Not doing homework

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-02-2012
Not doing homework
Tue, 10-02-2012 - 4:05pm

Ok..This is going to be long...I have raised 2 biological children and 3 step children who are all adults and my current DH has a 17 yr old DS that lives with us.  His dad works nights so I get the "pleasure" of enforcing restrictions.

DS is currently a Junior in High School and most of this Freshman and Sophomore years he lived on restriction.No cell phone, no xbox, etc.

This summer he had a job a bought a car, with the understanding if he didn't turn in his homework, he would not be driving it to school...well we ware 4 weeks into school and he only drove maybe 2 weeks, he hasn't had a cell phone for 3 weeks and has no xbox, kindle, DS or IPOD...nothing that connects to the internet.  AND he is still getting zero's.

When I caution him about spending his money on silly things he says well he would have a job if I would let him..oh...I didn't want him to have a job during school, because I wanted him to concentrate on school..and have fun on the weekends, but his father said if he turned in all his homework he could have a job and I reluctantly agreed.

So now he blames me for no car, no phone, no computer and no job...and I remind him, all he had to do was turn in his work.

He is a very very bright child, making 98-100 on the TAKS tests and is in a Charter School, so its not like he can't do the work, he just won't...

Any suggestions?





Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Tue, 10-02-2012 - 5:04pm

Has he been evaluated for ADD, Executive Dysfunction, or any processing disorders?  Very smart kids with these kinds of disorders typically do OK in grammar school, but the wheels fall off in Jr Hi or HS.Sounds like that is exactly what happened here.  Before you assume he simply doesn't WANT to do his homework consider this:  Do you think this child ENJOYS being yelled at??  Do you think he ENJOYS constantly being in trouble?  Do you think he ENJOYS being <<<...on restriction.  No cell phone, no xbox, kindle, DS or IPOD, etc...>>> for 2 YEARS???  There is something else going on.  Take him to a competant psychiatrist for a complete mental and physical work-up. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2000
Tue, 10-02-2012 - 5:06pm
Hi and welcome to the board. Sounds like your dss doesn't have good study/homework habits for sure. If he has all the fun stuff taken away and doesn't do his homework what does he do from the time he gets home til he goes to bed? Is he in extra curricular activities? If the restrictions on cell phone, xbox, etc. didn't work the first two years in high school chances are it's not going to start working now. Maybe for him friends are a huge thing so restricting him from his friends would make more sense. Or TV. Have you and your dh sat down and talked to him about what he wants to do after college? If he wants to go to college the grades have to be there. If he's more interested in a technical path perhaps there are some technical elective opportunities at his school. If he's just biding his time to get out and get a job then stress the fact that these days his chances are slim to none of getting any type of decent job without a high school diploma. I also have one that was bright but didn't like to do his homework. He's 22 now and back then you couldn't see all the assignments on line so I never knew when he had homework and when he didn't. Unfortunately since he didn't develop good study habits then he went off to school and bombed second semester. I do agree with your dh that as long as he's putting his homework first he should be able to get a part time job. Obviously the idea of not wanting him to work so he can concentrate on school work isn't working out - he has no interest in school right now. Sorry I don't have more concrete advice - hopefully others will chime in here.
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Tue, 10-02-2012 - 8:15pm

First of all I think that his dad needs to be the one to enforce restrictions.  This is putting you in the position as the bad guy & dad gets to coast.  I also think that taking every single thing away is not working.  Obviously it didn't work for the 1st 2 yrs so why would it work now?  I had a difficult DSD (I say had since her father & I are now divorced).  He wasn't good at discipline--he'd threaten & take away everything and then realize he went too far and then give everything back.  The only time I really remember punishment working was when she had to do summer school.  He told her that every Friday she had to bring home a note from the teacher (she only was taking one class) that she had handed in all assignments--if she did, she could use the car on the weekend, if not, no car--there was no excuses or bargaining.  Everything was set out in advance and she knew the consequences and there was only one day to check--and because it was her responsibility to get the HW done, there wasn't constant nagging every night either.  I also wonder if he can't drive to school, then is he taking the bus? 

I really think his dad (not you) needs to contact all his teachers and get something going about HW--like daily emails if necessary unless they post on line.  Find out if he's having trouble in school doing the work.  If he seems capable of doing all the problems (no LD) you might have to treat him like a younger child and set aside time for HW--like after dinner, there is no TV, he has to sit at the kitchen table until it's done & you will check it all.  I do also wonder what he could possibly be doing that is taking up all his time. 

