Two Sons Refuse to Do Their Schoolwork

Question: Our boys, who will soon be 12 and 14, refuse to do their schoolwork. This has been an ongoing issue with the 14-year-old, and it just started with his younger brother. This is causing their grades to be D's and F's. We are in constant communication with their teachers, all their privileges have been taken away, and everything has failed. When the boys do their work at home, we check it and help them organize it, but they either lose the work or forget to turn it in. They would rather play than work. The oldest boy says that he just doesn't want to do his work, so he doesn't. How can we turn things around? - Desperate

Answer: Check with teachers and counselors to make sure that learning problems are not the main reasons for your children's attitudes toward schoolwork. Also, find out what grades you should realistically expect from your sons.

One reason your efforts might have failed is because you have given up too soon. It can take months to change a behavior. Here is an approach that you should try: Have a family meeting with your children, and give them the responsibility of doing their schoolwork without any parental reminders or help.

Your children need to learn that their actions have consequences, just as all adult actions have, from failing to pay a bill to being late for work. Explain to them that you will contact their schools each Friday to find out what their grades are in four basic subjects. Most schools are willing to give parents this help. If your sons do not meet your stated expectations, like all C's, their privileges for the weekend will be gone. This could mean no friends, television, computers, sports or movies. On Monday, they will have a new chance to earn their typical privileges for the next weekend.

The problems you are describing might be an issue of control within your family. While you are concentrating on getting your sons to do their schoolwork, back off of confrontations over other problems, like messy rooms. It is possible that your family might need counseling to get back on track.