30 Sep
My Teen Doesn’t Care About School So I’m Going Bald

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

My son is in the 8th grade and is generally a good kid, however he has become mouthy. Nothing too bad (no cussing or nasty things), but he is condescending to both his father and me. Already this school year we have been fighting about homework and that’s when he gets mouthy.

He could care less about homework or doing well in school. I am pulling my hair out because I can’t make him care. I have hired a tutor and tried taking away privileges. His homework is posted online so I check to see what needs to be done. I remind and encourage him to do his work, which I know is the reason he won’t take responsibility for his own work.

I worry that he will end up failing this year because I am not “supporting” him. I never do his homework for him, I only check to see what needs to be done and remind him on a daily basis. I feel like he is barely staying afloat and I am his life preserver. If I take the preserver off, he will surely drown. Please help!

Harried by Homework


Dear Harried,

From what I hear teenagers suck, so the sooner we accept that the faster serenity will come, especially if serenity comes in a martini glass, which for me it does. But even if they suck, we still love them and want the best for them.

I know the media likes to blame the advent of helicopter parenting on our insecure egos, but between you and me, I like to blame school technology.   Do I really need an email every time my 4th grader takes an Accelerated Reader test? I have to wonder whether all of the internet checks and balances promotes too much mommy involvement and hampers life’s lessons in personal responsibility.

Your son is in 8th grade now. Sure, ask if he’s finished his homework, but perhaps it’s time to stop tracking his assignments so closely.   If you don’t believe your son is capable of learning responsibility, how will he believe in himself?

Assuming you’ve ruled out any learning disabilities, your son has probably reached an age where it’s time to let go a little more. Now, I’m not too sure about a “sink or swim” approach. I think I’d lean more towards a “do well in school or face castration!” approach. That usually scares teenage boys into submission, especially if you whisper words such as “eunuch” to him while he sleeps.

If that approach seems a bit extreme to you, I guess you could do something very sensible, like a mature conversation about the importance of education, defining your expectations (Are Cs acceptable, nothing below a B?), how you’re willing to help him and how you’re not, and consequences for irresponsible, dunce-y behavior. And let’s not forget an enticing reward for success, such as keeping his testicles!

This whole parenting thing is tough, which is why I’m convinced God gave us alcohol. I hope I’ve given you some ideas of what to do, or at the very least prevented any further bald patches on your gorgeous head.

Heather, TMH

26 Responses to “My Teen Doesn’t Care About School So I’m Going Bald”


Comment by Nicole.

My kid is only 2, but I do remember being a teenager and I’m with Heather on this. Back off, tell him your expectations and the consequences for not doing his homework, etc. and if he doesn’t meet your expectations in behavior, grades, etc. THEN start punishing by making him suffer the consequences you set forth when you told him your expectations. You HAVE to follow through though. Also consider some positive reinforcement by rewarding him if he does well and what you ask of him. I find in life something positive is a far greater motivator than just offering up a negative consequence.


Comment by Vodka Tonic.

I’ve been teaching now for 13 years. I see this a lot. I love parent-teacher conferences with kids like these. This is what I always say to the parents:

I cringed when I read, “I *tried* taking away privileges.” What is this “try” look like? What do we mean by privileges?

Remember, you only have the legal responsibility to basically clothe (thrift store?), basically feed (soup kitchen?), and basically shelter (mattress and roof?) your child. Anything else is a “privilege.”

I mean it, go Amish on his ass. Anything that runs on electricity – gone. Fancy shoes – gone. Hanging out with buddies – gone. Replaced with studies and chores. Anything else is a privilege to be earned — when he has done his work, and is pleasant to be around.

Or just let him sink at school, and watch his attitude continue to worsen. Kids that don’t do well in school, don’t feel good about themselves, get in more arguments at home, pull away even more, and triangulate themselves against the rest of the world.

Better to get strict on his ass, and let him discover the joys of television, video games, fun snacks, and new clothes…. all the great things that come to boys who are pleasant to be around and got their work done.

Kids need boundaries and limits, not all sorts of encouragement, tutors, constant reminders, begging and pleading. They thrive on consistent structure, and will learn quite easily with clear, natural consequences.

Ang Reply:

My friends did this with their son. He basically had a mattress on the floor, enough clothes to get through the week (had to do his own laundry), a pair of shoes and a coat. He sulked about it initially, but it worked and his attitude improved 🙂


Comment by Desperate Dietwives.

I think that a nagging behaviour on a parent’s side is the best incentive for a teenager to do the opposite.

