I am a father who is having big difficulties getting my son to have anything to do with school.
About 1 yr ago my son has come to live with me, as his mother and step father were having a hard time to get him to do anything academically. Since he started living with me, we had our ups and downs, trying to get him to do school work. He ended up getting pushed through grade 8 with a 35-40% grade average in every subject. We were told that making him repeat grade 8 might be emotionally crippling. The teachers suggested we get him tested for a learning disability, which we agreed to. After all the tests were done, they pointed toward weaknesses in the ability of attention, and stress modifiers. But they suggested we see a psychologist, which could then analyze him to see if a psychiatrist is needed.
After his appointment with the psychologist, which took 4 months to see, she referred him to see a psychiatrist, which he has been put on a 6-8 month waiting list.
Now we are 3 months into grade 9 he started off the first week, in a modified class of 20 students which also have similiar needs. He seems to work better when he is doing 1 on 1 studies with a teacher, but slips the moment that teacher goes to help someone else. He has always had a poor attitude toward schooling and, more often than not, would rather a)disrupt others in class, b)disrupt the entire class any time teacher leaves the room, c)irritate the teacher until he is asked to sit in the hallway for a cool off. Which he then immediately takes off to find others to hang out with on or off school property.
When he is escorted to the principals office he sits at a desk and does some school work, but gets frustrated easily, then waits for the period to end and starts over same routine for next class.
He constantly comes to class bare handed because he leaves his school supplies either at home or in his locker in school and tells the teacher he doesnt have any school supplies. He has been known to give away his pens, pencils to others, thinking if he doesnt have the supplies, he wont have to do the work. Last year we bought 3 replacement textbooks (at $50 per) for various classes as he lost the others.
The above is when he goes to school.
Now first its roughly 3-4 times a week he goes to school. The rest of the time if he decides he is "not in the mood" for school, he either waits for both myself and my common-law wife to leave for work, then he either goes to school via the bus, then just turns around and leaves to do whatever he feels, plays sick, or just outright refuses to leave the house in the first place.
We have asked him many times if he is having problems with bullies, feels picked on or any other reason why he hates school so much, but he wont open up to us or just says he hates school with a passion, and that its a waste of time, and would like to go to work instead.
He also is often seen with other "problem teens" at school, skipping out, and as of lately has experimented with marijuana. In which he was found passed out on the boys bathroom floor.
I fear, that waiting for the visiting psychiatrist in another 5 months, it might be too late.
He has no interest in taking any responsibilty for his actions, and thinks we are over reacting about stressing to him he has to think about his future.
I am desperately trying to find a solution to my problem and he is close to getting kicked of school as all of his teachers dont want to deal with him any longer. They have all tried modified teaching methods with him and no matter what they do, the results are the same.
Both myself and my spouse need to work so we can provide a comfortable life, so home schooling isnt an option. I spend lots of 1-1 time with him at home during the evenings. He is a good person, easy to talk to and we have fun.
We have tried the reward system for doing better in school, like internet and friend sleep-overs if he goes to school every day and keeping teachers at least moderately happy, but he does what he wants regardless what we offer him.
When we take away internet/ps3 privileges away, he becomes even worse at school. He says when we take everything away he gets in a bad mood, and rages inside and just shuts down completely.
I have thought about teen boot camp and/or Military school, but wanna use as last resort as I am unsure if he would run away before we could get him there.
Please help with any ideas, any/all comments would be greatly appreciated.
So it seems as though ALL of the adults in his life have had a problem getting him to do what he needs to do. Whose choice was it to have him move? Knowing that Mom had a problem getting him to go to school, how did you plan to change that? Do you/does he know that you can get into hot water for his truancy? Does he care?
Have you looked for a different psych that can see him sooner?
He isn't motivated at school and neither rewards nor punishments are having any effect. It sounds like he's frustrated and he's reacting in a way that gives him some control over his life."Forgetting" school supplies, disrupting class and truancy are all signs that he's trying to retain some autonomy but unfortunately, he's going about it an inappropriate and unacceptable way. While he's been trying to hold onto some control, he's become locked into a lot of negativity. You mention his poor attitude about school but it may help to consider everyone's attitudes - his, yours and the school's - and try to re-set a more positive tone.
It is important to figure out if there are underlying learning issues or anxiety or other problems and deal with them. Rewards and punishments won't have much effect if he is dealing with cognitive or psychological issues. Until you can access some professional help to sort this out, it might be helpful to work on areas that allow his normal drive for autonomy to be developed. Perhaps start with handing over some control to him in his daily life at home in areas of clothing, bedtime routines, and chores, if you haven't done this already, along with some discussions about trust and responsibility and co-operation and respect between family members.