Also, having a job sometimes makes the kids focus and use their time more wisely.  My son is taking 7 classes including 2 AP, gets good grades and still has a part time job.  Right now luckily he's only working 1-2 shifts a week. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-16-1999
Tue, 10-02-2012 - 11:08pm

I've always been very hesitant to put the kids in a position of having nothing left to loose because once everything is gone, what's going to happen if they continue to not do what is expected?  My foster son has often said that when his aunt used to ground him for months at a time, he was almost motivated to get in more trouble because "what's she going to do about it? Ground me? Haha, I'm already grounded for the rest of my life!" I suspect that at this point, your step-son sees no reason to start doing the homework because what's going to happen if he takes the easy way out and does not do it?  There's nothing left for you to take away and he can tune out your scolding.

Can you hold out short term "carrots" to motivate him to make baby steps in the right direction?  Like "turn in your english assignment on Friday and you can have the car Friday night.  If you don't turn it in, no car."

I agree that his father should be laying out restrictions, but if dad works evenings I'm not so sure how he would do that.  It's easy to say "then dad should get a job working a different shift" but in this economy, that's easier said than done.  If you have a job that supports your family, you don't leave it too easily.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009
Wed, 10-03-2012 - 1:06am

I have no BTDT experience to share, but these thoughts come to my mind.

As Sabrtooth posted, I would look for some type of learning issue.

However, 98-100 on state assessment tests indicates to me that you may have a kid that is bored out of his gourd. 

As Musiclover posted, you’re kind of in a very difficult position as the enforcer. 

I would take the position that I was like a probation officer and reporting the facts to the JUDGE (his father).  I would let his father make all the decisions about when and where he is allowed to work.  In short don’t blame me, talk to the JUDGE. 

Something that you might attempt is to set down with a piece of paper and number the lines from say 15 through wherever they end and then say something like, “Mark (or whatever his name is) you are now 17 and a HS junior.”  Write those words (HS Junior) on the line marked 17 and then ask him to start filling in the blank lines below with where he hopes to be in those out years.  Ask him how he plans to reach those goals?  Do you think getting a HS diploma might help in reaching those goals?  Do you think that colleges might want to see good grades? What kind of jobs do you think you can get without education?  Do you think girls might want their hubby to be able to provide for them?   Provide a little more than flipping hamburgers pays?  Do you think you can live here until your 50 and pay no rent?  What are your plans for the future and how do you see getting there? 

What you are trying to do is get him to look way out into the future.

One of my uncles was a Professor at a state university where every student that graduated from HS and could still frost a glass with his breath the following September was allowed to enroll at the university because in those long ago years, the state had no community colleges.  (My uncle doubted that anybody ever checked to see if the student could frost a glass with his breath.)  As you might guess more than half of those freshmen were gone by spring. 

One of my uncle’s favorite students was the one who asked him on the first day of class if my uncle remembered him, which my uncle did not.  The student remarked that seven years earlier my uncle and four other Profs had flunked him out, but that was not going to happen this time.  My uncle remembers thinking, “We shall see.”

This student became the best student my uncle ever had and my uncle said, “I would like to think that my teaching skills improved that much over those seven years, however all the changes had occurred in that student’s skull.” His attitude was what was different.

Your step son’s dad needs to sit him down and explain the facts of life.  “At some point son, my fathership scholarship is dependent upon you making progress in school.  And if that progress stops so does the money.  I’ll put that money aside for you to use when you’re ready to apply yourself to making progress.  If you’re not making progress in college, the room and board around here is . . . .  And that money goes into your pot of money for when you are ready to apply yourself. ” 

This might help the boy focus. 

Also, I think some kids would do better to work a year or so after HS graduation while they try to figure things out.  This is not a bad investment of time in many cases. 


Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Wed, 10-03-2012 - 10:20am

Growing up, both my kids couldn't remember where their read ends were, and couldn't find them with both hands.  But they were bright, personable, adorable, & could sell ice to eskimos.  Their teachers loved them.  Plus, if you ASKED them a question, they could tell you a story, and they scored high enough on the high stakes testing that they were placed in all Honors classes for freshman year of HS.  Both nearly flunked that year.  OlderDD did SO badly in her math, that for 10th grade, they dropped her into BASIC classes, which, if you follow the downward trajectory, is AP => Honors => Regulars => Basic.  During one of my MYRIAD parent-teacher conferences, one told me, "She'd get 50% if she'd just turn the homework IN.  It doesn't even have to be RIGHT, it just has to be THERE."  I'd look at her, and she'd just shrug her shoulders.  So, she was grounded almost the entire year.  By me practically sitting on her shoulder, by the end of the year, she had managed to get herself up to Honors D's in all academic classes -- and A's in Music, Art and PE, so her GPA wasn't invisible.  At the end of the year I told DH, "Our kids are SMART.  They are NOT lazy.  Something else is going on."  He said, "There's nothing wrong.  They're girls.  They're airheads.  They're JUST LIKE ME!"  I took both the kids and RAN to find a doctor.

They were both diagnosed as ADD(+).  The pluses make life even MORE... interesting.  We started meds and counseling over the summer.  Starting 10th grade, dd walked into her 2nd year of Spanish to find that the teacher was the same guy who'd taught her Honors class the year before.  When he saw her, he took her aside and said, "Ms Mo, I cannot understand why you have chosen to torture BOTH yourself and me, for a 2nd year!"  She explained that she'd been diagnosed as ADD, and was now on meds.  HE was NOT persuaded.  At the end of the year, when she had an A walking into the final, he took her aside once more, and said, "I always thought ADD was an excuse for lazy or stupid kids.  YOU have changed my mind."

In her Basic Geometry class, their idea of teaching had her cutting geometrical shapes out of magazines, and identifying, sphere, cylinder, isosoles triangle, right triangle...  So with our diagnosis in hand, we went to the administration and petitioned for her to be placed in at LEAST a Regular class.  They said they had no proof she could do the work, BUT if she not only A'ced her Basic midterm, AND took the Regular midterm and passed that, they would change her.  There was no way she could sit in both classes, and they wouldn't take her out of the Basic class till after their "test".  I got them to give us the Regular textbook, *I* tutored her while she also did ALL her other classwork, and she walked into the Regular Midterm and got a B.

ODD told me, "I used to feel like I was walking around in a dark room.  But when I take the meds, it's like somebody turned on the light.  If you SUSPECTED this could be fixed, why did you make me suffer so long?"

YDD is 2.5 years younger than her sister, so we got her started the summer before she went into 7th grade. Jr Hi was a little rocky, but she still got into HS Honors.  I felt confidant that she would do fine, since we'd been treating her for 2 years, and I been down the road with her sister.  Wrong.  She ALSO was practically flunking by midterm.  HOMEWORK was again an issue.  At the Patent-Teacher conference, teacher said, "She only does PART of the homework", which I could not understand, since *I* checked it myself before she took it back to school.  Turns out most teachers wrote the homework on the board as the kids were filing INTO the room, and then erased it as they began the lesson.  DD only wrote down PART of what was on the board before it vanished.  Detective work also revealed that most of her meds were going under the mattress instead of in her mouth, and she wasn't tellin g anyone she couldn't get everything they were writing down, because she didn't want to be DIFFERENT.  It also revealed that she had a previously undetected Visual Processing Disorder.  $7000 in tutoring later, she got a 25 on her ACT, and an English teacher told her, "If your file didn't PROVE you have ADD and LD, I would NEVER have guessed."


Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Wed, 10-03-2012 - 10:46am

Sabr, thanks for going into so much detail.  Our 12yo DS continues to do poorly in school because he fails to write down homework, or fails to do it, or just fails to turn it in.  DH rides him like crazy every day after school, but we still get emails from teachers talking about his inattention in class, inability to get to class, etc.  I've been looking into ADD-inattentive, and he displays 100% of the characteristics.  Not most of them, 100% of them.

Your DD's comment about "turning the light on" is really encouraging.  DH doesn't want to jump to online diagnoses, and neither do I, but I wish we'd done more sooner to deal with older DS's bipolar disorder and Aspergers. After we meet with DS's teachers next week, I want to have him evaluated by a psychologist.

Your post was very helpful.

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Wed, 10-03-2012 - 5:14pm

For parents with kids like ours (and I'm including your older child, too), it's hard to remember that most kids are NOT "high maintenance".   Most kids do NOT lose their homework--and their glasses, coats, lunch, gym uniform, permission slips, and band instrument-- between the bedroom door and the classroom door.  They do NOT (as my DH put it) need to be REMINDED to wipe their butts--that thought just comes naturally.  Children have an inherent desire to please adults-- especially their parents -- because this is a survival trait.  Otherwise, their caveman families would have pitched them out into the snow.  Our kind of kids don't WANT to be in trouble all the time--they just can't help themselves. 

