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Son Doesn't Care About School and Grades

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My son is in seventh grade and is failing most classes. He has the ability to get As and Bs without much effort, but he doesn't care and either hurries through his homework or just doesn't do it at all. I've tried punishing, taking things away, talking with him and teachers and counselors, and rewarding, but nothing seems to work. Any ideas on how to get him to care about school and his grades?

A: No one can make a child care about something, so I suggest you change your focus. What does your son care about? Think this through carefully because this may contain the answer to how you handle this situation. What has worked? Again, really think about this even if it only worked once or even just a little bit. Most of the time persistence and perseverance are the key to changes in adolescent behavior -- kids are masters in out-waiting us parents.

You say you have talked with his teachers and counselors. Did those meetings result in a plan? Was your son involved in that plan? If the answers are no, I would suggest going back to the school and doing just that.

Homework: Is there a set time and place free of TV, computer, stereo, etc.? Does he have to use that time reading if he says he doesn't have homework? Do you or your partner spend some study time with him talking about his work and checking it over? Where does the homework go when finished -- in his folder, in his backpack, near the door? Many bright seventh-graders have no idea how to organize or how to study. Does he need some help in this area?

You speak of punishment and rewards, but not of consequences. Are they logical, immediate? What happens if he fails seventh grade? Have you decided as a family and made clear to him that he will be spending summer going to summer school -- not on vacation or being with his friends? That might help!

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.


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