Our recently-turned 11-year-old boy is really hating school this year. He seems to think he knows what he needs to learn for his future and the rest is a waste of his time. He is a very bright boy, and we more than suspect he is very bored at school. We have chatted with his teacher but he has not responded to being further challenged. He sees it as more work. There have been days we can barely get him out of bed. He always seems fine at the end of the day. However, trying to get him to always do his best on anything he works at is proving very difficult, yet is a value we would like to instill. Is it too late? Should we say life is not always fun and entertaining but you still need to do your best? (we have said that actually) Any suggestions?
Alas, this is one of the consequences when children have not been parented by leaders and take the lead themselves. Bored is an interesting word and sounds like an excuse for your son’s grandiose belief that he is an expert on everything he thinks he should learn. It is only natural to want the best for our children, and I will bet you have written that script. Unfortunately, it will never play out unless it becomes your son’s script. The biggest challenge is to realize that whatever your son is producing is his best at this time.
To start, please refrain from preaching, discussing, cajoling, and coaching your son about your problems with his behavior. He already knows what he is doing – just enough to get by. The key is to conduct yourself in such a way that he cannot predict what you are going to do, which requires that you gain an alternative view of you as the parent. Re-read the first part of “The Well Behaved Child” until you fully understand the concepts presented. Focus on your view of parenting and how the emotionality you show really disables your effectiveness. After you master this, you will be able to present a new view to your son instead of trying to parent by some formula you do not understand.
Next, you might let your son fail at school, hold him back a grade until he gets it and can take responsibility for his actions. Meanwhile, strip his room of anything, which carries entertainment value (which will probably cause him to be even more bored). When you start acting like a leader, the troops will probably rebel, however, in the end, there will be no choice but to conform.
Gretchen Slover, Psy.D., LMFT
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