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Teenagers & Homework
Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teenagers & Homework
I am a single mom with a very intelligent 14 year old daughter with ADD who doesn't like to do homework. She is talented in so many ways - beautiful voice, spectacular athlete, very mature socially, recognized as being intelligent and capable of very good grades, and beautiful. However, every semester starts the same way. She begins the semester working diligently. By the third week, she decides that homework is not necessary. She then lies to me and says that she is doing her homework and turning it in when she is not. Finally, after numerous confrontations, I put on the brakes and curtail social activities and Facebook. She begins working and gets on the honor roll by skin of her teeth. As she will be entering 9th grade, I need to put an end to this self-defeating, high maintenance behavior. It is wearing me out. Any suggestions short of expensive therapy are welcome.
I know I'm not the only one out here dealing with this, but I am at such a loss I would love to hear from you and know how others handle it. My nephew moved in with me in Jan, and we just moved to Berkeley, where he now attends BHS. He is a smart kid, but is a terrible student by virtue of just blowing off homework or failing to turn things in. We have talked about it, I've helped him, gotten him help, sought out the counselor, emailed all his teachers. But the bottom line is, as soon as I stop policing him, he stops working and just lies that he has done the work and doesn't need help. I love him, want to see him do well, and need him to understand that you can't just float through life. School/homework is his job right now, and he needs to do it! This is about personal responsibility, and fairness to those around you who are working hard to support you.
He lives with me because him mom (my sister) died when he was 8, and he wants to know his blood family better now that he is older. He came to live with us at my invitation. I am a single mom with a younger child, so I am not primed for dealing with teenager issues. Because of geographic distance, I've had nothing to do with raising him for the past 8 years, saw him only during the summers. So I'm stepping in late and trying to redirect him. His guardian did not support him academically, or discipline him much at all. I know that his hatred of school has to do with losing his mom and having to go back to school immediately, but beyond identifying this and trying to address it I can't do that grief work for him. He's not ready to do it. The fact remains that he has two years left of school, and needs to get through them. The bigger picture though is becoming responsible for himself, not relying on others to take care of him or bail him out.
I have tried to avoid punitive measures, because I don't find them to be effective. However, the x-box was gone weeks ago, the laptop is mine as of this morning. The phone is next. I'm out of ideas and don't have much of a support network here myself. Any feedback would be appreciated. out of ideas
Your nephew might not think he can skate through--he may not have the skills, he may have learning issues, he may be too depressed or too grieving to function. It's hard to know what's really going on in his head, isn't it?
So what can you provide? Rules, consistency, structure. A few ideas based on what eventually worked for us:
* Find something that's an incentive. For us, it's online video game time. We set a weekly limit, and subtract or add time as a reward for good behavior. When you find it, work it.
* Expect to be on the homework permanently. Consider getting after-school tutors for M-Th--we scheduled ours for 1-2 hours per afternoon. We used a county-provided tutor, a relative, and a friend to cover 4 days/week. The burden of homework arguing then shifts to the tutors' shoulders--and your nephew will probably behave better for them. Set up whatever systems you can with the teachers so that you know his standing at all times and what assignments are coming up. If you know there's an essay due on Friday, there's less to discuss.
* Try to stick with the natural consequences attitude. ''Oh dear, you didn't do your essay this week and it's due Monday, so you have to stay in this weekend and do it. That's too bad. Maybe next time you can plan differently.''
* If behavior is a problem, try small consequences. We finally started using 1-2-3 magic practices (good for our 4-year-old) on our teen. ''Okay, I asked you to stop doing that. That's 1. You're still doing it, that's 2. Okay, you did it again, that's 3, take a time-out in your room.'' Better than taking away large items, grounding him off the computer for the day, etc. this is way harder than we expected, too
* Emphasize your house, your rules. Phrase things positively: ''in our house, we take care of our responsibilities, which includes homework.'' Don't get into a lot of arguments about it. If he persists, say you're done talking about it and walk away. Use 1-2-3 if he continues.
* Get a therapist for him. I hope there's some funding for this, perhaps from the guardian. Look for a good one (our first one was useless) who specializes in your nephew's issues. You can make going to therapy a requirement of living with you.
* If there's funding, consider psychological testing to clarify what's going on with him. They can test for learning disabilities, strengths, grief, etc.
