The following situation happens every day in homes across the country: Parents get a call from their son’s teacher reporting that their boy is not doing the work in their class and has started to fail. Bewildered parents react with frustration and confusion as to what to do next to help their son.
If this situation sounds familiar, you are one of many parents facing similar situations. The gender gap is only widening among college graduates. Just 5 years ago, almost 40% of graduates were men, while 40 years ago, this number was about 60%. This isn’t an anomaly, either, as women tend to outperform their male counterparts in all levels of school all the way through graduate studies.
What’s at the Root of the Issue?
Your son might be having a hard time for any of the following reasons:
- He is genuinely doing the best he can. There is a chance that he is in a highly competitive environment and just can’t keep up.
- He could have a learning disorder. Dyslexia, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, attention-deficit hyperactive disorder, auditory processing disorder and a host of other issues might affect his performance in the classroom.
- He is focused on doing just the bare minimum. He is focused on other things — a part-time job, sports, socializing, girls, etc. He doesn’t understand the value of education as it pertains to the rest of his life.
- He struggles with the psychological pressures of school, including teachers, homework, testing grades and more.
- He is just not interested, for a number of reasons. These might include musical or sports interests, entrepreneurship, jobs and other pursuits. School just can’t hold his attention.
What Can Schools Do To Help?
- Reinstate recess – Boys need exercise, but free time continues to decline across the nation. This decrease in recreational time leads boys to become restless and suffer academically.
- Encourage boys to read — Girls tend to read better than boys. Additional motivation for boys to read will help them academically.
- Nurture his creativity — Art, writing, music, building, crafts and other creative ventures will help improve his academic abilities.
How Can You Help Get Your Son On Track?
Here are some ideas for parents to help their teenage son succeed in school:
- Work with him on organization skills. Boys, in general, do not multitask as well as girls. Teach your son how to organize and schedule assignments, whether electronically or otherwise. Providing him with a quiet area free of distractions can also foster improved organization.
- Remember that he is still young. Placing reasonable expectations on your son can go a long way. You can’t expect him to act like an adult when he isn’t. It is important to hold him to standards, just make sure they are appropriate for his stage of emotional and mental development.
- Let him be an individual. He needs to be allowed to fail, as well as succeed. You won’t always be there to guide and protect him, so focus on building his self-esteem and his ability to differentiate right from wrong on his own.
- Keep a positive attitude. Look for ways to encourage your son, rather than punish him. By providing your son with incentives for success instead of constantly constricting him with rules and punishments, he will grow much more quickly.
- Look for opportunities to reward him. Positive motivation encourages young men to succeed. While creating this reward system, make sure to set up doable goals. Consider his efforts in addition to what he accomplishes. If he is doing his classwork, but his grades don’t improve much, take that into consideration. You can even set up various levels of reward, so that his efforts don’t go unnoticed.
- Get involved. Focus on your relationship with your son. Keep a close connection with him and look at the areas where he excels. Whatever it is that your son does well, make sure that he knows you see the good things in him.
- Encourage him instead of punishing him. If his grades begin to slip, you don’t always have to immediately impose restrictions or take away privileges. Your son probably already feels embarrassed, so you don’t need to add to the situation. Instead, try to get to the core of the issue. Consider the amount of screen time, including playing video games; how much sleep he is getting; eating habits; overall study habits; or other relevant issues. Then, take appropriate action, such as reducing screen time so that he can finish his school work. Figure out what he has to do to improve his grades and meet his goals. Stay in touch with his teacher to ensure that he achieves these.
- Be willing to compromise. Parenting is not always a one-way street. Your son needs to learn how to negotiate, not only in his relationship with you, but in life. Involve him in decisions. For example, ask what he thinks might help him do better. If he has a hard time coming up with solutions, bounce some ideas off of him. Ask his opinion about these ideas. When your son feels like he is a part of the decision-making process, he will be more likely to follow through with it.
- Get the opinion of his instructors. At the high school level, you might not have many parent-teacher conferences. However, consider them a resource whose goal is to help your student succeed and successfully complete high school. Ask the teacher’s advice about the situation and listen to his or her opinion. You can always try to work together with educational professionals. Oftentimes, you will find them to be surprisingly amenable to your input, as parent.
- Consider tutoring. Some schools offer before or after school tutoring services. If yours does not, consider the following sources: a college student, a teacher, either at your school or at another school, someone found through an online ad or a professional tutoring service.
- Reassess the situation. The solution that you have worked out might only need to be in place for two to four weeks. Don’t consider it a permanent fix. Instead, monitor his progress and make adjustments as needed.
- Allow your son to grow and mature and work through the problem. His continued involvement will help him become part of the solution.