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Raising a Boy: Ideas to inspire my 13 year old to achieve.

LaurenTheMomLaurenTheMom Posts: 160Registered User Junior Member
edited December 2009 in Parent Cafe
My youngest child and only S is 13. His older sisters have always been motivated to get their homework done and do their best in school. S acts like he cares, but really does not. He does the least that he needs to do to get by and his grades often reflect that. His teachers say he has a "whatever" attitude (although he is not disrespectful) and that he often does not pay attention to detail. His last math test was a 75% and he "forgot" to do one problem and sloppily did other problems, although when we went over it, he clearly understood the concepts. He likes sports, but really only when he's the star of the team, which in a few cases, he is one of the better players (although he is not on any school teams that practice every day). He likes the history channel and the discovery channel and is basically a very good kid. Is this a phase? What can I do to motivate him and help him see that trying hard in school will pay off? I'm new at this teenage boy thing - he's in 7th grade and I don't want him to get to high school with this lackluster attitude.
Post edited by LaurenTheMom on
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Replies to: Raising a Boy: Ideas to inspire my 13 year old to achieve.

  • FallGirlFallGirl Posts: 4,060Registered User Senior Member
    Lauren- It doesn't sound as if your son is sullen but there is a "sullen son" thread on the parents forum which has some good advice. Check it out.
  • bookiemombookiemom Posts: 1,879Registered User Senior Member
    You are right to be concerned about this, because IMO it is a situation that just gets worse. I have two stepsons, now 27 and almost 29, and both had poor attitudes about school that just got worse all through jr. high and high school. The younger one is very smart and was quite capable of going to a university. He slid through high school, hung out with creeps, got expelled senior year (Dad got him back in), and finally, thank G-d, joined the Navy. He is doing very well in the Navy and now is going to apply to go to college through a Navy program! He also didn't like to do anything extracurricular unless he was in the top few or the star.

    My best friend has two sons who are both bright and both also slid through high school with minimum effort. One is now going to graduate from college this spring, but it has taken him eight years to get through college! The other S, very smart, only went one semester of community college. He has a good job and is married.

    Another friend has a 13-year-old S who is a competitive hockey player. He also does the bare minimum for school and his mom has to sit on him to get it done.

    We took the oldest son for some educational testing and one of the psychologists we saw gave us this advice: if the kid IS NOT capable of doing the academic work, put your effort into getting tutoring. If the kid IS capable of doing the work and chooses not to, put your effort into getting counseling.

    If it was my S and I could choose, I would find a male counselor and get him in there regularly. We did try a lot with our sons, but I think we failed in getting across how important education is.
  • toledotoledo Posts: 4,026Registered User Senior Member
    We took the oldest son for some educational testing and one of the psychologists we saw gave us this advice: if the kid IS NOT capable of doing the academic work, put your effort into getting tutoring. If the kid IS capable of doing the work and chooses not to, put your effort into getting counseling.

    My son was just tested and fell into that first category, which shocked the #$% out of us.
    I like that tutoring idea, as we've been trying to do it all ourselves and it's just too stressful on all parties.
  • LaurenTheMomLaurenTheMom Posts: 160Registered User Junior Member
    One last piece of info..despite getting a C in math this past quarter, a few Bs and a few As - he scored very high on our state's standardized testing and received information from the CTY program at John Hopkins encouraging him to take the SATs. Honestly, I have a hard time believing he did so well - but I thought that "proof" of his intelligence would help him work harder - but that hasn't been the case. He was immature and has an early summer birthday so we held him for Kindergarten. He also has not really begun to phyiscally mature. I've tried to motivate him with money (but he wants a lot of money for an A and doesnt see $10 as valuable) - I feel like there have to be techniques that others have tried...and in some cases worked! I agree - attitude towards education is extremely important. Maybe a male teacher at school could help? He's definitely not sullen - just more interested in TV and bugging his sisters.
  • IllinoisMom2006IllinoisMom2006 Posts: 879Registered User Member
    My S exhibited some of the same behaviors you have noted for your son. At one point, we were discussing his lack of desire to excel. He said something to the effect that the only kids who cared about their grades were a bunch of overachievers. Knowing his competitive spirit, I told him that those kids were counting on his lack of effort so they could have an easier time staying at the top of his class. It was like a lightbulb went on over his head! His attitude took a 180 degree turn. For him, competition is a motivator. It works for some kids. S graduated in the top 10% of his class.
  • bookiemombookiemom Posts: 1,879Registered User Senior Member
    That attitude thing is so hard. LOTS of boys just don't get it! My nephew is also very smart like your S. He was like a little history professor in elementary school, but that all dried up in jr. high and after that he just did the minimum. He went to college, but again, just slid through with minimal effort. He does now have a decent job though. One thing you can't do is try to impose a better attitude on him. I think that is what happened with my nephew--he saw how important this was to his parents, particularly his mom, and this is how he chose to rebel in a subtle way. He is also a summer birthday and started school at 6.

    One of my dad's favorite sayings was: you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.
  • TheAnalystTheAnalyst Posts: 2,814Registered User Senior Member
    My brother, who is a high school teacher, sent an email this morning saying he was finding the lack of motivation in some of his students to be frustrating. So I asked my freshman son in college for advice since he seemed totally unmotivated in high school (despite every effort we made), but appears to be happy and hard working in college. I was curious about what he would say.

    He said he likes college because there is no wasted time in class and the work is more challenging. This child refuses to perform on command and will pretty much do the opposite of what somebody else wants if pushed just to establish his independence--similar to bookiemom's comment. In college, he says the teacher doesn't know who you are and doesn't care whether you pass or fail (big state school). He responds extremely well to that environment. He can work hard without appearing to be trying to please somebody else, if that makes sense.

