Teenager (male) skips school

Posted on 2010-01-06
Last Modified: 2012-05-08
How can I impress a 14 year old teenage boy the importance of going to school?
1. It's a single-parent home (mother only) with 2 boys and 2 girls.
2. The 2 girls (11 and 13) attend school without problem; the other male has completed highschool.
3. The boy of concern does lookup to me and will listen.
4. No substance abuse (drugs/alcohol) is suspected at all.
5. I am just a church member and family friend - NO romance with the mother at all.
Moved from Software->Education to Misc by LHerrou

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Question by:waforbes100
    LVL 40

    Assisted Solution

    I'm not a counsellor. I am the father of 3 children (all much younger than 14).

    Don't try to impress him. He may lookup to you, but if you too pushy he will walk away.

    Instead, try and find some goals that can only be achieved by attending school.

    That way it becomes his failure rather than your lack of encouragement.

    No matter what age, taking responsibility for your own failures is a hard lesson.

    The earlier it is learnt the better.

    But, maybe a gentler suggestion about things like employment prospects, college, nice girls (there are always bad girls).

    I suppose at 14, he is still wanting to be "one of the lads". If his peers are all skipping school, then so will he - so he fits in.

    If that is the case, then his mother has to stop him from seeing those friends.

    I suspect that's hard to do as a single parent.

    Is there _ANY_ chance of the father being involved? I know that often the carer in a split family doesn't want anything to do with the other parent, but often giving something to a child in these circumstances can make a difference - again a difficult subject to handle.

    Does the boy attend church willingly? I was raised as a Roman Catholic and completely and utterly hated being dragged to church every whenever.

    Also, at 14, a boy _is_ becoming a man. There are things that should be able to be discussed without the simplicity applied for younger children.

    Attending school and learning provides you with the tools for learning later in life.

    If you don't learn how to learn at school, you won't have time to learn how to learn whilst learning how to do the work, look after your family, etc. when you get older.

    I would recommend too. I have a copy. I went through a rough patch with my son (only 4 years old). This book explained things to me in a way I could apply them.
    LVL 6

    Assisted Solution

    I have a similar situation with my 15 year old son.  The first thing I did is talk with him & find out if there was a reason he did not wish to go to school.  Sometimes they don't want to admit that they are being bullied or have social issues making it difficult for them to feel welcome.  Once peers / social issues have been ruled out, you can look at the acedemics.  Is he a slow learner who is feeling overwhelmed?  Perhaps he is at the other end of the spectrum & is terribly bored in school.  It could require a simple visit to the counselors office & an adjustment in curriculum or classes / teachers.  In extreme cases, it may be necessary to seek alternative schools.

    My son goes to an alternative school now & went from getting poor grades to mostly A's.  He is able to work at his own pace in smaller class rooms & is thriving in this environment.  He was a very gifted student who was horribly bored in class & didn't fit in very well socially.  His only issue now is not wanting to get out of bed int he morning.  Luckily alot of alternative schools also have evening classes & shorter "work" weeks.

    You may also see if it is an issue with depression.  Alot of teenagers suffer from this very common issue, especially kids from broken homes or single parent families.  It seems like middle children are especially prone to this.  A common indicator is lack of interest amongst other things.  The school councelor may be able to rule this out as an issue.  I hope this information helps somewhat.

    Author Comment

    1. I love the list of 'gentler suggestions'  (employment prospects, college, nice girls)
    2. I will investigate the friends-factor (didn't think about that before)
    3. No chance of father being involved
    4. **Boy LOVES church - any tips you can give me since you now know this fact??
    5. The two paragraphs before the last make a great case: I will devise a way to communicate them to him along with point 1 in this list.
    6. I'm going to get the book
    7. Please respond to the question in point #4.

    Author Comment

    1. I'm so happy for your insights: you're right! I need to first find out why he dislikes school (social issues, academic difficulty, depression).
    2. I will speak with him (non-threateningly of course) to draw out what the issues are.
    3. The lad is very interested in church and music (plays the flute). What do you make of that?
    LVL 32

    Accepted Solution

    >4. **Boy LOVES church - any tips you can give me since you now know this fact??

    Any chance you could get him assisting in teaching classes for younger kids?  That sort of involvement (especially in a positive, receptive environment) may change some perceptions about the value of learning _and_ teachers.

