how do you make a kid want to do well

mom_of_4December 6, 2008

I suppose "make" is the wrong word. But, really how do you get a kid that just doesnt seem to care to give a crap about school.

I have posted before about ss11 and his issues with school. He has adhd and has consistantly had troubles in school. We revamped his IEP this year to include a number of things that we felt were important but still are having troubles.

I have been working and preping ss for WEEKS for a big test that he had coming up in math. Fractions and converting them with the equivilants and all that jazz... Well, the test was this past week. He was at moms house this week so I didnt find out about it until our pt conference on friday. His teacher pulled out the test and he made 20% and F. There were all of two correct questions on the test. Apparently he had a study guide and the teacher even basically gave them exactly what was on the test. He told them to concentrate on memorizing their 1/2,1/5,1/3,1/4... He knew this was a huge test. He knew his grades were low and in order for him to get back on safety patrol he had to bring them up... He didnt study AT ALL. He lied to bm said he didnt have homework... Actually last week he also lied to dh when he picked him up for school and said he had his homework and then later called me from BM's house to get the answers for his science study guide ... for a test the next day... he didnt bring home his science book because he "doesnt know" (shoulder shrug)

So, after a week of lieing he failed a major math test and more than likely the science test as well because he bother to look over the answers for that one either.

But, it is like it doesnt phase him in the least. He got upset for a minute at the school when we found out about the lies and not studying...but that was it. He was upset because he might not get to go back on safety patrol but he didnt put in ANY effort into actually getting back on safety patrol. I am so frustrated at this point. We talked about the test for weeks... if he would have studied even a little bit... he would have passed.

Now I do lay part of the blame on the teacher for not informing us of the exact day of the test and I do lay some blame in bms lap for not taking a more active role and making him study the science at least. But, the fact is I cant be there 24 hours a day..none of us can. Next year he will be in middle school. 6 classes 6 different teachers with different rules and homework and what not. I have got to get him to take some personal responsibility. But, I just dont know how. I have tried thing after thing different rewards different punishments... I even told DH I was so frustrated I was seriously considering paying him for good grades (something that I am really against) But, I dont think that would even get him motivated. What do I do? How can I get him to care .... at all really?

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I had the same problem with my son who was diagnosed with moderate ADD. I had a huge problem with the teachers to even recognize that this was REAL and not some excuse for laziness. He lacked executive skills and the filtering most of us possess to be able to concentrate. He is 27 now and I have to say I blame a great deal of his "failure" (a term from the public school system) on the people that refused to take this seriously. At the time I couldn't afford a tutor or a place like the sylvan learning center. So needless to say he barely graduated. He is a brilliant artistic person who just never had the proper educational setting. All of the negatives from the school system destroyed his self esteem. Now I understand that there is just so much teachers with classes with over 30 kids can accomplish, so maybe another learning venue could help. My anger stems from the fact that the teachers and administration wouldn't even recognize this as a very real problem.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 8:42AM
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mom of 4-

I don't really know the history w/your SS, but I gather that his struggling is nothing new.

First I think you (and his other parents, as well!) really need to ask yourselves (and maybe his teachers and doctors) some questions.

Is CAPABLE of doing the work? Just because he can sit at the table one on one with you and seems to get it, doesn't mean he can sit in a classroom of 25 and do the same. If he has an IEP, are the teachers providing the accomodations set forth in it? Does he get extra time, extra help, resource room, etc? What do his teachers say? Does he behave in class? Have lots of friends? Get along with others well? Does he do well in reading/LA and struggle with math/science? Or is it across the board bad grades? Should he be tested for a learning disability? I know that's not something parents like to hear, but it's a definite reality. And if your SS is successful in all the other aspects of his life (friends, sports, etc), but fails at school, it should be considered.

Is his ADHD treated? Consistently? If he's on meds, maybe his pediatrician should hear about his academic struggles. Maybe it's time for a medication change or adjustment in dose. Or maybe it's time to consider that maybe there's more than just the ADHD going on. If he's not on medication, maybe it's time to consider treating him.

Are you, mom & dad all on the same page? Do you share the same expectations of him? If not, it doesn't matter the reward or punishment system you use. If there's no consistency between homes, he will likely not be successful...because he knows that he'll only disappoint one household, and that's managable. But if EVERYONE was going to be disappointed, that might be a little more difficult for him to cope with.

