12 year old WON'T do homework

ZoaldaMarch 19, 2002

Our 12-year-old son has resisted doing homework for some years now. He's our second child (our daughter is 17 and a straight-A studentholic--I've never checked her homework in her life, so this is a whole new ballgame for me). He's very intellectually gifted--scores off the charts in the aptitude tests--but just not interested in slugging through reports, assignments, etc. that don't completely captivate him. He does extremely well on in-class work, is cooperative, participates well and is well liked by his friends. But over and over again his report cards come home--missing 3 out of 4 assigments, missing midterm project, not prepared for class. We have tried EVERYTHING--checking his backpack, sitting down with him, withholding privileges, offering rewards, letting him fall on his face. He ends up with Cs and Ds and honestly seems not to care--doesn't even get upset about it for more than a few minutes. He willingly takes his punishments (no tv, no computer, etc.) but does not seem motivated to change by being deprived of activities he likes. We've had teacher conferences where we decided to try to let him assume responsibility for his actions and not rely on us to rescue him, but I am worried if we let him fail Grade 7 it could stigmatize him and do more harm than good in terms of his self esteem. We fought to get him into a small school with strong academics that is highly respected in our community, but now worry we may have made a mistake and that a larger, less academically rigorous school might have been more appropriate for him. The local public high school is a hit-or-miss affair--my daughter has negotiated it very successfully, but we're thinking my son might easily "slip through the cracks" there and we are thinking of sending him to a parochial high school run by the Benedictines--IF he manages to graduate from Middle School! He does well with structure, but my husband and I both work and we just cannot, and don't feel it's right to, sit down and hover over him until he completes every single thing every evening. I should mention he's a young 12, birthday in July, so one of the youngest in his class. We're at our wits' ends worrying he will never live up to his potential. We try not to put any pressure on him, but would like to help him if we could (my husband is an only child, and I am the eldest of four, so along with my daughter he is the only "laid-back" family member surrounded by overachievers). We really are at a loss as to how to handle this problem at this point. Any help/suggestions appreciated.

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Maybe you should check to see if your school has any tutors, which are adult teacher, I surely wouldn't use a student to tutor your child in subjects needed. A good tutor sometimes can help if they are really esceptional in the subject they are tutoring.

See if your school has such a program. They can be expensive as much as $30-$40 an hr. Maybe in your area less or maybe more.
Whatever you do make sure the person tutoring is (again )good at the subjects he/she is helping your child in. Referals from students and their parents for tutors are really great!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2002 at 11:37PM
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How often do you check in with his teachers? My dd is in a rigorous program & many of the parents of kids who tend to slack off (my dd being one of them) check in with the teachers a couple of times a week. It seems to help the students realize that the teachers & parents both have the expectation of the work being completed.

IMO, 7th grade is too early for many students to be self sufficient. Some are, but others need the push into high school, with the goal having them self sufficient by 11th grade.

Good Luck

    Bookmark   March 20, 2002 at 8:53PM
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He might be too young for this right now, but maybe you could look into some kind of alternative school for high school? Your son and daughter sound just like my brother and I were in high school - I did all my work with no questioning, and my brother, who is incredibly smart, always refused to do any of his work. For no apparent reason except that he just didn't want to. Obstinate. He would read, write and draw on his own while flunking classes that required him to do almost the exact same thing - but not on his own terms.

As an eager-to-please, school-loving nerd, it was (and is) really hard for me to grasp what his motivation was, but he did a lot better when he started taking classes at the alternative high school and the community college when he was a junior. He still didn't get wonderful grades (because he still didn't care about grades) but he started enjoying what he was learning and having respect for his teachers (because they treated him with respect). High school is a really oppressive place, especially for intellectually gifted kids.

If he is one of the youngest in his class, maybe you should let him stay back - he could go to the bigger school that you thought might be better for him.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2002 at 12:03PM
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I had a child like that. His antics started in middle school. He attended our very good public high school. He took all sorts of Honors and AP classes and skipped assignments when he felt like it. Had 2 semesters of AP and Honors that he had to repeat since universities will not accept credit for Ds. He did extra curricular activities, many of which we took away from him because he did not do his classwork. Nevertheless, he learned, scored at the top of the charts on all standardized tests, including the SAT and SAT II. I stressed to him that I was concerned that he would not get into the college of his choice with a record like his. Well, he did not get into Harvard, but all the other schools where he applied accepted him. He is a senior at UC Berkeley now and doing well. He is a passive aggressive kid-- that's part of it. He is young for his age. He is Mr. Charming, and could charm teachers into special consideration. And I am old and grey!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2002 at 3:09AM
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does he truly understand all the reasons for homework? Maybe it just seems pointless to him. I know that the minute I heard my teacher call homework and classwork "busy work," I stopped doing it.

