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Thursday, 14 September 2000

Unmotivated Twelve-Year-Old

Written by  Toby Klein Greenwald

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QDear WholeMom,

I almost felt like I'm reading my own concerns about my almost twelve-year-old when I read the question about the "Unmotivated son." His teacher has advised that he will be failing his three major subjects on the next quarterly report card. His reading score in February of 99 is going to 40. He also was tested for ADD and learning disabilities, but very simply is not motivated. While his teacher has been fairly flexible, the simple fact is that success in school is measured by good grades and if you are in public school, there is very little room for special attention. It has been hard as parents to be supportive of his lack of motivation. I don't care about perfection, only effort, which I don't see.

How do you live with the lack of effort when there is capability? How do you protect your child and ensure that he will be able to function in a world that requires at least some level of conformity?

- Concerned Parent

ADear Concerned Parent,

I wish I could tell you that there are easy answers but you've obviously already discovered that there are not. Add to everything else you write here the fact that your son is entering adolescence, which brings with it a whole new set of challenges to deal with both for himself and for his parents.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Try hard to find, and encourage your son to try to find, at least one person, either a teacher or counselor within the school, a youth club leader, a leader in some activity in which your son participates (sports, etc.) - somebody with whom he can connect positively. That is necessary for his own well being, no matter what his grades are. If that person is found within the school, all the better; it may have a positive spillover effect onto his studies. Perhaps take a private tutor for him in one or more areas that are difficult for him but be sure that you choose that tutor very carefully; maybe he can be the person to connect with your son. Once he has at least one adult or young adult (a sports coach or tutor can be a college student also) to whom to relate, things may improve.
  2. Do things together with him, parent and son, that are activities that he enjoys. Keep your relationship a good one and talk to him about things that have nothing to do with schoolwork so he will know you are ultimately supportive of him and love him.
  3. Help him find outside activities that relate to some of the subjects he studies in school, though not schoolwork. For instance, science clubs/projects/games, or hang out and drink coffee together at a local bookstore when they have a music group performing, or go to a play together.
  4. Speak to a counselor at school and perhaps an educational psychologist. Try to find out if something is bothering him that you weren't aware of. As for the lack of special attention in public schools, demand it anyway. It is your right.

Each kid is different so it's hard to say what will work for your son, but I think the most important thing is, first and foremost, continue to develop your own good relationship with him. Rather than accuse him (of not studying, not being motivated, etc.), share a part of his life. No matter what happens as far as school goes, that will be a good thing.

Remember also that some kids blossom later. "Water" him with friendship, kindness and understanding, and he will bloom as a person, if not as a math professor. You want him to succeed in school, but even prior to that, you want him to be happy.

Good luck and let me know what happens,


Last modified on Tuesday, 14 May 2013 15:05
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Toby Klein Greenwald

Toby Klein Greenwald

Toby Klein Greenwald, Executive V.P. Creative Development, is a founding partner and the editor-in-chief of WholeFamily. Toby is an educator, journalist, photographer, scriptwriter, poet, playwright, lyricist, and theater director, including for populations that have experienced trauma or are at risk. She is a Playback Theater conductor and is the recipient of Israel's Ministry of Education's Egerest Award for Culture, for her work in educational and community theater. She has more than 30 years of teaching experience and has served on numerous educational think tanks. Her specialties include the creation of innovative educational programs, and teaching Creative Writing and Film to AD(H)D and LD high school students, and to senior citizens. Toby is married to Yaakov and they have six children, most of whom have made her a proud mother-in-law and grandmother.

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