get her really engaged and interested and thinking about her life. Ideally, have this be a once a month thing. Leave how much "work" is involved in each carreer to get there out of it for NOW. Instead let her get excited about the possibilites. Get her *excited* about the different options and have her trace backwards on how a person gets there.

And you may be surprised. As a spoof of a similar project at school (waaaaay too late, it was a senior thing, when it should *really* have been done as a freshman), I decided to be a jewel thief. Art, banks, whatever... but high end. (I was feeling a little snarky about the project). Come to find there is a way to do that legally (working for a company that multimillion/billion dollar companies hire to break in to test their security), AND that one of those companies was based 20 minutes from my home! (Rare, there are only a handful in the country). While *yes* a lot is computer oriented, some was very James Bond. Super fun. And the entry level salary was over 6 figures a year. J, M, & J! Of course, by that time I was already signed and sworn with the USMC, and was shipping out in 3 months, or I could have taken a 1 year unpaid internship, modified salary while they sent me to school, and been making 6 figures by the time I was 22 doing a SUPER fun job. Heaven forbid.

So even the "loopy" answers can have some interesting results.

Anyhow... in any job that is not a service industry job... it quickly becomes apparent *why* education is necessary. It's not always an academic education (usually is, however), but very definately an education. Especially to chase your dreams. I mean car mechanic making $8 at Jiffy Lube, or Nascar pit team? Wildly different educations go into those jobs. Hair stylist at Supercuts, or runway fashion hair, or movie hair? Lack of education, internships, drive, and ambition gets the jobby jobs that pay the bills. ANYTHING a person loves can become a *very* lucrative career... but a person has to actually

a) Find what they love
b) Think outside the box.

School doesn't teach these things. But you can.

((And if she's adhd... this whole process will work really really well. Mostly because we adhd-types are better at thinking outside the box than almost anyone, and also because it's almost impossible to focus on anything boring. Focusing on your own dreams and likes is the opposite of boring.))

And ditto Shane. Won't LET you take her phone? ROFL. Yeah right.
"You can hand it over or lose it for good. Hand it over and you can earn it back. If you make me FIND it, I'll think about *maybe* letting you have a phone again in year. Or two. And if you throw a fit about it, or throw the phone, be aware that you'll also be grounded for the next _______." and smile, and hold out your hand.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

okay, first, let me tell you this... if i told one of my children i was gonna take their phone away if they failed a test, and they said they won't "let" me, that phone would have been yanked for AT LEAST a month at that VERY moment due to attitude. don't use the phone company to discipline your child, YOU discipline her. and she "refuses" a tutor? sounds like the bigger issue here is that she is in charge, not you. reverse that cycle, you are the parent, she is the child - and the school thing just may fall into place.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Been there done that.

Our now 20 year old son's lack of effort was apparent from 6th grade on. And we DID take away his phone, games, computer, grounded him, bribed him and paid for a tutor. We even put him in a private school so he would have small class sizes and more structure. He was diagnosed ADHD in 1st grade, but meds only helped with attention not the effort.
Don't get me wrong, he is very smart! A great kid. His teachers adored him. But he was no more excited when he aced a test then when he bombed a test. I think it is part of his personality AND a couple of teachers and a few 'friends' who crushed his confidence.

His 5th grade year was a complete waste for a variety of reasons. When we moved him to a private school in 6th grade, he did amazingly well. Still not stellar, and still lacked effort, but overall did well. In 7th or 8th grade he studied hard for a science test and aced it! One of his best friends, I know didn't mean it the way it came out, wondered why our son "the average guy in the class" did better than he did. After that, our son saw himself as average.
When he hit high school he came home one day and said "so and so gets $500 if he makes honor roll!" I told him to GO FOR IT! We would pay him $500 if he made honor roll! We never had to pay out.

Our 16 year old daughter, is the polar opposite. Thus my feeling is that it is part of their personality. As a sophomore she is taking 3 honors classes, 2 foreign languages, is on a club softball team and working on her Congressional Award. She is self-motivated and has drive.

So while I do think it may just be part of your daughter's personality, you are the mom. I'm not sure I would waste money on a tutor if she isn't going to pay attention. But you can and should take away the phone. When our kids got phones it was and is with the clear understanding that we own the phone and allow them to use it. And can be taken away at any time. Unless she's paying for it and all monthly charges, it's yours!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Focus less on the now with the bribes, and more about her future. Really explain that her future depends on her grades. Ask her what she is interested in, becoming a vet, a writer, a journalist, photographer, speech pathologist, nurse... let her know that she will have to be something someday. Take her to volunteer at an animal shelter or doing data entry or secretarial work for a non-profit organization.

