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Teen Won't Put in Effort at School

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

Q: No matter what we do, we can't seem to motivate our 15-year-old daughter to try in school. She received 3 F's on her last report card. Her teachers say she doesn't turn in her assignments. Neither of us understands why she refuses to put any effort into school. When we ask her, we just get a blank stare or a lie. What can we do?

A: I'd like to know if there have been any other observable changes in your daughter's everyday pattern of living -- physical changes; long uninterrupted depressed periods; significant changes in hygiene; how she presents herself physically; changes in friends and how much of a social life she is leading; or a breakup with a boyfriend. There are so many things going on in the mind and body of a 15 year-old girl, all of them INTENSE!!! Does she usually confide in you or tell you what's going on in her life? Has something distressing happened in the family or to someone close to her that could be saddening, worrying, or preoccupying her? Has she done poorly in school for a while or is this report card a real shock? I would ask yourself these questions and then see a good family therapist who deals often with kids this age; both of you should go, not your daughter. Formulate an action plan with this therapist and meanwhile, don't express anger or shame at your daughter's academic failure. She is definitely communicating something to you that she can't presently say directly to you. You can tell her you are sorry she doesn't feel like trying in school right now and that you are going to try to help her make her life feel happier and more worthwhile. Express your love for her and make that appointment. Good luck folks. I'm sure some understanding is on the way.

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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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