Bright Boy Underachieves
Q. I have a 15-year-old son whose teachers have been telling me for years what a smart kid he is, if only he would work harder. He knows we expect A's and B's. He just received his midterms and had one F and three C's. I believe he's not trying hard enough. He has an easy schedule with band, no sports and a study hall. I can't find anything that motivates him. He chooses not to do his work, then scrambles to make it up. I've tried nagging him, as well as leaving it up to him. He was part of a gifted and talented program when in elementary school but dropped out because it wasn't cool. What can I do?
A. By now your "cool," gifted son has no doubt lost confidence in his ability to get good grades, and being "cool" is unlikely to lead to motivation. Sometimes you can re-engage a child when he finds an interest or a career direction he wants to follow, so don't give up. Undoubtedly, early on his schoolwork seemed easy and he could get good grades without effort. Perhaps he wanted to escape being called a nerd or a geek by working harder as the curriculum became more difficult. By now, he probably has many bad habits and little academic confidence.
It's never too late to have him evaluated by the school or a private psychologist. Test scores may now be lower than his actual ability because he's been underachieving for a long time. Psychologists can give you some ideas about his strengths and weaknesses and can even work with you and him in relation to motivation. Considering that college and the real world aren't far away, that may help to motivate some improvement. My book "Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades And What Your Can Do About It," (Great Potential Press, 2008) should be helpful.
For free newsletters about underachievement syndrome or growing up too fast, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or read "Solving the Mysterious Underachievement Problem" or "Growing Up Too Fast" at www.sylviarimm.com.
United Family Needs Direction
Q. I've just had my family reunited, and I'm having a hard time getting some cooperation out of them. I have 13- and 5-year-old boys, and 10- and 4-year-old girls. They're a set of characters. What do I have to do to get more harmony and add some self-discipline to my home? I'd like us to grow as a family, because they're intelligent and logical little people. This is really bothering me.
A. You haven't told me what disrupted your family earlier and now brings them together, but uniting a family after separation does require leadership. You may want to begin by thinking of an agenda of priorities such as chores, homework routines, guidelines for privacy and respect, fun times together, etc. Then determine a set time for weekly family meetings, so the children feel like they can be part of solving family issues and own some decision-making. You'll need to be clear about everyone sharing in both responsibilities and respect. Hopefully, you'll be able to help your children to understand that positive consequences, like having fun together or allowances, arrive when everyone cooperates, and negative consequences occur when children aren't responsible. I think you'll find my award-winning parenting book, "How to Parent So Children Will Learn," (Great Potential Press, 2008), very helpful in bringing your children together and blending their needs, their personalities and their love.
For a free newsletter about How to Parent So Children Will Learn, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or go to www.seejanewin.com for more information.
Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.