    He believes there is nothing we could have done to motivate him in high school. I wonder if our relentless nagging on his lack of effort made the situation worse. On the other hand, I know a lot of underperforming kids whose parents don't push them and they don't suddenly become top performers. So who knows. Ultimately, the student has to find that motivation within. I like IllionoisMom's approach of just talking it through frequently, so the student periodically reassesses his behavior as he matures.
  • HuntHunt Posts: 20,819Registered User Senior Member
    You might consider having him take the SAT and go to CTY. That can be motivational for a lot of kids.
  • cnp55cnp55 Posts: 3,376Registered User Senior Member
    I can tell you what worked for my son. He did have the right combination of athletic talents and enough smarts to make this work.

    He wanted to play sports in college. The sports were used as a carrot to get the academics in line. The athletes will need the grades to make the cut with the colleges. I'm not sure he would have taken the SAT more than once if we hadn't had a specific numeric score goal that made him recruitable. He worked hard preparing for the test because he wanted to reach a specific score for athletic reasons. He worked hard on the academics because the college coaches told him he needed a certain GPA to be recruitable.

    Good luck!
  • mamabear1234mamabear1234 Posts: 2,874Registered User Senior Member
    Your problem is not unique. A lot of us have sons with some of the characteristics you described. My son is a junior in HS. He gets his homework done quickly, and maintains A's and B's, but I know he is not putting much effort into it. He does not like school - like a previous poster mentioned, there is a lot of wasted time. He has gotten better over the years about doing his homework without me nagging him. We visited a college last spring that he liked, and that may have helped. I worry about him, but he is maturing as he gets older. I have made it clear to him that his success in life - starting with getting into the college of his choice by getting good grades, test scores, etc - depends on him. He is not at all competitive, so he has no motivation in sports or class rank. He is signed up for the ACT in a couple of weeks, and has done no prep, despite knowing that his chosen school gives scholarships based on the score. He will have a second chance to take it in the spring if necessary.

    I don't have much advice, but watch who he hangs around with. My son's few friends do not cause me to worry about behavioral issues like drinking/drugs. I tell myself things could be worse than having a kid who wants to play video games as much as I will allow. He did have a part time job last summer at a fast food place that he hated. I agree that they have to find their motivation within themselves. We can try different things to help them though. If you can afford the CTY class, that might be worth a try.
  • bookiemombookiemom Posts: 1,879Registered User Senior Member
    I would like to add that the Navy has done absolute wonders for both of our sons. They have both been promoted several times and will probably stay in for their 20 years. One wants to go to college now, at age 27, as I said in previous post, so he can become an officer. Maybe one or both will go to college after their 20 years with their educational benefits?

    The military is very good at training/educating young men, IMO, from what I saw of their training. The military breaks things down into smaller, manageable pieces, with clear goals and ways to advance. It has worked better with both our boys than the traditional educational model.
  • ADadADad Posts: 4,916Registered User Senior Member
    Does he have a guidance counselor? What does he/she say?
  • LaurenTheMomLaurenTheMom Posts: 160Registered User Junior Member
    After looking at the "sullen son" thread, I realized how "not alone" I am. It's remarkable how different children in the same family can be.... My older 3 Ds are all motivated - although with very different ability. I thought maybe there was a "trick" to boys. The trick seems to be accepting that it is not unusual for boys to lack in motivation.

    S has not been invited to CTY - just invited to take the SATs through CTY due to his high state scores (which I swear must have been switched with some other kid's scores) He's so unmotivated that it seems like a waste to have him take the SATs. He spends most of his time bugging his sisters, dancing, squealing and watching educational tv. It's true though..there are definitely worse problems.

    I still hope there is a "trick" out there that I've missed. Right now I go back and forth between babysitting him through every assignment and letting him fail. I think we're losing credibility because we try so many things and nothing seems to work. Tonight H and I loudly discussed sending him to a different school (after seeing his main subject grades as A, A, D & F)and he said "I know you're kidding". He's right - at this point, private school is not an option.

    I haven't spoken to the guidance counselor - just two of his teachers who both say the same thing. Good idea ADad - I'll give it a try.
  • limabeanslimabeans Posts: 4,703Registered User Senior Member
    Lauren, Hi there. I have 3 sons, all different kids, but boys all the same. Boys mature later than girls, and their skills and talents aren't truly recognized in middle school. It's not at all unusual for boys to struggle somewhat, especially once they hit MS. One reason is that's when they've suddenly been hit with the fact that they actually need to study to succeed. Up until now, your son probably coasted. It's a hard realization that you have to actually spend time and effort to achieve when before it just took his inherent smarts. (This happened to DS2).

    Our school system offers a program called "Stand By Me" which matches underachieving kids with an older, more mature student. My DS3, a senior, mentors a freshman, for instance. In this program, he is scheduled to spend his opens 3x in a cycle checking w/ him, going over his HW assignments and tests. If they don't have anything specific, they just shoot the bull or do homework side-by-side. It's a program designed to show underachievers that's it's okay to do HW and be successful and someone cares (besides his mom). If your school system doesn't offer such a program (they might), then create something similar for your son.

    Another thought: I tutor an 8th grader. She has had years of struggles, and recently her mother and I were chatting. Her mother told me how pleased she was that I was overseeing her daughter's schoolwork, because now she feels much less angry. Instead, she's just enjoying getting to know her daughter...and thanked me for that.

    What's really important is to separate your anxiety about his motivation from your relationship. Get someone outside to help (tutor, mentor, therapist) if nothing else, to show people care for his well-being. Sounds trite, but these things make a difference.

    Feel free to PM me if you'd like. Good luck.
  • paying3tuitionspaying3tuitions Posts: 13,298Super Moderator Senior Member
    What happens when you hang out and watch the Discovery Channel and History Channel with him?
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