* homework offers practice time. Even really GOOD athletes practice often. Even really smart people can get faster and more accurate when they practice things.

* homework like reports offer ways to expand learning; you think you're learning about giraffes when you do a report on them, but really you're learning about how to evaluate information sources, how to organize work flow, how to organize an argument, a paper, etc. And there is always a new depth to take a report subject to, as well; there's more to giraffes than what in the books in the library.

* homework gives your teacher something tangible to use in justifying your grade. She has to justify it to her self, to your parents, to Joey's parents, and to her BOSS. How does your teacher KNOW you learned the material? Maybe you just b&llsh*t well; she can't just go off of how smart you seem in class. Not doing homework means she can't give you ANY grade, and the kid has just made it harder for her to do her job.

So perhaps point out that doing his homework will be helping his teacher.

*homework is an opportunity to practice the discipline he'll need to hold down a job. Let him know how things you do at work are sort of like homework. You do't get to just spout off in meetings; you have to go off by yourself, and think, and plan, and write, and follow through. Homework is a really easy way to learn those skills, and then they're really EASY later.

Also, don't worry too much about whether he lives up to his potential. That's sort of a lot of pressure, and it negates what he DOES do now. Some people don't want to live up to their potential, they just want to relax and get by. There are worse things they could do!

1 Like    Bookmark   April 5, 2002 at 1:15PM
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My granddaughter had similar problems and she did a complete turn around with the program in "Don't Be Afraid to Discipline" by Ruth Peters. You have to get it. It does involve some of the things you have already tried(like we did), but the way she explains her program and puts it together makes all the difference in the world! I can't praise it enough. It is either in the major book stores or can be ordered. I put together my granddaughters program, so if you have any questions later you can email me through the forum on my page. Good luck and let us know how he does!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2002 at 11:00PM
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I have a 12 year old who is gifted and wont do his homework consintently. When he does he gets A & B. His is now getting C,D,&F simply because he wont do the work. Any success on your end?

1 Like    Bookmark   November 2, 2007 at 12:47PM
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I am in the same exact boat. My son was reading and writting at age 2. I knew he was gifted early on when I realized it wasn't normal for 2 year olds to speak as well as my son, or to understand adult humor so early. BUT ever since Pre-K he's been "Bored" unmotivated, and he doesn't care if we punish him or reward him when it's appropriate. I can't tell you how many times I have asked the Public school system for help and while sometimes we start out well, I feel like he falls into the cracks again. He is in the Gifted program, but middle school is coming up and because of his bad habits, or lack of motivation I'm worried he wont do well there. My son is a young 5th grader -Bday at the end of May. I am wondering if as smart as he is, if it would hurt him to hold him back a year or help him to mature more before middle school? What have you decided to do? (I'm also thinking about Military school where he will learn better self dicipline). I can't even get him out of bed on time for school.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 5:51PM
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My brother is WAY smarter than me, yet managed to fail out of high school, 3 times. He finally got his diploma but that was all the schooling he was going to stand for. I am graduating vet school in may.

The difference is that my bro will not do pointless things. I will if they get me to where I'm going. I wanted to be a vet, so I had to go back to college (had dropped out of first year) and then get into vet school. Bro loves mechanical work, so college is kinda pointless for him. Heck 99% of what they taught in school is pointless to most people, so long as they learn to read critically, do some basic math, and think for themselves. However do not count on the schools to teach these things, as memorizing stuff to pass standardized tests is considered learning these days.

I'm just saying that not all kids are cut out for school. My mom fought with bro, sent him to 2 expensive private schools that she could not afford, got tutors, and finally gave up and sent him to public school where he did slightly better, but only because he got to take shop and woodworking and such. She did everything you have tried too- he just won't do things that are pointless, and realized very young that most of the stuff they teach in school is just that. Seriously, I can do calculus but have never needed it. I can draw the structure of all amino acids, but who cares? The list goes on....

The fact that he has just a high school education does not make him dumb. In fact, he is a wonderful father (which he didn't learn from school OR from his own father), a saint of a husband (his wife is a total wackadoo), and he does VERY well for his family as a boat mechanic. He's a great guy, the type that any mom would be proud of, and she is. He is kind, thoughtful, and fun. I am proud of him too.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 6:11PM
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Just some thoughts as I was reading your post: You say your son is bored. I'm not sure keeping him back a year would help. The general personality that you see won't change all that much. He choses to fall into the cracks. Passion to learn or become something comes from within. How does your son feel about military school?

