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Seventh-Grader Isn't Motivated

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My seventh-grader is not as excited as he was last year. He uses less self-discipline to manage time better, completes projects at the last minute, and will not take responsibility for deadlines. He's reading on grade level and has a great average. He doesn't think he has to try as hard as he used to and I believe seventh grade is a very important year. What do I do?

A: You have given an excellent portrait of a typical seventh-grade boy. I want to chide you gently here: You say he is on grade level and has great average -- so what's the problem? It appears to you that he isn't trying as hard, but consider that maybe it isn't as hard for him now because he has learned good study skills. Has he experienced the consequences of not meeting deadlines or waiting until the last minute, or have you saved him?

After 38 years working in middle-school education, I have to disagree with you that seventh grade is an important year for high school. The only reason any grade is important for high school is that the student learns how to study and develops those skills. Your son is doing that. That said I believe seventh grade is a very important year for your son -- to cope with the tremendous physical and emotional changes he is experiencing. This is bound to make him space out a lot. He is learning how to make everything -- mind, body, spirit -- work together and to make sense of all that is going on inside and out. That he is keeping a great average is icing on the cake.

Enjoy your son's growing up process. Accept him as he is. Praise his achievements and guide him through this tough time. Don't take responsibility for his deadlines. Let him feel the stress of last-minute projects. Don't take it on yourself. (This is really hard for moms.) If his grades start slipping, help him get back on track through appropriate consequences, not nagging. Worry about high school when he gets there -- that's an entirely new ball game -- but my guess is he will be fine.

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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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