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Old 05-01-2013, 12:08 PM   #1
Pigeon
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Parents of high schoolers--improving grades

I'm seeking input from those of you who actually have faced this situation to see if anyone has had any success in turning it around.

I have a 15 yo, who has always been an excellent student in the past. This year, she is bombing math and science, and this is a kid who always wanted to go into the medical field. She says its too hard and she can't do it and if she spends her life at a low paying, menial job it's no big deal. I've seen no evidence of her putting in much effort this year at all. Her teachers have offered no insight. She goes to a big school and the guidance counselors are so busy dealing with the kids with horrible problems that this sort of thing gets no attention.

She stays for extra help sometimes, but I don't think she finds it very helpful. Even the teachers have said that the afterschool help tends to be chaotic. We just started paying for a science tutor, which we are willing to do, but if dd isn't motivated I'm not convinced it's going to help all that much.

We've punished. We've grounded. We've taken electronic gadgets. We've listened. We've tried reasoning. We've tried getting her to take responsibility. There is no buy in on her part. I think she'd like to do better, but she's not willing to work hard and she's convinced she's just not smart. She's not taking drugs, she's not drinking.

We've been taking her to a therapist. At this age, you hear nothing at all from the therapist, but I suspect from what dd has said that she just uses the time to gripe about us, and that the therapist reinforces that it's just peachy to barely skate by.

Has anyone faced this before and had a positive outcome with your kid turning things around? What did you do? What helped?
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Old 05-01-2013, 12:29 PM   #2
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LOL. Not sure how positive the outcome was, the juror is still out.

anyhoo. My youngest who just finished his first semester at UofCincinnati did this.

Up until his senior year he was a good student, then wham getting the boy to get motivated was like wrestling an alligatior. I seriously had moments where I knew exactly why some species eat their young.

That being said, we stopped using the word punishment but we also emphasized that his actions had direct consequences.

Now he has done pretty good this first year, his first term was horrible but there was a lot of emotional upheavel in his life ( dh died from cancer) his second term was much much better.

He did not get into his first choice school and we let him know that was directly due to his goofying off his first term senior year. He had to pay for his own senior trip and other things.

He's very happy at Uof Cin but I think it was a huge wake up call. I think I may have babied him too much his junior year. who knows?

sorry I'm not more helpful with suggestions but my son is doing well so there is light at the end of the tunnel.
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Old 05-01-2013, 12:38 PM   #3
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I can tell you what happened when I went to high school...all through out grade school things came easily for me, I did not have to study that hard, some but it was hard. I got to high school was put in all Honors classes and wham, I was like why is this not easy. I really had to work at it. I would get the 76 in Math and the kid next to me who wound up at MIT got a 97 and was upset. They moved me down in some subjects like science and math (evenutally) and I was bored at of my skull. So I went through a phase my junior year, where I was not going to college, I was going to be the world's greatest secretary or work in retail etc. So I took shorthand and typing, I hated every second of it, it was my wakeup call that I was smart enough and that now I will have to work harder but I can do this. I got back into some Honors classes, stayed in the ones I had not dropped and wound up in college and did just fine.

So I ask you is she struggling and feeling "stupid" bc before things came much easier?
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Old 05-01-2013, 12:50 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pigeon View Post
I'm seeking input from those of you who actually have faced this situation to see if anyone has had any success in turning it around.

I have a 15 yo, who has always been an excellent student in the past. This year, she is bombing math and science, and this is a kid who always wanted to go into the medical field. She says its too hard and she can't do it and if she spends her life at a low paying, menial job it's no big deal. I've seen no evidence of her putting in much effort this year at all. Her teachers have offered no insight. She goes to a big school and the guidance counselors are so busy dealing with the kids with horrible problems that this sort of thing gets no attention.

She stays for extra help sometimes, but I don't think she finds it very helpful. Even the teachers have said that the afterschool help tends to be chaotic. We just started paying for a science tutor, which we are willing to do, but if dd isn't motivated I'm not convinced it's going to help all that much.

We've punished. We've grounded. We've taken electronic gadgets. We've listened. We've tried reasoning. We've tried getting her to take responsibility. There is no buy in on her part. I think she'd like to do better, but she's not willing to work hard and she's convinced she's just not smart. She's not taking drugs, she's not drinking.

We've been taking her to a therapist. At this age, you hear nothing at all from the therapist, but I suspect from what dd has said that she just uses the time to gripe about us, and that the therapist reinforces that it's just peachy to barely skate by.