You might ask the teacher about a "daily report" type of communication. The homework for the night is written down (by the student) and signed by the teacher. The teacher can also let you know of anything else of interest that happened that day (good participation in class, didn't hand in yesterdays homework, had a good day (or not), etc.). Then, he brings it (and the required books/folders for homework) home for review by parents and signature. It goes back to the teacher the next day with your signatures and the (hopefully) completed HW that your SS wrote down the previous day. Every day that he manages to follow all the steps (write down assignments, get teacher to sign, bring home all stuff, do HW, get you to sign, adn return "daily report" and HW to school the next day), he get something small. Or a token of some sort that he can save up, and when he has a certain amount, he get to buy something or go to McDs or whatever his "thing" is. You can even use quarters or dollars (although I agree with you on NOT paying for grades). However, if he doesn't stick to the plan, not only does he NOT get one, he has to pay you!

You might even tie his effort (not his grades, but his true effort) to his social life or his fun. No going to friends house (or playing videogames, etc) if he doesn't get his report signed, etc. I think the key is, though, to keep it short & sweet. If he didn't do what was needed on Monday, no fun Tuesday. Wednesday he gets another chance to succeed. Grounding or restrictions that last days or weeks are too long, and the kid gives up, as they see no end in sight and no chance to "prove themselves" again for a long time.

Eleven is a tough age. They aren't little. The sticker system doesn't work. But most (not all) 11-year-olds do still want to please their parents and teachers. They also know if they are "different" than their peers...if stuff is harder for them than it is for everyone else. Those kids, without intervention, seem to lose their drive to please, because they have figured out (often before their parents and teachers) that they can't perform well. Those are the kids that cop the "I don't care" attitude. In reality, they do care, but it's easier not to care, than it is to admit that they are not capable of the work, or have a hard time learning things.

Ok...sorry this was so long. I have a big cup of coffee here...hope things get better for your SS.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 9:10AM
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SS does have an IEP that we revamped this year. We took him off special standards (which he was put on last year and I think was the worst idea ever) Part of the IEP is constant communication with the teachers... daily signatures, homework written down, tests written down and study guides sent home so we can help him study, extra time on tests extra time on assignments. So far, his teachers this year (he has two in preparation for middle school) are super cooperative and I really like. His math/science teacher is a step parent too with a ss with the some of the same issues as my ss so he really relates with us and ss. He got a new teacher for reading/social studies because his other one left the school system..but she seems so far to be very cooperative as well.

Last year was a tough year... Bm tried to keep the kids away from us... there was a lot of fighting bw DH and BM and the kids (especially the boys) did not get along with BM bf (who was the root of most of our problems). I stayed on top of things as much as I could but with things the way they were it was almost impossible. Yes, it has been an ongoing problem for years but last year was the worst. Now, when I see him doing his work and help him... it is painfully clear how bad last year was with his level of skills. This year is completely different. Bm is totally on the same page and for the most part she seems to be leaving the education relm up to me. Her most recent thing is "She is so good with the kids with the school stuff... she can do more than I can even think of doing" I sometimes dont know what to think of that ... but I dont really care... at least we are working together now.

We have tried all kinds of punishments and rewards... he lost football because of the lieing... he lost safety patrol because he didnt have the grades (school rule)... We tried earning certain things with good grades. We tried weekly rewards. Aside from that not really working we ran into the problem of the other three kids that are doing well got upset that they werent getting all the rewards so we included them and then it just got too expensive.

He is not on meds and that is something we will not consider. He was on meds for a short time when he was younger and just did not react well to them ... so that is not an option for us.

And it is an overall... I dont want to put the effort in... even for football. He wanted to play... he was dieing to play. His first year he put no effort in. The second year (we gave him another chance) He put no effort in. We werent asking him to be good at it... just actually pay attention to the coach ... when you are supposed to be catching the ball... dont be turned around looking at the cars driving by on the road. Same thing with the science stuff he wanted so badly... the gaming stuff he wanted so badly. There is just an overall I dont really feel like putting the effort in. I know this is silly but even the other night... I was cutting out stars for my dd bday party. He asked if he could help so I handed him two sheets of stars and some sceissors. I went out to the living room a little bit later and the sheets are sitting there with only two stars cut out. I asked him why isnt he cutting out the stars like he said he would... he said it was hard. Really!! It was hard to cut out some stars... more like he didnt feel like doing it once he got started. I told him to bad he volunteered he needs to finish what he started..but still.

I worry about him just giving up before he even gets to high school. We have considered taking him out of school and just home schooling him... but that would require some serious adjustment because we really need my income but I am also not willing to just watch him fail.

Like I said I am at my wits end.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 10:07AM
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Well, if you've tried "everything", and none of it is working, then it might be time for you guys (parents/steps) to put your own feeling aside, and try something that might make him successful. I am speaking from experience here.