Your love and attention can be a powerful incentive for him to do better. You must matter to him or he wouldn't ask to live with you. Use that as leverage. You will live up to his expectations (be loving, kind, maternal, safe) but he must live up to yours (taking care of his responsibilities, trying hard, etc.).
This is worth it. It's only two more years. Hang in there. And ask the moderator for my email if you'd like to chat. this is way harder than we expected, too
Does anyone have advice on how to get my son to do his homework? School has barely started and he is already failing every class due to not doing the home work and/or class work. He likes his school and has a good attitude most of the time. However, he stays up late and is difficult to get up in the am in order to get to school. Then I find out that he is only doing a fraction of the assignments. All he wants to do is skateboard, eat, text and go on facebook. Suggestions??
We also cut down on the number of scheduled, and un-scheduled, activities she had. This included things like gymnastics and ''study dates'' which turned out to not be that at all.
We enforced. Phone calls, texting does not happen until homework done and checked.
Fourth, more involvement in her homework.
All of the above involved nagging and only a percent of it helped, and at first, much of it was resented. Overall, it has and has re- instilled the importance of this. And she is getting better feedback from teachers and from us. sam
I would say no skateboarding or other extraneous activities unless his grades are up.
I would arrange a conference with his teachers and ask them for advice.
Here is a book we've used: ''Teen-Proofing Fostering Responsible Decision Making in Your Teenager'' by John Rosemond
Here is the amazon listing: http://www.amazon.com/Teen-Proofing-Fostering-Responsible-Decision-Teenager/dp/0740710214
''Short of solitary confinement, you can't guarantee that a teen won't use drugs, shoplift, drink or crash the car. In the final analysis, teens must protect themselves.''
''He offers a compelling alternative by urging parents to be 'mentors, who realize they can control the parent-child relationship, but not the child.'''
That is so true. You can only really control the parent-child relationship with a teenager. Read through the comments from parents on Amazon. They are very interesting. Ultimately it is up to him to do it. Good Luck. Parent of Teens
Our rule at home is that you can't do the fun stuff (text, Facebook, video games) until your homework is done. We installed SafeEyes, a computer program that blocks access to the internet. Parents can control which sites are allowed or prohibited. We won't turn on Facebook and youtube until the homework is done. If texting is abused, then ask him to turn over his phone until homework is done.
This approach has worked well with our teen, who is now a senior and has really learned how to get his work done without supervision from his parents. We don't need to manage his internet access and phone any longer. Good luck. Anon
Homework and Bedtime Help: Problem 1: My 14-year-old, 9th grade son, wastes countless HOURS on his homework every day! He often doesnít understand the work, but usually wonít ask me for help or let me help him. Even when he accepts help, he isnít attentive or assertive enough to get it done in a timely manner. Problem 2: He also takes an hour or more to get ready for bed, which occurs whether or not he has been doing homework or another activity. My son is chronically exhausted from getting minimal sleep and is exhausted every day in class. (Iím exhausted too, but whatever.) Problem 3: My son canít get up or get ready for school on time and is tardy for school EVERY day (and getting later every week). The school administration is very concerned about his fatigue, study habits, grades, and attendance, as am I. My sonís grades are far from what they need to be (2 Dís). He has an IEP, but it was recently determined that he doesnít have a learning disability anymore). I used to think that my son had ADD, but have decided that it is probably more just a lack of interest and motivation in academics (and life in general outside of electronics), social anxiety and passive aggressive stuff. These are chronic, lifelong problems. I have tried countless measures, both positive and negative, but NOTHING has ever worked. Please share any and all solutions and ideas!! amy
The fact that your son is late for school every morning means that this is an option for him. My son would be late, too, except that I have to get out the door to work and take him to the bus. I can't be late, so he can't be late. It's not an option. You need to find a way to not make it optional to show up to school on time.
The homework issue is harder. It seems as though he is having a hard time budgeting his time and figuring out how to use it well. He might be overwhelmed by his workload, and so avoids it by wasting time. Try working with him to make goals during the evening: by 7:00, you'll finish your math; by 8:00 you'll finish your science assignment. Make sure he takes real breaks in between accomplishments, so that the work doesn't feel like an undifferentiated mass.
Your son needs you to set some limits for him, so that he can learn to set those limits for himself in the future. A tired kid who has the school on his back for tardiness isn't going to be able to figure this out for himself. Good luck! Been There, Still There
Do we need some kind of executive skills tutor or other help? My daughter began High School this fall and is not completing her homework and turning it in on time. She tested into 4 honors courses so there is MORE homework assigned now than she had in Middle School. She is very bright but has difficulty with some of what I have recently heard called ''executive skills'', like the ability to break projects down into the necessary sub-parts and then complete each of these and then rebuild it into the final project.