Has anyone faced this before and had a positive outcome with your kid turning things around? What did you do? What helped?
My ds is older (17 and a junior in HS) but for him it was when we started visiting colleges. His grades and test scores haven't been great, but now I think he realizes you have to WORK to get in to college. This semester he actually has a 92 average!
DS has gone to work with my dh and sees how hard he works-in a hot sweaty place, dh's hands are cracked, sliced and really ugly due to manual labor. We just tell him that's what happens when you don't go to college. I think he's tired of hearing us say we can't afford things because we just don't have the money. (Maybe he's tired of us saying that by now?)
I don't know of any other advice, and your dd is a bit younger than my ds, but we have dealt with this pretty much all through HS, and it's soooo frustrating!
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Old 05-01-2013, 12:57 PM   #5
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I think it's hard to tell about the struggling, because while she might be feeling "stupid" now, she also used to spend much more time doing homework. Things did come relatively easy to her, but she used to also apply herself, so it's sort of a chicken/egg thing. She'll enrolled in honors courses this year, but obviously won't be next year.

She's much more caught up in the teen drama/social stuff of course, which is a huge distraction.

She's got some very smart kids in her class and they all like to brag about how they don't study, don't work at it, etc., which she believes. I've talked to some of their parents and know this is just teenaged bragging. Most of the kids getting good grades are working at it and many of them have "Tiger Mothers," but of course my kid thinks it's just that they are brilliant and she isn't capable.
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Old 05-01-2013, 01:12 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pigeon View Post
We've punished. We've grounded. We've taken electronic gadgets. We've listened. We've tried reasoning. We've tried getting her to take responsibility. There is no buy in on her part. I think she'd like to do better, but she's not willing to work hard and she's convinced she's just not smart. She's not taking drugs, she's not drinking.
If her problem is motivation, I'm not really sure punishing will help. When we punish our children for bad grades, it's because they do something stupid, like not do homework assignments (or not know what they are). It sounds like she's struggling with the material, so I'm not sure how punishment would help with that.

If she isn't working hard enough on the assignments, or not studying, why not try helping? Go over the material with her? Quiz her?
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Old 05-01-2013, 01:17 PM   #7
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Some questions:

How are the teachers treating her?

Is there a child or set of children in both classes harassing her?

I'm thinking the tutor might be a good idea. He or she might be able to give you some insight.
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Old 05-01-2013, 01:20 PM   #8
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Pigeon - I feel your pain because I went through this with my older son whose grades starting slowly declining in 8th grade and by 10th grade he was not eligible for any honors classes. I live in a small state where he would not have had a high enough GPA for admission to our state University. Nothing we did helped with this problem. He told us his wasn't smart and couldn't learn the material. He used the same lines as your daughter. The social scene became his number 1 distraction.

Please search on the internet for sources related to oppositional defiance. I am not saying that you daughter is, but poor school work is a characteristic of kids who are - poor and declining grades. I found some good sites that help with limit setting and expressing expectations. Nagging doesn't work. But setting clear limits and expectations does.

My son was accepted into a decent out of state college. We were very pessimistic about how he would do. And rightly so - he struggled as a freshman with a GPA < 2.5. However, despite being a semester behind at the end of his sophomore year, his GPA is now 3.0 and he is ready to apply into the university's business school. It was a struggle for many years. Heck - this kid came home at 2am on the morning he was supposed to leave the house at 7am to take his SATs. But now he takes pride in his work and is vested in his career and education.

I hope you have the fortitude to make it through this time with your daughter. I honestly believe if you set clear expectations and tell he what the outcome is should she not meet that expectation you will gain her respect and she will come around. Be patient. Its a work in progress.
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Old 05-01-2013, 01:22 PM   #9
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I was the same way when I was in high school. It was so bad that I barely graduated, but I did just enough that I could graduate with my friends.

I don't think this will make you feel better right now, but I diddled around for about 8 years after I graduated from high school. I worked in retail, at a grocery store in the Courtesy Booth and at a major computer company on the assembly line (which was actually a great job).

I was married at 21 and we had our son when I was 26. THAT was when I got my wake-up call. How can I expect my son to be successful when I hadn't even bothered myself???

I talked it over with hubby, we figured out a plan, I quit my job and we lived off of one income for 4 years. I was a full-time college student/mom/wife. We ate beans & weenies and mac-n-cheese for 4 years and did as much as we could for our newborn/toddler. We were so broke I qualified for a pell grant

At 30 I graduated from college with honors, summa cum laude and Alpha Chi. I'm 42 now and walking across that stage was the best thing I ever did for myself. I was more proud of myself than anyone else on the planet

I just had to want it bad enough. No one can make your daughter want it... but I truly believe eventually she will and she'll do what needs to be done.

