Dear Dr. Fournier:
We have a wonderful teenage son, except when it comes to homework. He does what we ask of him, especially regarding chores at home, except when it comes to homework.
For the past four years, he has given us nothing but grief about homework. Next year, he will be in the 9th grade and taking courses he will need for graduation and to get into college. I’m very worried about this.
Of course, he got more than one D and this blew up in our face because he ended up loving summer school. Wait until you read this next line. He is determined to go to law school and become a judge!
He has no clue what that will take regarding his studies. Even worse, here we are, right where we were last year and he’s still not handing in homework. I’m not asking for straight A’s. B’s and C’s would be nice, yet I see nothing but failure or continuing with barely passing grades if he keeps walking on this path. What should we do about this?
The key lies not in your frustration or your numerous attempts to help your son, but in the statement that your son believes his home time should be his to do with as he pleases.
This is not a simple case of rebellion, but it is a situation where a child is defying control by an authority, in this case school, not parents.
Consider that school is an environment in which control belongs to an authority figure, not your son. Most children cope by being respectful and responsible in order to gain teacher acceptance. Your child, however, has figured out just how much he must do within the system to survive.
During school hours, he works hard enough to compensate for zeroes on homework, earning a D average and avoiding failure. At home, he rebels against school-imposed controls, such as homework, without realizing he also is defying your authority as parents.
Your son believes he is gaining some control over his life, but he is actually losing control in the long run.
WHAT TO DO
Legitimizing the authority’s (school, teachers) control over him can have both positive and negative consequences. As your son continues to exercise control over his life, he needs to focus on positive, goal-oriented directions.
Wanting to be a judge couldn’t suit your son better. Use that as a positive, not a negative.
First, sit down with him and outline together what it takes to be a judge, starting in high school and continuing through college and law school.
Then, plan a visit to a college with your son. Plan ahead by contacting and setting up a meeting with one of the college’s counselors so that the counselor can detail all the college’s entry requirements to your son.
Next, do the same thing with a law school.
Then, make an appointment to have him visit a judge in your city so that the judge can impress upon him all the work and effort necessary to get to a judicial position, whether elected or appointed.
Next, draw a dartboard with concentric circles. Label the bull’s eye “becoming a judge.” Each line away from the bull’s eye is what your son must do to be in control of his life. Explain that every time he chooses not to do what is required, he chooses to lose control and stay further away from his goal.
The last circle is him at age 25 living at home without a dime in his pocket. When your child sees on paper and understands what it takes to become a judge or any other professional, he will see you placing the dart further and further out. The mantra for him is taking pleasures now are tomorrow’s losses.
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Have a question about education, education-related issues or your child’s schoolwork or homework? Ask Dr. Fournier and look for her answer in this column. E-mail your question or comment to Dr. Yvonne Fournier at [email protected].