ODD told us she'd forget to do the homework the first day--or some other project would take up all her time, and she just wouldn't get to it.  By the second day, she couldn't remember what she had to do, or how to do it, because every day in Jr Hi, or HS, there was always MORE to remember.  By the 3rd day, she was just so far behind, and so stressed about it, that she just ignored it.  In one of the links I'll give you, the Pdoc says, to make sense of  ADD/EDer's actions, you have to remember that they have only 2 time frames.  NOW, and Huh?  So they will do what makes NOW work for them--even if that means de-stressing about the undone homework by just throwing it away.  Out of sight, out of mind.  LITERALLY.

Tell your Dh that an "on-line" diagnosis doesn't mean that you are going to walk into a dr's office and say, "My kid has this.  Put him on this med."  It is a jumping off place.  There are many variations, and "pluses" with these kinds of disabilities.  Many processing disorders cause ADD-like symptoms, or may be present IN ADDITION to the ADD.  There are also a number of MEDICAL conditions that cause ADD-like symptoms--like hypothyroidism, and Celiac disorder.  And every kid responds differently to different meds.  That is why I suggest a psychiatrist.  They are Pdoc, and MD in one, and they SPECIALIZE in sorting all that out.  And be warned, meds are not a "magic solution".  I often tell people, that meds only make kids CAPABLE of concentrating, understanding, and staying on task.  They don't teach them HOW to, or make them WANT TO.  Your boy has had 12 years of doing whatever mal-adaptive things he's done, to cope with life.  He needs to learn new coping skills, once he becomes CAPABLE of that.  

And they are STILL going to have problems, and will need accommodations to help adjust for their disabilities.  Remember that Spanish final my ODD was walking into?  She flunked it. But the teacher gave her a B for the class out of pity.  Come to find out, she answered the first ten question correctly, and then 99% of the rest of them wrong.  Because she'd skipped one line on the scantron, and all the subsequent black dots were in the answer position of the PREVIOUS LINE.  We learned from that--no scantrons.

And YDD?  We figured out that her brain just REMOVED a word, letter, figure, numerical position--if it was blurry.  This is the same brain trait that makes mono-vision contacts workable.  As a result, she just accepted whatever looked similar.  So, "constipation"  instead of  "constitution",  "Clifton" instead of "Clinton".  Perhaps we should have suspected something much earlier, when her letter to Santa for a "blowing sh*t" instead of a "bowling shirt".  We just thought it was hilarious.  She was embarrassed.

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Thu, 10-04-2012 - 10:29am

Thanks for the links, Sabr.  I had seen the Chris Dendy one already, but those books look helpful.

When you start out with a high-maintenance kid like my oldest, you think that's what they're all going to be like.  I used to wonder when he was young if ODS had ADHD because he was superkinetic and refused to have anything to do with things he didn't like; on the other hand, if he was intensely interested in something he could spend hours with it, so attention deficit wasn't his problem.  Aspergers should have been diagnosed sooner but oh well. . .

YDS's problem is definitely getting worse.  When you talk about NOW and Huh?, I totally see that in him.  He wants to please us - he is a really easy-going, loving child - but he just can't "get it together."  We're going to ask our pediatrician for a referral - he has referred us to absolutely amazing specialists over the years, going way back to when my oldest needed immediate surgery for an ovarian tumor, to fantastic pediatric neurologist who sees YDS for his hemiplegic migraines.

We are really lucky that our middle child is so easy.  She was stubborn as all get-out when she was 12 & 13, but she has innately good relationship skills, makes wise choices, is very smart, is motivated to work hard at everything, wants everyone to be happy, enjoys being independent yet close with her family, is happy with herself as an individual, and has just enough competitive oomph to be a contender for salutatorian of her class of 450.  Good thing we got a break in there somewhere with those three kids. :smileywink:  But Lord knows, we love them all, and they know it!

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Thu, 10-04-2012 - 10:36am

Well, holy cow - one of the doctors mentioned on the pediatric neurology link IS my son's neurologist for his migraines!  And he just happens to have an appointment next week.  I think I will be going along so we can discuss ADD.

Thanks again!!!