Because of the recent phone calls from a couple of her teachers
that she is not turning her homework in on time (this school
will not accept late homework after 2 days, period) I made it my
business over the weekend (she worked both Sat. & Sun to
complete one project that should not have exceeded 2 - 3 hours
IMHO) to closely observe her and this is what I saw... she
cannot seem to stay focused on the project or homework at hand.
She becomes distracted by: myspace, e-mail, computer solitare,
etc., anything except doing the homework(!) The homework does
not appear to be too hard... just too hard to stay focused and
get it done!! Her procrastination is really starting to
frustrate me and my husband as well as her grades are going to
seriously be impacted by her not getting the homework in on
time. Other parents please advise me.. is she just lazy or is
there something else going on here? She seems to have very high
expectations for herself and says she wants to go to a top
college but if she does not start to get it together and find
the skills to stay focused and complete her homework in a timely
manner, I fear for her future
The results have been remarkable. With limited internet access her grades have improved to normal and she is back on track. If she needs internet access for a project she asks for the internet cord and then returns it when done. (Sometimes I have to retrieve it and remind her it was her idea).
Try it and I think you will be amazed at the difference. Possibly it can be returned when her homework is completed. Good Luck! Unplugged in Walnut Creek
But I'm very glad we did. Most of the people I talked with along the way thought he sounded like he had ''executive function disorder,'' the kind of inability to break projects into bite size pieces and organize time and paper that you describe.
The people at Children's Hospital who did the testing were wonderful throughout and spent over an hour explaining the results in detail, and they clearly had gotten to know and understand our individual child very well. In his case, the results did not show Executive function disorder, but rather ''ADHD without the H.'' Which really does fit, a daydreamer sort, distracted not by external things but by stuff from his own mind.
We are not sure yet what the next step is, we are both resistant to medicating, but feel like already this has been a huge help. The docs at Children's met separately with him, and explained it all, emphasizing the areas where he scored really well. Be aware, this took more time and cost more money than we first imagined. But it was so helpful. One thing all the professionals emphasized, which really echoed my gut, is that kids want to do well, the don't just blow stuff off in most situations. They are not lazy anon mom
Here are four thoughts.
First, my 12th-grade daughter, who had a year or two of homework issues, and she had the following to say in response to your post.
''Get her into an extraccuricular activity which sucks up most of her day or week. She'll shape up naturally because she doesn't have all the extra time to fool around, and she'll be more motivated because she'll be with other kids and the peer pressure is definintely felt. sports and club kids get some of the best grades anyway because they are generally happier, and this makes them more responsible, because they feel like they actually have an impact on whats going on in their lives.''
Second, testing into four honors courses and taking them may be a bit too much. Talk to the counselor about cutting back. With so much homework, she may not know where to start. Also, the ninth-grade is such a variable year for most kids that this is not a disasterous harbinger of things to come. You may just need course correction, no pun intended.
Third, your daughter may need help. May I recommend Maggie Jacobberger, out in Lafayette. (925-878-5202, and Maggie[at]ivyenrichment.com, www.ivyenrichment.com) If not a convenient location, then she may be able to recommend someone else.
Fourth, there are how-to-study books, and I am an expert in how these do not work, if your kid really doesn't want to use an improvement method. (I am batting zero for three!) Anyway, I've read several, but not all. The best one I found was ''Study Power,'' by William R. Luckie and Wood Smethurst. It's origin is a program at Harvard to get bright students who are failing to overcome study habit problems and succeed. Luckie and Smethurst moved to the Atlanta area and have been successful with their method. Like all such books, they say right at the beginning to not proceed if you really do not want to work at this. I did not listen, and put my kids through this and one other book. Both experiments were complete and total failures. Your mileage may vary.
