Honors Student Loses His Love for Learning

Question: School has been very easy for my son, who has an IQ of 140. He is now in eighth-grade honors classes. On his first report card, he had all A grades. Now he is becoming bored with school, no longer studying for tests, doing all of his work at the last minute, watching more television and making excuses not to go to school. His grades are slipping.

On a recent history test, my son got a B without studying. I pointed out that with some effort he could have done better. He tells me to get off his back. How can I help my child become more interested in doing his best at school? - Slipping Grades

Answer: Apparently, something has happened recently to dampen your son's enthusiasm for doing well in school. Have things changed at home? Has his social life suddenly become more important than academics? This is not unusual at his age. Has he found new friends with different values? Why doesn't he want to go to school? Is he depressed? Depression can account for lack of motivation. Or is the curriculum a terrible fit for his abilities and is truly boring? If you can't figure out why your son's attitude toward doing his schoolwork has changed, enlist the help of his teachers or a counselor.

Nagging is decidedly not the answer, for it is rarely successful in motivating children to do better in school. At the same time, you don't want your child to get in the habit of goofing off and not doing routine work. Such habits will not serve him well in the future, whether in high school or the workplace. Here are some things that might help turn this situation around:

  • Tell your son very clearly that not doing his schoolwork is unacceptable. He needs to understand your views on the subject.
  • Insist that there will be no television until he has spent 60 minutes doing schoolwork on school days at a place where you can see he is working. If he has no schoolwork, he can simply read, go over notes or review for the next day.
  • Ask his teachers to give him more-challenging assignments.
  • Try to expand at home on what he is learning at school.
  • Stress a love of learning rather than straight-A grades.
  • Encourage him to set goals that will reignite his fire to do well in school.
  • Taking him to visit college campuses might serve to increase his interest in school.