Let him talk more about his vision about his school path and his desire to go to work and keep an open, sympathetic attitude while you listen. How does he see that happening? Since he thinks school is a waste of time, what would help make it more meaningful to him? Rather than looking for something like rigid and authoritarian like boot camp, perhaps your school district offers programs that allow him to develop a more individualized program of studies or co-op programs or something along those lines.
Is there anything aside from school in his life that provides a meaningful purpose and engages him? Extra-curriculars like sports or music or art or community involvement in volunteer programs? Something that would allow him to build skills in persistence, planning and organization and provide some much needed positive reinforcement? Anywhere that will help him alter the negative flow into something more positive. It will help take the emphasis away from outcome of grades and other school achievements and put it on the process of developing mature, responsible behaviour, which is what it sounds like he needs right now.
The issue i have in regards to seeking help with our psychologist is we live in northern British Columbia. population 20,000 on average. We only have 1 Psychologist in town and she is overloaded with clients. The Psychiatrist that we are booked with is the only 1 in the area that specializes with pre-teens and teens and he lives in a small city approx 5 hr drive away, is overloaded himself , and he comes and makes the rounds twice a year to all the neighboring towns and cities. Of course, the meetings are set in accordance to seriousness of the teens issues, and up until recently my son has just been of medium seriousness compared to the others needing help.
as far as attitude of the parents/adults around him, his mother who had custody of him from 3-13yrs old. She always had the mind set of this is my baby and he can get what he wants.(at least thats how i perceived his upbringing) He got his mom to cut his pancakes, etc until 13. She never really stressed how important school was for him and believed the reason he was not getting good grades and got in trouble, had something to do with his teachers.
He came to live with me because he would tell us whenever he was at home all his mom and step dad would do when he was in trouble was to be grounded and sent to his room. then he would tell us his step dad would get violent and slap him around grab him roughly and chucked in his room. I tried to have a conversation with both his mom and his step dad over the phone, as i was out of town at the time, to ask them if the rumours were true or not. His step dad freaked out and threatened me, saying if only i would come over to his place and we would settle this outside. i tried to explain that all i wanted to know is if there was any truth to my sons accusations, and he just kept ranting.
The final night, my son phoned me roughly 2 months later saying he was running away from home and wanted to live with me, as his step dad grabbed him by the throat and slammed him against the wall, then back handed him, because he was arguing with his mom and swore at her. I went and picked him up at his school immediately after, and had a long talk to make sure he wasnt just making some of it up. then i called the police to investigate the matter, and the long and short of the story is the police sided more with the step dad then my son and the step dad said my son was no longer welcome in his home.
Both myself and my common-law wife have always stressed that school is the 1 main thing he needs to concentrate on now and he would have a safe home to come home to after school. We have had many talks over the last year, and although i know he is listening to what we say he chooses to do nothing to help himself out.
Today I had full intention of kicking him out of my house as despite my stressing that he goes to school today the moment both of us headed to work he suddenly got a stoumach ache and chose to stay home from school. After a long talk he convinced me that he is going to pick up his socks in school, I then booked tomorrow off work to take him to school, gather all his late and current assignments and he is to do them at home under my supervision, we will also get all his supplies together to see what he needs to start fresh monday morning. I made it clear to him that this is his last chance and he must bring homework home each night unless he brings a teachers note saying he did not have any for that subject, and he must not stay home or skip classes unless it is cleared by us before we leave for work in the morning. H eunderstands my terms and accepts them, that is the only thing that stopped me from kicking him out.
We have also encouraged him in getting into sports or martial arts and we gathered info for all the sports and martial arts classes, but he never took interest in going to any of them so never enrolled him in any as most of the classes or sports events start before either of us get home from work, and we know he wouldnt bother going to anything anyway as ps3 and computer are usually more important than anything else in his life right now.
I have worked with many students like this over the years. Being disengaged with school is incredibly common at this age, actually. Sometimes it has to do with things like learning disabilities, but often it's something else. He sounds really disengaged, so it sounds like you really need to find out what he is interested in, and pursue that angle. You might also want to look into tutoring--sometimes it really helps to have a third party (that's not the parent or the teacher) who can help him stay on top of things.
Since he's very young still, you may be able to turn it around. If not, you may want to look into alternative education options. Sometimes that's a better way to go.
Good luck, this is a very difficult age!