And if she doesn't pull through and have good grades now, the chances of her getting a decent job that she enjoys can pretty much guarantee that she can have a difficult life as an adult.

It sound like she has some self confidence issues. Help her rebuild that. Get her a tutor for the subjects she is failing in. A tutor can help her get interested and realize that she can do it.

Follow through on the discipline if you need, you simply go and take the phone out of her hands, remove the battery and hide it. Be sure you give lots of positive reinforcment throughout the week as well.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

The phone has to go. She can earn it back by putting some real effort into her school work and if she let's her work slip again, she loses it again. She doesn't have to have perfect grades, but she has to try and put her best foot forward. Same thing with internet surfing (put the computer in family room and if it's not being used for school work (she's on Facebook or instant messaging, etc) then no computer time. Same thing with the TV and video games. They have plug locks where you can lock up electrical appliances so they can not be used until you unlock it with a key. If she wants a power struggle, let's she how she does when her bedroom door is removed and she has to earn that back, too.

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answers from McAllen on

Do have her evaluated for ADD. Also, my dad used to give us the responsibility vs privilege thing, and how it works is, you have a privilege when you meet your responsibilities for instance, you get good grades you get to keep your cell phone, no good grades no cell phone, no house chores, no allowance, like for instance, if I asked my dad, I want ... to go to a movie, he would ask, what have you done to deserve it, and I'd say, I did my laundry, and got a B in Math, and he would say, Ok, you can go...
Its not about getting a reward for things she has to do, its about proving she has been responsible before asking for a privilege.
Also I think you should impose a little bit, my dad got a tutor for my sister in 9th grade, and wow, was she pissed, it was a fight before every session, but after a couple of weeks of no texting, no facebook or outings, she gave in, and her grades have improved considerably.
She might not care for school at the beginning but she will care for the privileges, and once she realizes she can have virtually anything if she meets her responsibilities she will care about meeting them.
My sister is going to college in the spring and is already looking into getting a car, my dad said she can have it if she can keep her grades and have a part time job and keep it for at least four months. She is really excited!!
In my humble opinion, this is a win-win, because you don't deny her things, and she has to earn them. I think that makes you feel better when you get it, like its an accomplishment.
I hope this works for you as it did for us.
Good Luck!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

Sounds like she is not expecting any follow through on your threats, so follow through. Call the phone company and have her service turned off until further notice, tell her you will have it turned back on when her grades improve. If you need to remove computers (except for school work, no internet/face book) and what ever else you need. She is fighting you, and part of what she needs is compassion and a listening ear, but she also needs to know that if a threat of discipline is made, it will be followed through with.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I went through the same thing last year... only my daughter may NOT tell me I cannot do something. You should take her phone away just for telling you you're not allowed...

As far as school, I contacted each teacher, and had her teachers sign her agenda everyday, that made sure I knew when her tests were, what assignments she had due and what the assignments were. After about a month of having to get everything signed, she realized her grades were up, and it wasn't as hard as she thought it would be. She spent too much time socializing and not enough time on work... Now she is in high school, and so far she is being really responsible and I barely have to prompt her at all with homework and studying... (She did spend most of 8th grade with no cell phone and no Ipod touch)

Good Luck, I think it is the age... here's hoping you make it through ok

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answers from Miami on

This seem to be more common than we think, my daughter is not a teen yet, but I'm hoping it will be a smooth ride when it comes.
I think you have to find ways to motivate her, and not allowing her certain privileges, like the phone let her know that u are serious...turn the phone off if you have to, tell there has to be a benchmark for everything if she is good in school then her privileges will be remain and gets even better, offer her more pocket money(don't call it bribe), but let her realize also if she don't do well in school you will take away all her privileges...and don't just threatened do it if she don't follow through....(tough love is sometime needed)

co-founder Kidzdorm.com

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answers from Atlanta on

Well, I don't think it's unusual for a kid that age to care less about school. What you need to do is show her what people who don't try in school and go on to train or educated themselves afterward get to do. Google some statistics and take her to some shelters. Tell her there's nothing wrong with an honest day's work, but her options will be severely limited without proper schooling -and limited to fast food, waiting tables, cleaning houses, retail, etc.Also, all of those require standing a lot and actually doing a good bit of labor, so it doesn't sound like something she would like!

As far as her telling you "she won't let you" about her phone. Go take it RIGHT NOW and lock it up somewhere. She doesn't have to have it. We all survived our adolescence without cell phones. Tell her she can earn it back when she starts getting serious about school.

