Parenting advise needed: 14 yr. old and missing assignments

Mimou-GWJanuary 22, 2007

My oldest son will be 15 in May. He is a good kid, very social and very bright but very disorganized. We moved last spring (new state, new school). At the old school he was very popular. When I asked him if he felt like just another cog in the wheel at his new school he responded that at the old school he WAS the wheel.

His grades in school are not what they should be. His science teacher sent me a report showing 10 missing assignments. I have found them all, all are completed. 8 have been initialed and checked by another student (swapping papers to correct). But he didn't turn them in. According to DS they were not collected on the day they were checked and he couldn't find them when they were supposed to turn them in. I told him its like going to work but not bothering to collect your pay check. This isn't the only class this is happening in I got an email from his Spanish teacher with the same story. A new semester is about to start and I want to help him find a way to get organized and motivate him. He needs to care about his grades. He knows this is high school and the stakes are high if he wants to get into the college of his choice. Any tips to help him keep organized or things you did to motivate your teen?

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If he is doing his assignments but not handing them in, there are two possibilities I can think of. First and most likely, he's extremely disorganized and/or isn't paying attention in class. This type of distraction could be compounded by mild depression - - he's so focused on fitting in to his new environment and/or missing the old one that things are getting by him. Second, he's rebelling a little and/or trying on a "bad student" identity since he hasn't found the right fit for a peer group yet.

Either way, I think I would take on a heightened role in his homework routine. Give him a daily planner in which he can keep track of all of his assignments. Check it on a daily basis and see that he is making the necessary progress. Help him plan homework schedules. Ask his teachers to let you know within 24 hours of any assignments that are late/missing.

My son has learning/organizational difficulties so I have been down this road. Hopefully in your case it is only a temporary problem. If it continues it is possible he has executive functioning deficits (ADHD or something like it), in which case you may want to consult with the school and request a PPT. It's very common that this sort of thing might not show up in the lower grades because smart kids can glide through with the minimum of organizational skills required until they reach high school and a lot more is required of them.

Most of all, at this age and given the circumstances, I would make this as non-confrontational as possible and just treat it like what it is - - a good kid who needs a little guidance. Approach it not as a punishment or an onerous burden on you, but that sometimes for any variety of reasons someone needs a little outside help to stay organized and you are going to provide that for him to help him get adjusted in this new environment. It sounds like you are heading in that direction already. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 2:57PM
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Some spiral ring notebook companies (Five Star?) have built-in folders in their one, two, three, and five subject notebooks. A huge zippered binder sold by Office Depot has a built-in file at one end. Both systems are bulky and tend to be heavy. If your kid likes to travel light, it/they will be left in the locker so won't solve the problem. My kid hates to discover that she forgot something so will carry around way more than is necessary.

I would think that losing or not doing assignments is more common than doing them but not turning them in. It sounds like they are not being forgotten at home, but somehow end up buried at the bottom of the backpack, are somewhere in the locker, or are misplaced with stuff from another class? Or are kids in his classes *hiding* the homework to tease him?

The move to a new state and new school may make your son feel out of control, so his weakest attribute (personal organization) may be the first one to fail and is functioning as a red flag to the adults in his world. Does he perceive a problem, and if so, what is it, and what is his solution?

The motivation thing seems to be one greatest challenges of parents of teens. Because they are immature, kids cannot truly appreciate the future ramifications of their current actions/in-action! But really, I really wonder if this is a lack of motivation; ten completed assignments that were not turned in sounds like a plea for help and not simple disorganization. Another thought is that he is trying to sabotage (even subconsciously) being tracked into more highly pressured AP/Honors classes next year.

Best wishes.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 6:06PM
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Thanks for your kind replies. I understand a little better now about how the assignments were done but not turned in. In science class things are due during the unit being studied but papers aren't actually collected until test day so that you have all the lab work and woksheets to study from. So if you don't have them on that date you loose out for the whole unit. No late work accepted. In Spanish there is a homework log that gets stamped. Apparently he has lost the home work log and therefore all the homework assignmennts recorded. ARRG! He seems to be too lazy to open a 3 ring binder and put thing where they belong so maybe I'll have to try the folder system. DS told me they studied ADHD in health class and he thinks he has a number of the traits so I will get him evaluated. I asked him how I could help with his organizational issues. I was hoping he would make suggestions if we identified some of his key problems (like pack up the night before instead of trying to grab everything as he flies out the door). His attitude is don't worry about it, I'll do better. But that is not going to happen. I need to consider rewards/consequences I think. As you pointed out KO, he can't really understand the ramifications. And how will he ever function without at least some basic organization? This is so contrary to him as a little boy. I used to get scolded if I unknowingly put the batman action figure stuff in the bin with the power ranger stuff. I'll email his teachers and see if they will alert me to missing assignments right away. But all of the homework is online and we do check everyday to make sure he has the work done. So it is really a matter of keeping track of things. Sorry if I'm rambling, just bothered by his attitude.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 11:48AM
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My ADD son frequently forgets to turn in assignments that he's completed. In his mind, the task is FINISHED, so it's on to the fun stuff. Organizers would get lost too. Or else he'd forget to use them.

Many things can affect organizational & attention skills: depression, other LDs, and even good old fashion immaturity. Evaluations are useful even if your son doesn't have any of the above problems. Good luck to you both.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 5:47PM
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Is the school counselor available for an appointment? My friend's dd did this to discuss her organizational dificulties and it helped get her back on track. This was a Catholic school where there are more counselors available, so I don't know if this is possible if your ds is at a public school. Such a shame that many have been cut.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 1:25AM
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So how'd my son end up at your house? Gosh, this was a long chapter in our lives - just what you're describing. And - "Don't worry about it". How I hate when mine says that (translation: "No, I will not change my routine. Back off.") Mine is 17 now, and finally has turned the corner, but I hate all those years of poor grades coming from my extremely bright, but disorganized, boy.