Good luck, Nathan
My older daughter (17) can have the TV or radio on while she's doing her homework and, although I can't do that kind of stuff, she is perfectly capable of it. However, my younger daughter (soon to be 15) is not and it totally slows her down, but she insists that it isn't a problem. In addition, she gets really defiant). "You can't tell me what to do"!!!! Last night she had on the MTV music awards and then called her friend while she was doing her homework. I told her she needed to get off the phone. "You can't tell me what to do". "Oh, yes I can". Anyway, she was doing her homework from 8:30 - 10:30, after which she took her book and went to her room to read and stayed up until 11 or 11:15. My initial take on this matter is to make it really clear to her that she is to do her homework without the TV or phone and really establish with her that she is still a child and will do what I tell her to do (goddammit!). However, I was talking to a woman at work today who said that she's really old enough to suffer her own consequences and all we can do is to tell her that she's responsible for herself and her success or failure. It was an eye opener and I think I agree with her. However, of course, I'm concerned that Amber will not be able to succeed and that part of my job is to help her to establish good habits that will help her to succeed. At what point do you relinquish this kind of control? When do you allow them to make their own decisions? I don't know what to think. What do you think? Toby
What the other mother said is good in theory but it might set your daughter up for failure (especially since you know your daughter). When do you not control what they do -- when they go to college and you aren't there.
Hang in there. Your daughter is spirited and you wouldn't want it any other way. I think a compromise situation usually works best. You are respecting their opinion but you are also doing what feels right to you.
An example of consequences that are too serious would be a young person who refuses to wear protective head gear while biking or roller-blading ("it isn't cool"). In which case, I've intervened by taking away the bicycle or blades until there was compliance. I will not have my son in a hospital with head injuries for the sake of "natural consequences."
Regarding tv/radio/phone and homework perhaps you can work out a deal. If your daughter keeps her grades at a certain level then you will not interfere. If they go down you then could restrict the use of other distractions until they are up again. You have to be willing to seriously follow through however. How do you restrict TV if it is in your home and available? On this issue, unfortunately, once we had to buy a lock which fit on the electric cord and turned the power on or off with a key. When our sons came home from school the TV was on "off" and did not go "on" until homework was shown to be done. The fortunate side of this was, we did it when they were younger (in late grade school and middle school) and by HS they knew we were serious. If you tried it in HS it might just make your daughter furious. I think the "prove it to me" attitude would work better.
This pattern began last year when she had mono for two months and missed so much class it was almost impossible to catch up on everything. She took the tests and passed most of them with flying colors so I think she feels she doesn't need the homework. We're going around in circles and I don't have the energy or the will to carry a whip to MAKE her do her homework, partly because I'd have to check each day with her teachers to see what homework she has and I'm usually at work or in school at that time. One of her teachers and I have arranged to have the teacher sign off on my daughter's planner that she has in fact copied down all the homework given so that I can check it in the evening. Clearly, not getting the homework affects some of her skills in math and writing, although she can usually pass tests well and it will affect her grades (it sure did last year). I'm worried about how she's going to progress through high school and on to college.
This is not a problem during the summer when she takes ATDP classes. She got an A+ in high school Japanese. And yes, she's very bright and she's bored with homework she sees as uninspiring make-work. And of course she's a teenager now and her friends and their interactions and being a counselor to them all is much more satisfying that homework. A lot of other kids are having the same problem but that's no comfort. Anyway, I really don't know what to do. I'm sure others have encountered this problem before and I'd be happy to hear any solutions.
Here is my own personal "bottom line." I have one son who just graduated BHS and the younger who is one year ahead of your daughter now in 9th grade. If you labor through homework, following up to see if it is done and checking it, ( I've known some who practically did it with their sons or daughters) you may well give her the message that school is for YOU not for her.
Instead, I have followed a line of initial and intentional "neglect." That is, I won't micro manage homework. I am willing (especially in the earlier middle school and freshman years of HS) to let my son get bad grades if that is the consequence of his choice to neglect homework. I also am ready at a moment's request -- from him --to pitch in and help so he never feels he is in this alone. However it is clearly under his area of responsibility. If you do this early, by later high school teenagers are beginning to get the message that their basic life choices really do mean something, really do have consequences, and are important and are their own. In my view later parenting is one of support, listening, and establishing (requiring sometimes) mutual respect. It means a terrible risk of letting your child fail for a while....as long as the failure is not life shattering. It also means that you are good on your word and really will be there to help when asked.
It is SO hard to call this one because you do not want to let a downslide in grades and attitude continue into real alienation and depression. Often the teenager's lack of attention to some detail in their life is an attempt to prod for parental reaction. Taking homework out of the arena of dispute may mean that your daughter will simply pick another area to prod for your attention. What is then happening is more an issue of a youngster looking for a way to get reassurance that, though they have gone past the childhood stages of interacting with their parents, the parents still love them very actively and sons or daughters still have claim to their parents time, interest and attention.
