Parenting and Schoolwork


My son’s attitude about school is that he only wants to get by with the minimum. He’ll do his homework, and then doesn’t bother to hand it in. His teachers say he’s intelligent, but he’s failing three classes. Last year he had the same problem, failing two classes.


From other statements you have related to me, you are trying to control him. His not doing what you tell him to do gives HIM control. It is his way of exercising power. He won’t change if you keep telling him what to do—if you keep evaluating and advising him.

William Glasser, M.D., in his  book, “UNHAPPY TEENAGERS – A Way for Parents and Teachers to Reach Them” shares a dialog: “What do most people do when you try to control them?”

“They resist.”

“What happens to the relationship between them and the people they are trying to control?”

“It harms it. It’s like a contest. Teenagers do it with parents all the time.” (pp. 106-107)

Your son is doing his homework to get away from coercive nagging. Since the homework is not in his “quality world,” he forgets to bring it to school. Develop a procedure, such as placing a clipboard by the door. He completes a checklist of what he needs for school and places it on the clipboard. No more nagging or reminding—except to ask  him to check the clipboard.

His intelligence may have nothing to do with the “verbal-linguistic” and “logical-mathematical” abilities that most schools rely on for grades. Schools generally test for information and knowledge. They rarely assess comprehension (meanings), application (using what has been learned), analysis (breaking down material so that organizational structure is understood), synthesis (putting parts together—creativeness), or evaluation (judgment).

Assuming that you have checked his hearing and vision and they are normal, encourage him to become aware of inattentiveness in his classes. Have him keep a record for each class by dating a paper and making a mark each time his attention wanders during class time. Keeping a record will help him become aware and focus better. The more attention he pays and the more he participates in his lessons, the more motivated he will become.

Jim Cathcart’s book entitled, “The Acorn Principle,” argues that an acorn is capable of becoming a mighty oak, but it will never become a giant redwood—no matter how much you push it. Jim’s point is to discover your child’s nature and then nurture that nature.

Observe what your son enjoys or believes he is good at. Nurture that interest. Your relations with him will dramatically improve. Also, the most effective way to have discussions with a young lad is for both of you to engage in some physical activity—walking, hiking, play catch, etc. Increase your listening and decrease your telling him what YOU want.

Once he FEELS and BELIEVES that you are more interested in HIM AS A PERSON, instead of his good grades or success in school, you will be amazed at how much academic success he will achieve.

1 Comment
  1. Dr. Marshall has hit a home run with his Parenting book which is winning awards already. I will give it to my grandson, so he can prepare himself for being a parent himself. Since he is only 8, I think I will wait a few years. Seriously, this is a skill that no one learns in school. Kudos to the dedication and commitment of Dr. Marshall for his never ending contributions to touching lives and changing the world in a positive way, one child, one parent, one teacher, one person at a time.