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Thirteen-Year-Old Lacks Motivation

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My 13-year-old daughter has always been somewhat of an unmotivated student. It isn't that she's not capable -- it was a lack of effort that kept her grades in the C range. She is now in the eighth grade and my concern is not her laziness, but that she has not learned the skills she needs to take her through the rest of her school career. I've talked to her teachers about getting her extra help, but nothing has happened. She attends a school in a large city school district and I think because she isn't a behavioral problem, the teachers are letting her slide by. What are some steps that I could take to help my daughter learn what she needs to be a success in life and school?

A: All children are motivated. The real task is to find out what motivates them. I encourage you to make a "date" with your daughter to do something you both enjoy and have that include lunch. At lunch, share with her some of your concerns and ask her what she wants to do with her life (career, work). Don't accept "go to college." In your discussion, listen to what she really wants; ask how she sees herself getting there. Will it take graduation from high school, technical training, college, or something else? The key here is accepting what she really wants to do with her life.

Once you both know the answers you can move in many possible directions. She may need to enroll in classes that are more in line with what she wants to do. Perhaps she could write and/or visit a college, tech school, or job site that offers training/careers in her interest areas. Even going to the local high school and talking with the career/guidance counselor may help.

I would also encourage her to get involved in her own school's activities -- clubs, sports, teacher's aide, etc. Perhaps the school counselor can help her. In large schools, students sometimes just don't feel connected and this makes them seem unmotivated.

Continue to talk with your daughter and listen. The issues I've raised may not have anything to do with her lack of motivation. But if you are listening, you will hear what the problem is and you can solve it together.

More on: Expert Advice

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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