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 11:33PM
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Hey, I'm a kid (currently a junior in high school) that has had the same issue as your child ever since 4th grade. My mother was reading this thread and she is making me respond to it. I have about a 2.7 GPA and got a 2070 (97th percentile) on the SAT.

Anyway, I really wouldn't worry too much about it. I'm sure it's frustrating as a parent, but the kid really doesn't care. Homework is just plain unnecessary for some people. There is no getting around that. I love my German teacher's policy on homework; as long as you pull and A on the quizzes and tests, she will excuse any homeworks you did not do. And my Hon. Chem. teacher from last year would give you an A in the class if you got an A on the final, regardless of what you had going into it. Both of them realize that the point of school shouldn't be to make every child conform and do every little thing that is asked of them, but to teach them. And as long as they learned the material, they don't care how much or how little work you do. Unfortunately most teachers do not see school the same way. Granted, there is a little value in teaching a child to obey instructions, but think about it, would you really want your kid to grow up to be someone that blindly follows all orders and never stops to think why, or even to think for themselves? I personally wouldn't want my child to be a zombie, but if you do then perhaps public school is the ideal place for your child (Yes, I know that I said I'm only doing this because my mother is making me and that surely sounds a little hypocritcal, but it's not exactly the same. There is a potential benefit to doing this, unlike many homework assignments.). I would personally recommend homeschooling your child once they get through middle school and grades start to actually count for something (something that I'm thinking about trying instead of my senior year of high school). And I don't mean homeschool like many of you are thinking, but simply withdraw them from public high school and let them in jr. college courses at your local community college (although this can be a pain for you if your child cannot drive him/herself, so you may want to wait until they get their license). You can even find a homeschoolers organization thing and sign up for that so you can still get a high school diploma if you'd like. Not to mention the classes they take there will count for college credit as well as high school. Taking classes that your child actually cares about learning will do wonders in motivating them to do the work. All of my highest grades are in the classes in which I enjoy the material. And if you're worried about him not being able to get into the most exclusive colleges, don't. Not going to the greatest of colleges isn't really going to hurt him in the long run. My father went to a buisness college in Orlando that none of you have ever heard of and now he has a really great job that makes a lot of money. How far you can go in the world isn't solely dependent upon where you went to college, but how well you perform in your job. It sounds like your child is gifted and should have no real problems performing what is asked, as long as it is something he cares about. That's my sugguestion, do with it what you will.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 6:33PM
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My brother was like this as well, a summer digging ditches (he was older than 12 lol) woke him up. He realized he didn't want to do that for the rest of his life.... Does your son show self- discipline in other ways, a musical instrument perhaps? Another question, how long do you revoke his privileges ?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 3:19AM
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Yes, we used teen jobs at fast food restaurants to help our reluctant students see what all the career opportunities actually are for people with no marketable skills. Opened eyes.

I must add these years later a post script to the message I wrote above. The son I wrote about has completed his bachelor's degree at UC Berkeley, a master's degree with sterling grades at NYU, and just graduated from law school with honors and cume laude and is cramming for the bar right now. Because he was at the top of his class, he got a great job in a NYC law firm, which starts in September. And he finally learned to make himself study in graduate and law schools.

1 Like    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 3:19PM
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    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 5:26PM
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Going through this myself right now to the point of physically placing the pencil in my son's hands and making him write his homework. We are like crazy people. My husband and I just fought with him for three hours and guess what? Not one word is on the page. We are at our wits end. Even though we are trying to hover while he does do his homework he is still failing.

1 Like    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 11:12PM
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No homework, no allowance.

Talk with the hid to find out what his aspirations in life are, and point out the importance of good grades to achieve those goals. If a student has no dreams or goals, he has no motivation to do anything more than minimal work, just enough to get by. It helps when the student has a focus on the future such as wanting to be a doctor, airline pilot, sea captain, deseil engine mechanic, or craftsman. Good grades opens the doors to such professions. Those with good grades beat out those with poor grades.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 1:01AM
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Mu hubby reassured our son, that his disinterest in academics was ok. If he didn't want to go to college we would help him get training at a mechanics school or to learn another trade. This made him so mad that he set out to prove us wrong. He was also working at afarmer
s market at the time and I guess the thought of unloading trucks of watermelons for the rest of his life wasn't too appealing,. He did very well in college, got a job with a major oil company, but still has a bit of the rebel in him!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 11:25PM
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I was having the same problem, until I put my child into figure skating. Her grades came from C and D to A and B. Communication is the key. Also, I drove around with my child in some places where there are homeless people, and told her that she will become like that if she does not work hard in school. I told her that people judge you by your grades, especially your status. Otherwise, it is more likely that nobody will like to work with you.