We've hit some bumps along the way with my son. It'd be great if he would just learn from my mistakes, but dang, what do I know??? NOTHING!
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Old 05-01-2013, 01:26 PM   #10
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Please search on the internet for sources related to oppositional defiance.
While I'm not saying it can't be oppositional defiant disorder, nor am I a mental health professional, as far as I understand the primary symptom is anger-driven behavior/disobedience to authority figures.

It sounds to me more like this is just a problem with an ability to understand the material or low self esteem/low confidence.
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Old 05-01-2013, 01:35 PM   #11
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I think it's hard to tell about the struggling, because while she might be feeling "stupid" now, she also used to spend much more time doing homework. Things did come relatively easy to her, but she used to also apply herself, so it's sort of a chicken/egg thing. She'll enrolled in honors courses this year, but obviously won't be next year.

#1. She's much more caught up in the teen drama/social stuff of course, which is a huge distraction.

#2. She's got some very smart kids in her class and they all like to brag about how they don't study, don't work at it, etc., which she believes. I've talked to some of their parents and know this is just teenaged bragging. Most of the kids getting good grades are working at it and many of them have "Tiger Mothers," but of course my kid thinks it's just that they are brilliant and she isn't capable.
You stated the two possibilities I was going to throw out at you.

In our (very big) school, high school is where all the kids that were sent into their own separate gifted program have come back into the mainstream. So the really really bright kids that aren't gifted can become lost. The fact that it is math and science and the fact that there are Tiger Moms reinforces this. (Are you all in our school district? lol.)

Yes, the afterschool help - I've heard everything from you get grief from kids for going to the teachers don't help unless you're struggling. (Officially, you cannot drop back from an Honors class unless you are literally failing it and have used the school resources for help.)

Then there is the drama. My dd stays out, but internalizes it all. Every bit of it. So, she does well then collapses.

I can't tell you what the answer is. For my dd, she was ok with science. Worked much harder than before to pull A-/B+s. But the thing that got her thru her first year of science in high school was her relationship with her teacher. She'd never had one like that before, and that motivated her more than anything else. She has always been a natural science kid, and that set her on a good path. Just luck of the draw.

Math is a piece of work. You want them to take the harder class, but sometimes I wonder. We have a tutor who teaches at the community college. The tutor has been unable to do some of the problems assigned, and she teaches that same class. (One reason why I think our school actively discourages dual enrollment. The high school classes, I believe, are harder.)

Honestly, I don't know what the answer is, but I think the best place to start is by putting yourself in her shoes. Listen to her when she describes stuff at school. Don't judge, don't compare to your high school years.

I was just saying to a friend that parenting high schoolers is not for the faint-hearted.
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Old 05-01-2013, 01:37 PM   #12
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You described my DS17, who is now a successful senior. I bet if you went back in the search, you'd see a post or two from me on the same topic!

He had a very rough freshman and sophomore year. I classified him as lazy- he just didn't do his work. Missing assignments, not focusing, caring but not doing anything to change his habits. He was irritable, always tired, and had severly low self-esteem.

In February of his sophomore year, he had a very bad joint issue in his knee. It was really out of the blue, but his knee swelled up very badly, coincidentally after gym class one day. We took him to the dr., and they ordered an MRI- they thought he tore his ACL. Turns out it was not torn- but the orthopedic doctor drained over 7 cc's of fluid off his knee- horrible horrible pain! Sent him for bloodwork- turns out my boy had late stage Lyme Disease. We were shocked!!! Never saw a bullseye rash on him.

He was treated- and within 6-8 weeks, was like a brand new kid! Junior and Senior year, he was getting straight A's in his classes. Went from a 2.6 GPA in 9th grade to a 3.4 GPA now- at the end of his senior year.

My point is- have you taken her to a medical doctor to rule out any medical issues?

Aside from that- because kids do slide from time to time- my DS really became even more motivated to do well when we started looking at colleges. I think that really lit a fire under his behind- knowing what grades he would need for acceptance. He was accepted at the three schools he applied to- but even now, he has regrets that he did not do better freshman and sophomore year, because he did not get much merit aid.