My older son did this attention grab (will you REALLY support me) by setting up last minute panic attacks about school and tests and even social engagements. And yes, I really did drop everything and help. Because he asked. And yes it cost me something real with my own schedule, yes he did it several times until he was really sure I'd be there. We then had to work on the meaning of respecting each other's time and obligations by better planning (on both sides). We are still in this negotiation process with the older son. Life and growing up takes time. Adults tend to forget how many lessons are part of growing up.
This approached worked for us. I would even recommend it. My sons are responsible and lovely people in my own opinion. I was told at the very beginning of having children...raise them to be some one you would enjoy being around as adults. Not bad advice. It still holds.
[Please submit anonymously as my son might not want to be identified]
I've already gone on and on about what I think of AMS on this newsletter, but if you want to know more, please feel free to e-mail me! Just briefly: When my son was in the 6th grade, he was getting by at AMS, with a B average. I think that because he has learning disabilities, he was never encouraged to push himself academically. Fortunately, we moved to East Oakland and my son started the 7th grade at Bret Harte Middle School. They listened to me when I told them my son was bored in school and needed to be encouraged to excel. He had the talent, but not the motivation. Now in the 8th grade, he is in Geometry, 2nd year spanish, and the honors core class. His english teacher from last year still continues to encourage his eclectic reading choices and often lets him borrow books from his private collection. (previous choices include: Origin of Species, Sophie's World, Plato's Republic, Marx for Beginners, Capitalism for Beginners--next he plans to read the Communist Manifesto and Catcher in the Rye.) Last week, he brought home his best report card yet, 5 A's and 1 B (he missed that A in spanish by about 20 points!) and now has a 3.83 GPA. Not bad for a kid with three different learning disabilities!
I think there are 4 factors that made the difference for my son:
1) He and I are no longer the only ones who believe in him. All his teachers value his intelligence and give him plenty of praise and encouragement.
2) I made sure that he is an active participant in his education. Anyone can be a passive student and just go to class and let mom talk to the teachers when there is a problem. Instead, I taught my son to advocate for himself whenever he is bored, is graded unfairly, or doesn't understand a class policy or the school work. If he can't resolve an issue for himself, he goes to his resource specialist next, if it involves his LD. I only get involved if he can't fix it himself. This is his education, and he has taken ownership of it. He is never arrogant or rude to his teachers, but he won't take no for an answer!
3) The MESA summer Academy. I can't say enough wonderful things about this program and the excellent teachers who dedicate themselves to their students. 4) He set goals for himself for highschool and college. He plans to take math classes at a community college during the summer, so he can take differential equations by the time he's a senior. He wants to attend MIT, Berkeley, or Stanford and major in Biochemical Engineering.
Girls are very different than boys at this age, but as a teenage girl, she really needs to get in touch with her own power, just as boys do. However, butting heads with you about homework is a waste of energy. Take another approach to the problem and address the real issue, if you can. You may not have to take as drastic a step as changing schools, but perhaps it's not a bad idea! Speaking for myself, I turned to my friends, drugs and alcohol for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons was boredom. When I finally dropped out of high school, I went to community college during what should have been my senior year, due to the advice and encouragement of my probation officer (Mark Smith, thank you, wherever you are!) and did quite well. Although I stopped going to school when I met my son's dad, I did eventually find my way to UCB and am now preparing to apply for graduate school. I swore I would do everything possible to help my son avoid the difficulties I had in school. I really hope this helps! I'd be happy to talk to you further if you like.
I jumped in anyway. I began overseeing each assignment, I enlisted grandparents and tutors, I required weekly progress reports from teachers. It was ugly. It did feel like my education. After much battling on the subject she began to do the work in order to get her family off her back. It took a full year to get her back on track. Now, finally, she has begun to do the work because she wants to ... because her accomplishments feel good to her. We are all still closely involved. She still needs us. She still needs someone looking over her shoulder. When she occasionally drops the ball she doesn't let on that she needs help and she slips behind. I have to be there to help her realize it's been dropped and help her pick it up. She appreciates the help. She now believes that she has choices in her life. She didn't before.
I do believe that my initial approach might well work for some children, but it didn't for my daughter. The key, I think, is to pay very close attention. Don't hesitate to become involved. Support feels different to each of us, find out what your child needs. Please list this anonymously. Thank you.
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