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My son, who is eleven and in the 6th grade, recently brought home a report card of all f's and one c. This is normal for him. How can I find out what is at the root of the problem and encourage him to succeed in school?


Deborah Maragopoulos Replied: First sit down with your son and have a frank discussion. Begin with gratitude for him as your son, naming his strengths, then ask how he feels about his grades. Is there anything troubling him at school, at home, during extracurricular activities? If you determine this is an issue of motivation then perhaps he needs some real life examples of how doing well in school will increase his opportunities later. Who does he look up to? Use these people as examples. If he does well in other areas of his life—sports, scouts, socially—then investigate issues with learning. Rule out traditional learning disabilities as well as auditory and visual perception problems. Some bright children do not do well in traditional academic settings. The physics genius Albert Einstein struggled in school. Find your son's strengths and help him use these to his benefit.
Posted On 2008-03-05 10:50:29
Janet Fox Replied: It sounds like your son needs help from you in concert with his teachers. I commend you for wanting to help him succeed! These are not normal grades for sixth grade, and may be a result of a number of issues that should be addressed. Luckily, your son is still young enough that action now can make a significant difference; I wouldn't wait until high school. First, I would consult with the school and his teachers to hear their feedback. Often, experienced teachers can spot learning difficulties, although they cannot make a diagnosis. The school would certainly notice any behavior issues that might be affecting his grades. Second, I would make an appointment with his pediatrician, and have a frank discussion about possible learning differences and how they can be diagnosed and addressed. Your son may need further assessment from a psychologist. Once you've received feedback from the school and his doctor, you'll be able to find a wealth of resources on line to educate yourself about how you can best help him. Whatever the result, don't worry - there's lots of support and information for you and for him, and there's nothing to fear from having a learning difference. My own son has struggled for years with learning difficulties but his grades are now excellent, and he's a happy high school kid.
Posted On 2008-02-25 17:17:34
Gary Pritchard Replied: At this point I can imagine how much you want to see your son succeed at school. Without knowing how long this pattern has been going on, and not knowing if there is a learning disability, and not knowing what kind of consultation you have done with teachers and guidance professionals at your son's school, it is difficult to know exactly what to suggest. Some of my thoughts: • 1. Self-esteem? How is your son's self-esteem? Has he started to believe that he is not good in academics? Is he a happy kid outside of school? Is there something outside of school your son does well in? This leads me to my next thought. • 2. Ability vs. strategy? Contrary to what your son and others may think, it's not a matter of whether he is good in school. He has all the ability to become a successful student and he needs to understand, with your help and encouragement, that it is not his ability that is lacking, but his strategy. Teachers and other students have been successful in school and "success leaves clues." By finding out what other people are doing to be successful, he will be also. But, • 3. Is he ready and willing to take action? There is an old saying, "When a student is ready, the teacher will appear." For you to have infinite patience and not give up hope is key. At some point your son will realize that school is important and accept what he needs to do and take action. If your son is willing to work at it, with your encouragement, try… • 4. "STOP, START, CONTINUE." Here's how STOP, START and CONTINUE works. If your son approached his learning and you empower him to make these choices, ask him what is it that he thinks he should START doing, what is it that he might STOP doing that is not working, and what does he want to CONTINUE to work on because it is successful. • Try to catch him doing good things and reinforce as much positive vs. negative. Hope this is a help!
Posted On 2008-01-16 10:38:10
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