"There are no argumentative children; only adults who argue with children."

6th Grade Boy Has Problem to Solve

Question

My 6th-grade child has no drive. He is making poor grades, and I think we are caring too much...so he doesn’t have to care. My question is: how do we make HIM care?!

Answer

I could not agree with you more that "you (his parents) are caring too much....so he doesn't have to care." All relationships have conflict, and the sooner we realize that we are the only person we can change, the better for all involved. Here's a little twist on the "Serenity Prayer" (for those in Recovery): "God grant me the serenity to accept that I cannot change others. The courage to change the only person I can. And the wisdom to know that person is me." I can assure you that until his poor grades, lack of motivation, etc... become a problem for him nothing will change. So the question is how do you make it a problem for him? A good place to start would be with his current school performance, or should I say his lack of one. With the school year quickly coming to an end, it's important to get his attention now. The next time he is out of the house for an extended period of time you should sterilize his room by removing all of his possessions (toys, electronic devices, etc..), leaving only essential furniture and clothes. When he returns home and inevitably goes ballistic, calmly say he has until the end of the school year to take care of his "school performance problem", so the "ball" is now in his court. Let him know that you will talk with his teacher/teachers on or near the last day to determine whether they have witnessed a major change in attitude and effort. From a previous question, I saw that you were recommended "The Well Behaved Child." John mentions this approach and goes into greater detail (Kicking out of the Garden) on pages 101-104.

Most children - and many adults for that matter - do not realize it is far better to "act" our way into a feeling, as opposed to "feel" our way into an action. If we all waited until we felt like taking care of our chores, work/school responsibilities, etc... quite often nothing would ever get done. As a long time basketball coach I would always stress to my players that they should never be proud of their abilities, but thankful to God, since they are a gift. Effort, on the other hand, is what we control, and those who give great effort can always be proud of that. As your son owns the problem and takes the steps to solve it his feelings/attitude will change for the better. It is always the person in pain who has the greatest motivation to change. I would also recommend you pick up a copy of John's "Teen-Proofing", a great resource for the years ahead.

Hang in there and let us know how it goes.

David Martin
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach
57djmartin@gmail.com

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