My oldest son is 21 now. He displayed some of the same behaviors you describe. I yelled and fussed at him, took away privileges, tried reward systems...everything! The teachers NEVER complained about him or his behavior. They were always just a little disappointed, because he was "so bright, but just didn't seem to want to put forth any effort". He studied and seemed to get it, but then would fail the matter how much I helped him study, etc. We just decided that he was lazy, didn't want to put forth the effort and wasn't a good test-taker. He frequently forgot to hand things in, too....even though they were done.

What made it difficult was that he displayed NO evidence of hyperactivity at all. Eventually, when he was in high school and struggling, he told me he thought he had ADD. Again, I told him that his laziness and lack of motivation was not going to be called ADD. Period. I didn't buy it.

Then, his 2nd semester of 10th grade, everything seemed to turn around for him. His assignments were done completely, his notes from lectures were well-organized and he could use them to study, he did well on tests. I praised him profusely for all his hard work..."I told you if you just applied yourself, you could do it", I told him.

About a month later, he asked me if he could be tested for ADD. "No", I said. "You finally showed a little maturity, buckled down and did your work, and had good results". You don't have ADD. At that point, he confessed to me that the entire 2nd semester, when he had done so well, he had been taking his friend's Adderall. His friend had decided he didn't want to take it anymore, so my son did. I was FURIOUS, to say the least!

I am a nurse, and had significant strong feelings about the overuse of behavior meds. But still, I couldn't argue with the results. I called his pediatrician, who agreed provide the testing. Luckily, in addition to a general pediatrician, she is also a behavioral specialist. She agreed to test him, and the results were overwhelmingly positive. She wasn't surprised that it had gone unnoticed all these years, since he wasn't a behavior problem in class...didn't display any hyperactivity. Those kids are the squeaky wheels that get greased. The kids who are "good" often get overlooked. Since he had already conducted his own "clinical trial" with good results, she prescibed a low dose of Adderall for him. He continues on it now in college, and I have to admit, it really has made a big difference in his life. He manages a full load of classes, a nearly full-time job, lives on his own, pays his own bills, etc. He frequently doesn't take his meds on the weekend, or during breaks from school, when he doesn't need to "perform".

So, while I certainly realize your reluctance to treat your SS, if he's been diagnosed w/ADHD, you are doing him a huge disservice by witholding treatment. Certainly, if he had diabetes, you'd allow him to take his insulin, right? Behavioral/mental health issues have such a stigma associated with them, that all-too-often, those who would benefit from fairly simple treatment, are denied.

Just my $.02 worth....

And for the record, I still think that ADD/ADHD are WAY over-diagnosed & treated. But there are definitely some kids who truly benefit from an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Those families who have "tried everything and nothing works" may find that they have to put their pre-conceive notions about diagnosis and meds aside for what could prove to be just what the kiddo needs to be succesful, not only in school, but in life.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 4:11PM
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But, like I said we did try meds for a while but all we ended up with was some shell of a kid that just really wasnt there or himself... and there was really no change in his schooling.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 4:45PM
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Mom of 4, I was very similar as a child. Looking back as an adult now I really do think it was asserting some control over my life. And I could not articulate that then. But living in a stepfamily and changes out of my control over a period of years that most children did not have to deal with, this was my only form of control over myself. And some of it was depression too, I believe.

Is your SS seeing a counselor? I agree with Nicksmom too, if your SS is not having behavioral issues in school, he is getting looked over as well.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 5:07PM
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Homeschooling might be the best thing for him. My son appeared to have ADD, until I started homeschooling him. His work ethic is much better in the homeschool setting than it ever was at public school. You have to teach executive function to some kids and the public school isn't set up to do that. You can have an IEP, but it takes consistent effort to address a child's particular executive function deficit. Schools will tell you to try ritalin..that's the extent of their plan. In my opinion, public schools are damaging a lot of kids with the ADD, ADHD label.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 5:58PM
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mom of 4,

Now that he's older, a different medication may prove to be more helpful for him. I think that in young children, they medicate for "busy-bodiness" and end up with a zombie kid that doesn't eat.

But, with older kids, the effectiveness is generally easy to see. And they can tell you if they feel "snowed". My son has never had that side effect. He does experience a bit of decreased appetite, but is aware of it, and appropriately eats, even if he's not hungry.

I'm not saying that meds are the only way to go. But, if you've tried everything else, it might be a good option, especially in combination with some counselling or mentorship. And there are so many more options now, not just Ritalin. And lots of them are very well tolerated.

Again, the other thing you might want to consider is neuro-psych testing and an assessment for learning disabilities.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 10:18PM
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i have lived through this problem twice.

You cant "make" another person care. All you can do is try to find a different way for them, and keep trying until you find one that works.