Just slacken a bit, leave off the tutor for God’s sake, don’t check his assignments anymore. Talk to him, define your expectations, state punishments if those expectations fail (and then stick to the threat), then let him do his duty.

Ask him at the end of the day if he’s done his homework, and if he says yes believe him, without checking. Let him be responsible for his own behaviour and occasionally (not always!) gratify him for some very good results.

And believe me: school failures affect him much more than he lets on.

Good luck. 🙂


Comment by Plano Mom.

I’m not sure I understand why failure is such an impossible option. This is 8th grade, his GPA doesn’t even count toward college apps for another year.

My daughter’s freshman year of high school, her Math teacher, for one semester, told them that homework was optional, they could choose to simply take the exams and use that as their grade. She, as many students, failed miserably that semester. Many parents were unhappy – I was delighted. I would much rather my daughter learn that hard lesson in High School than in college where I have to pay for that failing grade.

Let him “fail” now, when there is still time to learn these lessons without long-term consequences for his future.

JubanMama Reply:

“I would much rather my daughter learn that hard lesson in High School than in college where I have to pay for that failing grade.”

I like the way you think, Piano Mom.

*golf clap*


Comment by StephanieG.

You guys are all so much smarter than I am. I’m thinking about what I will do with my 6-year old when the time comes, as I believe it will. I have filed all of your suggestions under “to do someday!”


Comment by Momof4Luds.

I recommend time travel. Send him 10 years into the future so his 23-year-old self can tell him, Mom is right about this and I should have listened. My college-age sons have actually said this to me. While it does warm the corners of my heart, I would much rather have had them experience the success I was trying to have them achieve back then.


Comment by dusty earth mother.

My daughter is a teenager in a 6 year old’s body so I’m taking all of this to heart. I agree, consequences is the way. If taking away TV doesn’t work, pay a visit to the local fast food restaurant and show him some 40-year old in a hairnet cleaning out the grease trap.


Comment by Jaci.

Maybe it’s time to get him to see the bigger picture: COLLEGE!

By 8th grade, school feels like a prison sentence that Mom/Dad/and the state force on your ass everyday. Grades feel meaningless, and WTF is the point of Algebra anyway?

If you can get him to see that 8th grade…and high school…lead to college and FREEDOM and some sort of career it might help. Maybe take him to tour your state’s big university–or the best college in your area. Treat him like an adult and ask him what he thinks–do you want to stay in a dorm? Big school or small school? What do you want to major in? What career are you going for?

It might get his focus onto the bigger life picture and off the annoyance of homework and 8th grade bullshit.


Comment by marathonmom.

“go Amish on his ass”

excellent quote VT~


Comment by hokgardner.

I love the “Go Amish on his ass” quote too.

I went through a spell at school where I didn’t feel like studying or doing homework or anything, and my parents took all sorts of things away. And it didn’t work.

What worked was having my mom finally shrug at my report card and say, “Well, you got the grades you wanted to get.” When I exploded in righteous indignation, she said, “If you had wanted better grades, you would have earned them.”

Ouch. I hated to admit that she was right.

Plano Mom Reply:

Your mom is a very, very wise woman.


Comment by JubanMama.

I don’t have a teenager yet, but I remember being a slacker in high school. My mom got me a math tutor and everything, but guess what? I still failed Algebra 2 in 11th grade and had to go to summer school. The summer before my senior year. When I should have been allowed to be lazy and bored all summer long. Know what sucks when you’re a 17-year old entering senior? Going to school all summer long. For MATH.

If your son is still only in 8th grade, I say let him sink – and do some time in summer school. He’ll never want to repeat that experience again.


Comment by Karin.

okay, I’m a dork and would have LOVED to go to school for math all day everyday but pretty much everything else would be a chore.

My 9 year old daughter is just like me – loves math, loves reading, HATES writing. She will literally do math problems in her head and write the answer down – no work, no set up, just the answer – teachers hate this b/c they can’t guide the student if they don’t know what they did in the first place. She gobbles up books so quick that I refuse to buy her anything hardcover and/or shorter than 300 pages (she has to go to the library for that stuff which we regularly do – she gets 2-3 books a week). But ask her to WRITE a 1 paragraph summary of the book that she can’t stop talking about and she’ll think you are trying to torture her.

I’m thinking that the “you got the grades you wanted to get” might be the best solution for me…


Comment by worried mom.