I hope you find the answer to get her on the right track. Punishment, bribery- etc- nothing worked for us. We tried it all...
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Old 05-01-2013, 01:50 PM   #13
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DS has gone to work with my dh and sees how hard he works-in a hot sweaty place, dh's hands are cracked, sliced and really ugly due to manual labor. We just tell him that's what happens when you don't go to college. I think he's tired of hearing us say we can't afford things because we just don't have the money. (Maybe he's tired of us saying that by now?)
You know, we are in the same boat. My DH is a blue collar guy- went to community college and got an Associate's, and then went to tech school for 2 years. My kids have both seen first hand the struggles that we have gone through. My DH works hard in a very volatile tech field, but his salary is that of a person with an Associate's degree in a tech field. Not glamorous at all. We keep our heads above water, but it's not fun. If DH could change it, he would have. His brother and sister both are college grads and are high income earners. He comes from an affluent family. But his parents just did not push him. He wanted to go into theater in college, and they said no, so he went the technical route (radio/TV/ audio/visual). He wishes his parents had done more-helped him- sent him to college- etc. (there is more to the story, but it would take days to explain it!)

Our kids know that they need to go to college. Not just for the earning potential, but for the opportunities. DH has been laid off 3 times in 18 years, and has had his salary cut several times. He is making today what he made 15 years ago- all because of lay-offs and pay cuts. Not that it can't happen with a college degree- but his field is very volatile.

My kids hear that we don't have the money pretty often- because we don't. We do our best- we've saved for vacations and my parents have been very generous to us over the years. But we just aren't like some of DS's friends parents.

You aren't alone!
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Old 05-01-2013, 02:07 PM   #14
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I'm seeking input from those of you who actually have faced this situation to see if anyone has had any success in turning it around.

I have a 15 yo, who has always been an excellent student in the past. This year, she is bombing math and science, and this is a kid who always wanted to go into the medical field. She says its too hard and she can't do it and if she spends her life at a low paying, menial job it's no big deal. I've seen no evidence of her putting in much effort this year at all. Her teachers have offered no insight. She goes to a big school and the guidance counselors are so busy dealing with the kids with horrible problems that this sort of thing gets no attention.

She stays for extra help sometimes, but I don't think she finds it very helpful. Even the teachers have said that the afterschool help tends to be chaotic. We just started paying for a science tutor, which we are willing to do, but if dd isn't motivated I'm not convinced it's going to help all that much.

We've punished. We've grounded. We've taken electronic gadgets. We've listened. We've tried reasoning. We've tried getting her to take responsibility. There is no buy in on her part. I think she'd like to do better, but she's not willing to work hard and she's convinced she's just not smart. She's not taking drugs, she's not drinking.

We've been taking her to a therapist. At this age, you hear nothing at all from the therapist, but I suspect from what dd has said that she just uses the time to gripe about us, and that the therapist reinforces that it's just peachy to barely skate by.

Has anyone faced this before and had a positive outcome with your kid turning things around? What did you do? What helped?
I wish I had really helpful advice to give you. What you wrote above pretty much describes my ds. He is finishing his freshman year at the local CC. NOT that there is anything wrong with that, but if you had told me 10 years ago that thats where he would be I would have said you were crazy.
We went the Therapist route, no go. She didn't seem to really help and we probably should have tried another but we didn't.

The only thing that helped ME (well sort of) was I realized that we did try with him. The Therapist, outside tutoring etc....And in the end it was on him. I will never figure out why he stopped showing interest in school work. He can't really even articulate why. The only thing he has ever said in passing was "he didn't look forward to growing up". He didn't want the responsibilities that went along with it and I guess in his mind by not doing well he could somehow delay the inevitable.

I look forward to hearing some success stories and I hope your DD can turn things around.
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Old 05-01-2013, 02:27 PM   #15
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How horrible is it of me to actually appreciate this thread knowing I'm not alone? Misery loves company.

In the 4th grade, my DS was tested and found to be in the top 3%; in our school that is considered Talented and Gifted. [DH and I still have no idea where he gets it; not us] He continued to get straight A's [yes, I know there's really not an apostrophe there, but it looks horrible without it] all through school and then he began Middle School almost 2 years.

OMG!!!! Since then it has been a constant battle to get him to focus, do his work, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, blah, blah. We're talking a D in Spanish and very low C's in almost everything else. My DH tells me to just back off and if he fails, he fails, BUT IT IS NOT MY NATURE TO LET PEOPLE FAIL.

I had my child later in life and absolutely had no idea how hard it could be to be a parent to a teenager. But I do adore the little jerk.

He is going into the 9th grade next year and his grades are "permanent". It is mean of me to say I have no faith in him at this point? My head is gonna explode.
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