You sound more persistant and organized than I was. Good Luck and keep it up!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 2:59AM
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OMG, I have so been there. The child who carries around completed assignments, not turning them in, until they are lost. He'd lose his own head if it weren't attached, I tell ya...

And he's only in 6th grade. I'm fearful of high school.

First, I told him that he had two choices - I can go to school with him and make SURE he turns things in, or we could figure out a system that would work for him. Of course he chose the second option, lol.

He's required to have one big binder for all of his classes and as a result, the thing is like the black hole. Things go in and go into the abyss. I assume he looks for things in class but just gets frustrated and decides he doesn't have it.

So, we went and got a sturdy thin folder with pockets on the inside. This is the HOMEWORK FOLDER. The left side is labeled for assignments TO DO. The right side is assignments TO TURN IN. This is kept totally separate from the black hole. Nothing else is allowed in that folder but assignments that are done at home. We've had a bit of an issue with him putting things into the homework folder while he's at school (they sometimes get shoved into the binder), but at least at home I can make sure that all of the assignments he did that evening get put into the homework folder TO TURN IN pocket. And there they are supposed to stay until they are turned in. That way when he's in class he doesn't have to fish through the black hole, just pull out that folder and there it is.

It's not foolproof, but it's definitely helped.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 12:41AM
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We did the same sort of thing with my younger son with the binders and all - and I would check off at home that the homework got finished. Oddly enough, the harder part was to get him to put it into the proper place when done - OR, he more often would insist upon arising at 5 a.m. and doing all work then - which meant I had less time to check it.

I am so laughing at your first remark that you might go with him to see it personally handed in. (It reminds me of a scene from "Glory Days".) It get's to that point, doesn't it? Once in 6th grade, my son's tutoring aide accompanied him to the room where an assignment was due as he went in to turn it in to the teacher - AND IT STILL DIDN'T GET CREDITED!!! I didn't know who to believe then.

But I have found out in retrospect that I "fell" for my son's declared innocence too many times since he was indeed being good in so many areas - and only years later found out that he had pulled the wool over my eyes a few times.

He proudly declares that his future kids will pull no tricks. Hmm, we'll see, we'll see - :-).

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 11:02AM
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Thanks so much everyone. Why do I feel better knowing someone else has felt as frustrated as me? awm03- you hit it on the head I think: the work is finished and now on to FUN. Jubileej you offer hope! Thank you for that. And Snookums, thanks for your folder system. We did use that method in middle school and I don't know why we didn't implement it this year. Like a number of schools now he has even numbered classes one day and the odd numbered classes the next so maybe we will do 2 folders. You know he just blames the teachers. They should just collect them the day they are due and record them.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 12:22PM
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Hang in there, Nan!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 4:33AM
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does he have a PLACE to put them?

My DD would do that-do the assignment, but not be able to find it in class.

She had too many folders. I made her buck the teachers' instructions, and have ONE folder for ALL papers. Then, at least there was only one place to look.

In her old school, they were issued a big, sturdy folder w/ two pockets labeled "leave at home" and "take to school." So we'd put the homework that was done in the "take to school" pocket.

He (or you) might also tell his teacher that this is his problem, and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE would the teacher collect them RIGHT AWAY? Teachers can have filing cabinets. I think it's kinda cheesy to ask the kids to carry around stuff for several days!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 9:41PM
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Popping in late here but so sympathize with you & your son...I know what it's like. Our brightest did the same thing! I finally MADE him sit at the table to do homework while I cooked dinner. He repeatly said "This is redundancy in the highest form- there is absolutly no reason I should do it...I'm never asked a question in class that I can't answer & never score below a 99 on tests, so why should I do this stuff?" Grrrr! But he did it & it had to be put into a folder in order of classes of "completed homework," stashed in his backpack & set by the front door before dinner with admonition that I would call each teacher to see if it was handed in- and the first time they didn't get it I'd "escort" him to each class daily until he did it on his own! His grades went from "C" to "A." He proudly showed that first report card and sagely commented, "I guess you'll just have to keep your foot on my neck Mom."

In addition is gave us TIME- we really talked & he began to open up about many other things he had on his mind, which was great. Now 32, when he comes home we still have some of our best conversations at the table; on his last visit he brought up that battle & thanked me for being tough on him!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 12:13PM
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My oldest DD (now 32) always said that a D is passing so why try harder? Drove me crazy. She had homework problems too. Once we had company when she got home from school and she wanted to visit and do homework later. I told her she had to do it now. Grudgingly, she went to the table and was back in about two minutes proclaiming she was all done. I went to check her work against her protests. She had about 15 questions on US rivers. Some of her answers were Japan or Jupiter and such. When I asked her about it, her reply was that I told her to DO her homework, not to do it CORRECTLY! Grrrrrrrr

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 12:30PM
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Thanks for all the great comments. Here is a little update. It is a new semester with new teachers. His science teacher makes all assignments due on Monday so there is never a question of when it is due. She also lets students email their work to her! So this helps on 2 fronts. And the new Spanish teacher grades daily so there is no log to keep track of (thank goodness). He is using a single folder for all assignments that need to be turned in hopefully eliminating the "I couldn't find it" factor. So far this semester is going well, but it's still early.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 2:29PM
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