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Eighth-Grader's Grades Are Dropping

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My eight-grade son just received his report card and his grades dropped in every class! He went from A+ to D in social studies, which had always been his best subject. I know you are going to ask me about drugs and friends, but that's not the situation. He's just lazy! I've always been on top of him, but I thought that I should back off a little, and that if there was a problem, the teachers would let me know. Boy, was I wrong. Of course, we flipped out and took away everything he enjoys. He admits that he made a mistake and was lazy. How do I handle this? I will call the school tomorrow to schedule meetings to find out what they can do to help. I will find tutors, and make him work. I don't think he is ready for high school.

A: I don't think your son is lazy. He appears to be manifesting a typical eighth grade, second quarter trait -- feeling that "it won't happen to me and I don't need any help." You trusted your son, made him responsible, and he blew it. This is a safe time for kids to blow it and learn from their mistakes. It appears your son has learned. You are supporting him and setting boundaries and expectations. What's more important than the drop in his grades is what he is going to do to improve those grades. My guess is that he will improve his grades a lot! I think it's too soon to make a judgment about high school. Give him a chance to prove himself.

It appears that you have everything in hand. I would suggest exactly what you are going to do -- meetings, working out a plan to check on assignments (such as getting progress reports), talking with your son, and imposing consequences. Probably the biggest help to him would be taking some time to learn how to organize and study. Perhaps the school counselor can suggest some resources. There are some excellent tips on this website, in parenting magazines, and some very good books at the public library on study skills. Good luck.

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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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