Again -it's normal for teenagers to go through this, but you should also check her out regarding depression. Not caring about a big chunk of your life is a hallmark of being depressed.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Your daughters only job right now is to attend school and do her best. Period.

Your job is to make sure she is fed, has a home and is in the best condition to attend school and that you have made it very clear you will do whatever it takes to make sure she is paying attention and staying organized.

This means that if she is not doing her school work to her best ability, she has nothing else. No phone, no, computer (except for homework) , no going out with friends.

You cannot make someone love school, but you can help them come up with some obtainable goals.

To be successful in school, she needs to attend class and pay attention.
She needs to complete her homework every day,
She needs to turn in that homework the next day.
So does she stay organized enough to do these tasks?

If not she needs to figure out how to do this. How can she pay attention? Does she need to sit right up in front of class in every class? Speak with her teachers about this.

Does she bring home the needed instructions and books for homework each day? Does she need an extra set of books that can stay in your home?
Does she write her homework down in an agenda?
Does she need a different colored folder for each class that she writes the homework in each day, each class? One side of the folder is the "needs to be completed" side, the other side is the "needs to be turned in" side.

If she cannot get this done on her own for 2 to 3 days straight,. you will need to attend school with her for a full day. Let the front office know this plan so you can sign in on the mornings that this is necessary. This way YOU can write down her homework and make sure it gets done at night. Do this as often as necessary.

I promise you, she is going to see you are serious. She is testing you. You need to show her, do not mess this this Mama, cause Mama will win EVERY TIME.

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answers from New York on

I have a 14 year old daughter who is very headtrong. Sounds likes yours is begging for you to take control of the situation. You can take her phone away - one way or the other. Something I learned from an 80 year old sunday school teacher when my kids were toddlers - set up expectations for them and tell them you know they can and will reach those goals. It's the same principle we apply to little kids when we used stickers on a chart and buy them a trinket when they have 5 stickers in a row. Only the trinket is return of her cell phone or whatever other thing she is really attached to. Completed homework each night is like a sticker on the chart. A week of completed homework get her cell phone back - or whatever. Same with facebook or any other priviledge like hanging out with her friends. Our school has an online homework portal - if you need to start with her guidance counselor and get her schedule and contact info for her teachers start there. Tell them your goal of getting your child to be accomplished and succeed in school. Ask the teacher for their homework schedules or regular emails, their parent portal, etc. Teachers want to see kids do well so they should be willing to help. If you ahve to sit at the kitchen table after dinner to do homework - then do it. Allow yourself to be a little goofy - it may end up being a good time with your chidl that you'll look back on as a time you got to know new things about your kid - and you may find out that your daughter will teach you some thing that you didn't know, or have forgotten. Let that happen.
We got tot he point where after dinner there was an hour with no electonic devices allowed (unless we had to use the computer for homework). No TV, no cell phone, no ipod, etc. It was the quiet hour at the kitchen table. It was miserable the first day - and got better each day. By Monday of the 2nd week they knew not to turn on the TV, to get their backpacks, etc.
As much as your 14 seems like she wants to be in control she really wants you to be. Eventually she'll admit it - my daughter did when I said, "let's face it, in the back of your mind you really want to know that Daddy and I are in charge and are protecting you...." She said, "well - not really but in the back, back, back ,back, way back of my mind I'm glad that you do."

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Hi C.,

Stop with the threats and actually take her perks away…ALL of them! In addition if she would like to earn them back (one by one), she must go to school, do her homework, stop the moaning and best of all, in neat hand writing on lined paper write the following 500 times:


When she acts up or gets a poor grade, the same punishment only progressively:




She will get the picture soon enough.


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answers from New York on

C., it sounds like my 14 year old son, and he has been diagnosed with adhd and odd, and from what we have learned as we also had an older daughter with this, you have to use positive reinforcement, you can see a dr and a counselor, she may just be bored or not being challenged enough we have experienced negative results with many meds and currently he is not on anything, except omega 3, My husband did not find out he had it until my son was diagnosed and he said he just learned to cope. Also there is a wonderful guy with a good program for problems of all areas with your children, you can buy the tapes, Dr Kevin Leaman, "The total transformation" is what it is called. As far as the phone my company lets me go online and suspend service for up to 30 days at a time, I dont know what company you are using but I would ask. It may do the trick depending on how important it is to her. Hope this helps!