My 14 year old teenager is driving me crazy, she simply does not care about anything, she is doing really bad in school, we try to talk to her, we tell her that the only responsibility that she has now, is to study, get good grades and to have fun, She does not care at all, we don;t let her make plans on the weekends, we take away stuff from her, we do everything, but she does not care, when we take away her phone, which we beleive is the only thing she cares about, she gets crazy and starts crying and screaming, she does not want to get involved in anything, she prefferes to be at home doing nothing. Help please, she is driving me nuts.


Comment by Kaosdad.

Man, I’m so glad to see I’m not alone. I have a 15yr old boy who just couldn’t possibly care less about school. Drives me nuts, when I went to school, C’s were considered barely acceptable to bad. D’s were just like F’s and F’s were, well, war of worlds time. My son has failed 9th grade English (CA is what they call it) and had to repeat and is failing 9th and 10th grade CA, by a few percentage points (57 and 58 respectively, 60 is needed for a D).

I’ve done the grounding, reducing his privileges and such to no avail. He is passive aggressive, he’ll starve before he admits he’s wrong, he has been in a room with a mattress for weeks, didn’t care. The only thing he cares about is his Tae Kwon Do, and I’ve threatened to remove that if he can’t get those two grades up (and I’m ignoring several other bad grades as well, just these two) – and his replay (since we prepaid for a year) – “its your money”.

I don’t want to get Amish on his ass, that reply makes me want to get medieval on his ass… but there are laws and, very sadly, due to a medical condition I have, alcohol isn’t an option… The only solace I get is knowing I’m not alone. Thanks for the posts.


Comment by My Mom Has Hit the Roof! | The Mouthy Housewives.

[…] I don’t know the particulars, I figured we could work ourselves through some typical teenager/parent discord scenarios. Let’s say you’re a teenaged girl who has just lied to her mother and spent […]


Comment by Queeny.

Wow. Just stumbled upon your site. I’m having the same hellish issues with my son in 8th grade. Actually, every year minus kindergarten has been a struggle. He’s smart, but TOTALLY LAZY and doesn’t care about school one bit!! We tried to let him start the year off by easing up on him, and letting him try to get good grades on his own. The first report card came..4 D’s, and 3 C’s. We told him he would lose his tv, playstation, etc. if he didn’t bring the grades up to C or higher in everything. I don’t think that is unreasonable, but he just seems to acclimate himself when losing these things. So I’m adding Facebook and his favorite thing in the world..drums and his band! No matter what we do, he’s still getting crappy grades. It’s not a learning disability..he’s smart!! (Of course, I was like this in school, too, and tried to tell him how much I regret it now, but parents don’t know anything!) I’m at my wit’s end here. Maybe we will just let him go and fail..and then he can feel the wrath of summer school. AARGH!! Any suggestions? Alcohol is good, for sure, but obviously not gonna help with the grades. Damn kids!!!


Comment by Rena Graham.

It’s very encouraging to hear the same stories like i have with child. It lightens up the burden and give you another perspective to handle things. I perfectly agree that the stress you get from your child’s antics could lead to hair loss. I read somewhere that stress is a big factor of baldness. yikes!


Comment by My Kid is Toast.

Thank you thank you thank you for all the stories. My son is 13 and in seventh grade. I’m going to go all “amish on his ass” as soon as I get home, and let him “sink or swim”. He knows I will help him if he asks for it, but he doesn’t turn in assignments that I have helped him with. I’m over it. I think an email to his teachers is also in order so they know not to go easy on him. I have been very understanding until this school year. Phone is gone, TV is gone, FB is gone… We don’t have any video games anyways, but he loves being with friends and riding his bike, and that is about to stop. I think this might actually work. And a martini or 4 won’t hurt either. Again, thanks for your help.


Comment by Langp.

Any suggestions if you have a teen who has anxiety issues and ADD who doesn’t do homework, loses homework, doesn’t turn in homework completed..can’t take meds for ADD..sees a therapist for anxiety..do you let that type of kid sink or swim..taking privileges away does not work, praise when doing a good job works short term only..at a loss here as I am your typical helicopter parent to keep him on track when he really doesn’t want to be on track..


Comment by amy.

I’m about to go “amish on his ass” right now. 13, lazy, argumentative. Welcome to the 19th century son!


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Comment by Feeling Frustrated.

I have a 13 year old son who is gifted but also has ADD and anxiety. Last year, in 7th grade, he scored top in the parish on the junior high quiz bowl (even against 8th graders). This year, it is as though he doesn’t care. He is struggling with algebra and will retake it again next year, regardless of this semester’s grades. What frustrates me the most is his doing the work and not turning it in or losing it before he can turn it in. He is VERY disorganized. As a result, he is failing. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

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