    Will also show social interaction and coping techniques learned at a younger age.  Taught by older kids who don't necessarily realize that they already have these skills...or haven't used them well.

    >2. I will speak with him (non-threateningly of course) to draw out what the issues are.

    Let him tell you.  People like to relate...tell about some of your troubles.  Even if now, older and wiser, you don't see them as problems any more.   Perception is reality, and maybe you had something terrible or embarrassing that eventually faded away.  Maybe you've got scars too.  Share a little, and he might too.
    LVL 17

    Assisted Solution

    Ask the following quesitons

    Why does he not want to attend school?
    Does he think its boring/pointless/too hard academically/too hard socially (unpopular or being bullied)?
    Is his attitude towards school angry/depressed/resentful/indifferent/too-low-for-me/too-high-for-me?
    Is there any particular aspect of school he doesn't like, or any particular people?
    Does he have health conditions or handicaps, whether physical, intellectual, psychological or psychiatric?
    Even without substance abuse, does he have excessive non-substance additions that trump his interest or commitment to school (such as video games)?
    What does he do in the time he should instead be attending school?
    What are his plans for the future, if any? What are his dreams, aspirations, hobbies and interests?
    Who are the friends he hangs out with, if any?

    There are a thousand different reasons why someone skips school, and answering these questions will help find out the underlying reasons, which is necessary to even start solving the problem. If he expresses hostility or reluctance in answering these questions, there is a good chance a psychological or psychiatric issue is involved, and I'd call to a psychologist or councellor for help. But try talking to him first.
    LVL 40

    Assisted Solution

    aleghart's comments are excellent.

    As he likes church, teaching others or at least helping others with say maths skills, or language skills, stuff that a 14 year old boy should already know, would certainly give him a reward (self confidence, personal satisfaction) that he would unlikely get at school.

    One of my work colleagues has a 16 year old daughter. She doesn't know what to do with her life. She's left school, done some training (NVQ2 in ... something ... can't remember - a commonly recognised certification in the UK).

    When she is applying for jobs they all say "want experience". What is hard is for someone with no experience is getting experience.

    I suggested doing some unrelated voluntary work.

    On a CV this looks excellent. Especially for a "young" person.

    If your lad can do something off his own back and get's some pleasure out of it, then that can certainly improve his mental state so that talking about school can be easier.

    Ultimately, all of the things that need to be done are to get him to believe in himself and give him the tools to solve his own problems and, probably most importantly, know when to ask for help.

    The "a problem shared is a problem halved" approach is great (I don't subscribe to the ide that a problem shared is a problem doubled stance).

    Having someone who cares about him (what would normally be the role of uncles, pastors, etc. other male figures) is extremely important.

    But you are NOT his parent. You don't have to be gentle when there is no need. Treat him like a young man that he is becoming. He will either stand up and be counted or revert to being a baby.

    Either way, he has to choose his path.

    I would be very wary of introducing external influences (psychiatrist, psychologist) until there is a clear need.

    In general, a 14 year old boy has little clue what to do. Who to turn to without seemingly like a kid. Too young, maybe simply scared, to talk about the issues.

    Being a friend and letting/helping him find his way.

    Maybe showing him this list of responses. Once you've had a chat and said you were worried about him - show the concern - show that you don't have all the answers and needed to ask for help.

    I am giving advice which I have learnt through doing and reading. I wished sometimes I had the same options when I was a kid.

    Let him know he is NOT alone in the world.

    Good luck.
    LVL 6

    Assisted Solution

    Since the Young man loves church, perhaps you could get a group together for a bible study or youth group.  If you include scripture that supports learning etc this would be a huge plus.  Also getting other teens with common interests together may give him people his own age to talk to who are going through the same thing (growing pains).  He may come out of the experience with a new lease on life, some new friends & some scripture to help guide him to make the right choices.  Churches are always looking for volunteers, so if they don't already have an official program going, I am sure they would welcome any help you could provide.  Since he already looks up to you, this would be a great non-threathening approach to get him to start talking / thinking about his choices.

    Author Closing Comment

    I am thrilled at the insights and suggestions. I am more enlightened than I thought I would be. Please accept my gratitude - everyone (RQuadling, bank_on_it, aleghart, and Tiras25).
    Experts Exchange Rocks!!!

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