Dear Dr. Bill,
I’m a single mom and my 14-year-old son has been falling behind in school. He recently brought home 2 “Ds.” I used to tutor him when he was younger, but for the last two years he has refused my help.
Right now the only thing that seems to interest him is basketball. I don’t want to threaten taking that away, as it is the only extra activity he has. If I do, I’m afraid he’ll withdraw. How do I help my son turn his grades around when he doesn’t see the need for getting help from me or others?
During the early teen years most kids go through a normal time of “individuation,” or becoming more independent from their parents. This is the beginning of their journey into adulthood.
This process is very difficult for some parents to understand or accept. They may have had a very close relationship with their child when they were younger, and now the child seems to be pulling away. It can be particularly challenging for single moms.
This separation process may be why your son is so resistant to you tutoring him at age 14. I would suggest you work with his school to find a tutor in the subjects he’s struggling in. You should also keep in close contact with your son’s teachers, preferably on a weekly basis.
You mentioned you didn’t want to threaten to take away basketball, but it may be the one thing that will motivate him to work harder academically. I would suggest you have a private conversation with his basketball coach.
Express your concerns and ask him if he will make participation on the team dependent on your son bringing up his grades. Most good coaches want their players to succeed academically as well as athletically.
Thanks for writing, Debbie. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.