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Concerned about teen son

I HAVE three children aged 15, 13 and nine. The eldest and youngest are doing fine at school. However, I am concerned about my 13-year-old son. Since Year One, he has not been doing well. He is not interested in his studies. He has a lackadaisical attitude towards anything related to studies. He also has poor personal hygiene.

He does not show any concern at all, even when sitting for his exams. He just takes the days when he has exams like any normal day. He prefers to while away his time on other things, rather than revise his schoolwork.

He expects us to give him all the answers. Every time his father and I coach him, we are the ones doing all the talking; he maintains a silence throughout.

He refuses to think or put more effort in his studies. He has poor power of recall and cannot remember much of what has been taught. And, he gives up easily.

When I asked him what he wants to be when he grows up, he replied that he wants to be a teacher. There were times, too, when he asked his school friends for money and got into trouble.

I have noticed he likes to pretend to be a teacher. He would pretend to teach using the white board, when he’s in his room. He also likes to play computer games. He’s very good at helping out with household chores. He does these voluntarily and without hesitation. He will help to conserve energy at home when no one is in the room, help to lay the table for dinner and get it ready, and help the maid with the dirty laundry. He is also observant, inquisitive and has a good memory for other things not related to studies.

I am very worried about his future. I have scolded him many times and asked him to change his attitude and show more concern for his studies and personal hygiene.

However, I have yet to see any improvement. I have told him that I foresee a bleak future for him, given the fact that he is not knowledgeable, lazy to think for himself and has a negative attitude.

What can I do to motivate him to do better in his studies and show an interest in personal hygiene?

Worried Mum

Your middle child, at 13 years old, has been looked upon as the “black sheep” of the family. Compared to his older sister and younger brother, he appears to be an under-achiever. It must be hard for him to feel motivated when he is often regarded as the one who is not doing enough in the family.

I am glad you notice that he is good with chores and is helpful. His strengths, which you have highlighted, should be the starting point for you to work with in order to motivate him to change his negative ways. He has probably tuned out to all that talk about his negative behaviour and lack of interest in his studies.

Your son is now entering the teenage years. He is at the age when he has more questions than answers. Your son is at a vulnerable age. He is undergoing tremendous changes in all aspects of his life – physically, emotionally, socially, cognitively and spiritually. Parents must learn to deal with the changes in their children’s development and help them to face the challenges in positive ways.

If you want to motivate him to learn, make the subject exciting. Take the lessons out of the classroom and make them come alive for him. Instead of the drill and grill style of teaching, help him to embark on a journey of discovery. Lead him on to discover interesting facts and experiences. Make the school lessons part of his practical living.

As for the lack of interest in his personal hygiene, you may want to point out to him the pros and cons of keeping clean. No one likes to be near someone who smells or looks like he has not washed for ages. Make a list of self-grooming tips and ideas on how to take care of personal hygiene. Show him the list and tell him that you trust he will practise good personal hygiene because he wants positive attention from his friends.

The best thing you can do for your son is to give him wings and roots. He wants to feel independent and be in control of certain aspects of his life. If you are constantly telling him what to do and scolding him for not doing what you have asked of him, he will not be able to learn to make his own decisions and set goals for the future.

Set aside time and effort to listen to what your 13-year-old likes and talk about his interests. You will gain far more when you start focusing on what he is good at, rather than what he is not doing well in.

Your son needs practice in making judgments on his own and he needs you to listen to him and support him. This is how he can use his intelligence and put it into action


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