You need to know what your child wants to become, not what you want her to become. Otherwise, you wget a lot of resistance.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 7:14PM
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Why does everyone assume that homework is a good thing and that the child "ought" to do it? There is plenty of research showing that homework messes up family relationships and prevents other sorts of useful, but non-academic, learning in the real world.

Instead of making our children conform to the ridiculous and ever more onerous requirements of schools we should be supporting them in getting homework banned.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 11:59AM
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Son "won't" do homework?
Mom "won't" cook his dinner, wash his clothes, let him go out, watch TV, play video games, etc. etc. until he does his job.

Stop excusing him because he is bright. The world is full of bright, immature people who don't do what they are supposed to do. Growing up is learning to do what we have to do, as well as what we want to do.

1 Like    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 3:23PM
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What kind of ridiculous requirements? When the boss says "Jump!" we all say, "How high?" I have one of the most flexible jobs in the world--professor of piano. Guess what--I have to do committee work, write evaluations, write letters of recommendation, write grant proposals--all to a deadline, all with specific questions to be answered. No fun--but we all do it, and most jobs have much more of that kind of thing than mine. Much of school is about getting along with people, respecting authority (and I'm as rebellious as the next one--who cares?) and doing the busy work that life requires--like getting your car inspected, keeping your car insurance up to date, changing the baby's diapers. You really do learn a lot of that in school.

My son was also like the OP's child--put a pencil in his hand, practically push it around the paper. Very difficult, and it made his life difficult. I made sure he also was involved in musical activities (serious ones) and other extra curricular things, and he ended up with a big position in the music field--you have to keep kicking, screaming and pushing because anything they learn is better than nothing.

1 Like    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 3:38PM
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That otherwise bright 12 yr old has not made the connection between grades and his future. Grades do not seem important right now so he does just enough to get by. Somehow, he needs to learn that good grades nets more money for him in the future. Its grades that gains scholarships and a ticket to college, else there might not be enough money for a college education. Without college, his next step might be the military and there education does play a role. The lower educated ones stay privates while others becomes officers. He might say, "I will never be in the army." Tell him to take a good look at the world and can he guarantee a future without war? I would hope so, but history teaches there is no guarantee and the next outbreak is unpredictable.

Talk with him to see if he has formed any ideas about what he would like to do with his life. He may find that every worthy goal he has will require education beyond high school. The best motivator is a goal that he wants.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2014 at 5:59AM
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I would like to point out that since the thread was started in 2002 I would hope the situation has come to some resolution. Either that or the OP's son is the only 25 year old still in middle school.

What you should do is lie to your kid and tell him that grades are monumentally important. That's right I said lie. Grades are somewhat important, and they certainly make paying for college easier. Having said that, knowledge is way more important, I would far prefer my son get a C with complete understanding of the material than get an A with no real understanding of the material.

There is a myth about college in general that most parents simply don't understand. Your incredible Ivy league schools have the small advantage of degree portability, but a degree earned from a large state school in the state where you want to work can be nearly as strong. There is a significant amount of research that shows HR directors are biased towards their alma mater, so for example if you want to work in central Ohio then Ohio State is a great choice, mostly because the HR director is statistically more likely to have graduated from Ohio State than anywhere else. The Ivy league only negate some of that.

Furthermore, if your son intends to continue to graduate school then even High School performance will not be looked at. Grad schools care about entrance test scores disproportionately, all other factors pale in comparison. When we look at applicants for graduate programs the things we consider are: (1) test scores, (2) work experience, and (3) interview, undergraduate grades only sit in the background to help answer "can the student handle the rigor?".

Finally, there is a LOT of research that shows good grades are not an indicator of a successful career and or a happier life. The most significant indicator for success in the work place is participation in an extracurricular sport. The fact of the matter is a B/C student with a strong social life is more likely to be successful than an A student without one.

In the end, please make sure that your son/daughter understands the material (please, for the love of god, teach them some math). If they don't understand the material, especially math and english, fix that! Keep their grades as high as you can but don't sacrifice socialization for grades.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2015 at 7:23AM
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