It will also help, down the road, to be happy with what the person is able to do , instead of worrying about whether or not they are living up to your own expectations. People are not one size fits all. Success, or failure, isnt the same for everyone. Not everyone follows the same road in life, nor do they even have the same final destination. If you can raise children who are self supporting, happy, and positive people, then you have been successful, whether that child is an astronaut, a plumber, a sales clerk, or whatever. Its a mistake to think that all kids have to follow the same plan.

The first time I had to deal with this, it was with my third son, who also had adhd. We ended up homeschooling him for three years, until the basics were really ingrained into him. It helped a great deal; homeschooling relieves a lot of the distraction and disorganization issues. But its not a cure all for an adhd kid. When they go back to school, eventually, they will still face the same problems. The difference for my son , after he had the basics drilled down, he was able to function, albeit not at the highest level.

He is an adult now, who does take medication, by his choice, to help balance out the highs and lows. He sought the medication himself after he finished high school, because he realized he had a hard time finishing anything, and his wild emotional swings were affecting his life. He also sought out a job in which he could do a variety of things, to combat boredom, and in which he could be physically active - great for an adhd person. The key is to keep him from giving up, frustrated by failure, before he is mature enough to figure out for himself what he wants

He found his way. He learned what worked for him and he followed it. It wouldnt have been what I would have ever c hosen for him, but its not my job or my place to project my desires for his life onto him. .

The key for us, as parents, is not to bang our heads on the wall in frustration, or let it destroy our own inner peace while we wait it out.

My stepdaughter also has the organization, lying about school and lack of interest in her grades problem. When she entered junior high, a private tutor was hired for her. It helped her grades, but its doing nothing for the rest of the issues. She too will have to find her own way with them, and learn to care on her own terms. I am only trying , at this point, to point her in the right direction, and keep my mouth shut the rest of the time, since I cant make her change and its pointless to try.

If you can afford it, a tutor would help keep the grades up and keep your son from feeling like a loser, until he can grow enough to care for himself about the problem. Or , homeschooling truly is a great experience, if you are able to do so.
The years I spent homeschooling my son are among the best memories the two of us share. Often the work, when homeschooling, is done by about ten am, which leaves the rest of the day for more enjoyable pursuits for the child.

Never ever give up on your kids. They may not be dancing to the same tune that you are, but they WILL get there if you dont give up. They need love and support and understanding when they hit the hard spots, and they need to be able to try and keep trying , different roads , until they find one that works for them.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2008 at 12:01AM
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Mom4 ... I was the only one who cared about SS's grades. I learned a tough lesson from SS13 he didn't care about his grades neither did his parents ... both too busy dad trying to avoid any contact with mom, mom too busy trying to make dad miserable ...

Now I don't care they fail not my problem they don't do their homework I don't care ... they have to stay after school I don't care it on their parents to help them. I refuse. It kills me to walk away but I was the mean SM because I wanted them to do well ... this last year I haven't cared teachers call I hand the phone to hubby they call I tell him its on him to help his kids....

Don't get me wrong I care what becomes of them but until they put forth the effort themselves I have to stay out of it for my own sanity.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2008 at 12:09PM
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but okay... I know that all kids are not the same and like I tell my Dh a good grade for ss11 is a C a good grade for sd and dd is an A. They are each different. I know that and work with that. I dont honestly think he will end up at college... I will encourage it and work toward it... but in reality it probably wont be his thing. I will be happy if he grows up happy and content with a job that allows for him not to struggle every day. He wants to be an electrician right now (he loves that kind of stuff) This will require some schooling so I try to help keep that in his mind but it's like the dots dont connect for him.

But, what do I do in the mean time? Do we just let go of the your grounded or lose this or that... Do we let go of the trying to come up with some new inventive incentive to get him to try?

How do I balance out letting them figure it out with our rules and what not. What I mean is the next time I find out he lied about an assignment or whatever... do we just let it go and try to concentrate on the days he did bring his stuff home or didnt lie. I have a hard time envisioning myself saying nothing or just saying okay now you get the bad grade ... the end. I have an even harder time considering doing things like putting him in a sport next year when he hasnt earned. Our rule has always been school first. The other three kids are holding up their end of the bargain... how can I justify allowing him to them. But, at the same time this is ongoing and at this rate the kid wont be allowed to do much of anything if he keeps this up and I dont think that is good either.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2008 at 4:06PM
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Get the boy tested. Get him meds IF he needs them. Nobody's saying give him a frontal lobotomy or electro-shock therapy....just give him what he needs by appropriately treating his disorder, IF he indeed is ADHD. He deserves a chance to succeed.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2008 at 10:06PM
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