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Academic Underachiever

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I am a concerned Nana, my grandson is having problems in school. He is very social and well liked by peers and adults. He is very athletic and loves physical activities. He is 13 and in the eighth grade. Our problem: he does not do well in school. He does not complete his work or turn it in. He is not interested in studies at all. He does not have good work habits and therefore takes longer to do his work when he does do it. This is not a new problem. He has been this way throughout his school career. We have talked to teachers, had him tested, etc. The only things we have not done are therapy (which my daugther is totally against),and tutoring in skill of learning. I see it has a motivational problem. He needs to get excited about learning. His parents (stepfather and mother) are only concerned when the bad grade appears. They do not get involved except for help in doing the homework and sometimes they are just doing it for him. I also have been quilty of this. What can we do for this boy. I need help and resources here in the Redlands, California area. He also wanders when you talk to him. I hope I am stating this clearly enough to paint the picture of this very delightful boy. He will be entering high school next year totally unprepared to meet the tasks ahead. Please help.

A: I can feel your love and concern for your grandson. I wonder if part of his problem is that he has never come to "own" this as his problem, given his parents seem to get involved only when they see the results (his grades) of his academic difficulties and given that they (and you) have continued to rescue him by doing his homework for him. Why should he put out great effort doing something he doesn't like (he's hardly alone there) if his folks are not that involved in his education and he keeps getting promoted.

You're in a delicate position. I'm sure you don't want to overstep your boundaries by telling your daughter they should be more concerned about his lack of study skills and motivation to learn. Despite your daughter's reluctance to his seeing a therapist, I think he should be given an opportunity to select a therapist he likes to help him map out a plan for success. This help is not because they are unable to parent him; this is help because they agree that business as usual cannot continue for their son as it applies to school performance. Expect defensiveness, denial and perhaps anger from your grandson and his parents. I hope they can be convinced to give counseling a try so he can build up a trusting relationship with someone who can understand and support him in an area where everyone has come to expect the worst from him. Good luck.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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