Tell Me About It: Mom is frustrated by teen’s dislike of academics

Published September 14 2018

Q: I have a 15-year-old son who is obviously bright but hates school. My husband and I canít helicopter him to success because (a) we donít want to be helicopter parents, and (b) he has developed ninja-like skills when it comes to evading any attempts by us to monitor schoolwork and homework.

While we believe "actions have consequences" is the best motivational tool ó heís an athlete ó it is demoralizing to watch him be OK with just skating by. Heís smart but assumes everything school-related will suck. He has been screened for depression and learning disabilities, and falls in the gray area for both. Up until last year he saw a psychologist and a tutor regularly but stopped seeing them because he resented both, and it just seemed like a waste of time.

And for what itís worth, his grades and behavior are right where they have been for the past three years.

Weíve told him weíll pay for whatever help he needs, but he has to tell us that he wants it and will value it. I guess Iím OK with the steps weíre taking, but how do I get over my disappointment that he isnít curious about learning?


A: Following the path you lay out for him could be the reason he misses his opportunity to figure out who he is, what he cares about, what heís good at, what his purpose in life is, and what vocations/avocations make best use of these talents and interests.

So please widen your perspective as you watch him grow. Thatís the best remedy I know for disappointment ó being open to the beauty of what you have.

This age happens to be a really good time to diversify how he spends his time, too, and contributes to your family.

What if heíd rather work with his hands? What if he likes to cook? Fix things? Garden?

Vary his chores and see.

Beyond these household expectations, though -- which every healthy kid should be expected to meet anyway -- it might help also to accept that youíve made your point. Points. And to get him where he is, youíve done some dragging, which sometimes canít be avoided.

But to drag someone along you have to be out front, and there comes a time when you just canít be out front anymore. You have to step aside and see where he takes himself ó supervising closely, of course, but more in a catch-when-falling role where before you were inclined to push. This isnít only about your son and his specific ways of going through school. Itís part of the natural evolution of your role as a parent ó the scary part when you start to let go and see whether you gave him what he needed.