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answers from New York on

you say she refuses the tutor... you are the parents - \you say it.. she does it.. try to talk to the teacher she likes.. maybe she would be willing to help her out.. is she on the young side in school.. maybe transfer her andhold her back a year... this may help.. transfer so she isn't sad or embarrased about being a year back.. seek help from the school.. or go to a place like score or another place that handles kids having problems in school... good luck..don't let her fall anymore behind.. and yes, take her phone away and the computer too.. tell her she can have the phone after homework is done ... good luck-- she may hate school because she isn't doing good.. it's hard to try hard if you don't understand... she needs help.. and the sooner the better.. good luck look at a vo-tech for highschool.. maybe she will love a trade... check itout.



answers from San Francisco on

Greetings C., I am sure that you have recieved many great responses but I wanted to add my 2 cents. I am the mother of 5, have raised many foster children and my husband was a math teacher for 6-8th grades. By the way 2 of my children have disabilities. With this out of the way.
Please keep in mind that you are the parent and that you do not have to make deals to make your child happy so how does she get away with saying that she won't let you do something??. Bribe?? Make it so that she can only call you- I know its possible as my carrier AT&T set it up for my child. I have had the experiance of waiting to long to have a child tested for ADD, only to learn that without thier input, and cooperation the testing won't work as well. Besides they have learned compensation skills to help her get this far. I can also say that many youth at this age have been given an easy out far to long so that now they are resistant to getting the hard blows of reality. I am a tough love mom, I have always told my 5 and all the extra children that if they do not do well at school then they have no life and no fun until they make me really happy-- and if they dare to question my authority I can keep them busy with chores until graduation day. Recently my older children were all talking about how they were able to over come some of the things they needed to (2 were foster children 2 by birth) and they said because they knew I was going to stand there and make sure they did the right thing and they wanted a life. Many will give up on themselves and lead thier parents on a merry chase. I hope that you will be strong enough to prove to her that you are the one in charge and that without an education in tis time of life then she won't be able to fulfill her best dreams until much later. I am rooting for you andknow that you can do it but it won't be easy. My best wishes.



answers from San Francisco on

Phone service to be ended, definitely. And I would find some additional consequences too.
But I want to tell you that our oldest son started out similar to what you describe, and no amount of consequence affected him. He was a Martyr, and now he is an 18 year old Martyr with no diploma, and no job, who lives with his Grandmother. And Grandma is getting pretty sick of him sponging off of her.
Some kids are that stubborn and selfish---but yours may not be.
Maybe if you ask her what she wants her life to be like, and then ask her to think about how she can make her vision a reality?
I think it is hard for some kids to think about the future, but try to get to set some goals for herself.



answers from Sacramento on

You are the parent. Try studying with her, and go on to the school web site to check her grades daily. This will also tell you her missing classes. My daughter also acted like she didn't care when she was too scared to tell me she couldn't do a class(public speaking) she did not pass because she kept getting ill when it was her turn. I found out at the end of high school that was why she did not pass. She may also have adhd instead. Either way get her to a psychiatrist for evaluation asap so you know which direction to go. By the way, you need to take that phone whether she lets you or not if necessary. I took our daughters for three months at that age. She had to earn it back with good grades.



answers from San Francisco on

I've got to be honest --- I would have turned the phone off when she said she "wouldn't let you" take the phone away. When my girls were in school, our only concern re: grades was: are you trying? If they got a bad grade, but got a good effort grade, that was okay. If they got a bad grade AND a bad effort grade, then it was NOT okay. Our youngest ran us through the ringer --- skipped school, "incompletes" in classes like Photography (where you only have to turn in the work, good or bad). We took away her priviledges and at one time she was grounded for over 30 days: no TV, no phone, no internet except for homework while I sat next to her. We grounded her for each day she had skipped school and added a day for each time because she was stupid and spent those days in OUR neck of the woods when her school was across town. I was the attendance office's best friend; they faxed her attendance report to me twice a week. Alas, nothing helped --- she barely graduated, took 2 semesters at JC and dropped out. She has three children at age 25 and now that she's out of the house and living with her boyfriend she is finally, possibly making progress. She is simply the kind of person who will do NOTHING if she knows she has a support system, but will accomplish what she needs to if she thinks no one will bail her out. So we don't iffer anything except verbal encouragement and she does it for herself and her little family. This may be the type of person your daughter is.

Good luck!


answers from Oklahoma City on

i would definately have the carrier disconnect the phone until her grades are better and she starts acting like she cares. or just get rid of the phone all together. does she have activities with her friends? weekend activities? after school? shut it all off until her attitude and grades improve. i am a step mom of a 14 year old who pulled the same stuff, so she was iscolated from everyone (grounded to her room, out side doing out door chores on her own-except an adult to sit back and make sure she does it...she hated it, we had a pool, and while everyone else got to swim, she mowed the lawn)...crack down and get mean it worked for me :) now she's straight a student and brings her book to study with out being asked and gets mad at herself if she makes less than a b

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