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How to get a kid who couldn’t care less, to work for matric.

Q: ” ” Hello dear Villagers, can you offer me some advice? My matric boy has never been academically motivated. He’s really clever and does quite well even with no hard work though. Recently his marks have dropped for physics but the rest have stayed ok. Over the years of his school career, every teacher and other parent has said, “Don’t worry motivation and commitment will kick in when he gets to grade X, Y, Z…” but it never has. He really doesn’t care and just does the bare minimum. He’s at an academic school and he thinks that because he’s always done well enough that should be enough for us to trust him this year. But over the past few months he has discovered clubbing, a new group of older friends who love festivals, parties, a lot of quite exciting, fun socializing. And he has met a new girlfriend. He is even less motivated by schoolwork than he ever was. I am worried as I know what he is capable of and I know that he could really do brilliantly, and could have amazing opportunities and options, but at this rate, I just see him cruising as usual. If I try to police him or ground him or enforce work, he gets angry and defensive and it ends with us having arguments, I can’t see that as being good for focus and concentration either. He’s not an obedient, compliant boy. He knows his own mind and stands his ground, which makes arguments long and bad tempered. I know he’ll pass, and he will get into something at varsity, but I just think he’s letting himself down. Can anyone suggest anything to help? TIA.”

A: ” If it’s the difference between being accepted or rejected by the tertiary education provider of his dream career… I would get his attention. But in reality, what difference does a few percent higher matric mark actually make? Not encouraging laziness, just aware of balance.”

” I would take his phone away. A kid only has one chance. Its the culmination of 12 years of effort at school,  and the effort is required, just for these exams . Maybe this requires a heart-to-heart? It’s just a few weeks then they all will be free to go out again. Nothing worse than not making it into your course at varsity and having to accept another path that you really don’t want to follow. Or rewriting a subject. Time to be tough.”

” Besides my tertiary college wanting my matric certificate, no-one else has ever even looked at it! Kids excel when they are doing what they love. If he’s going to fail or not meet his own targets/goals – that’s hard, but he must be accountable. We put too much pressure on our kids(I’m guilty of this!)”

” Advice from having finished with this 2015, 2016 and 2018, BACK OFF!! I only really got the hang of this with the last two. Your nagging will not change anything! Except to make the whole house miserable. It will put all the responsibility on him and you can be in the background to commiserate and sympathise or congratulate!! Prepares them for university. This was a huge weight off our shoulders. Believe me the schools are drumming it into them every chance they get.”

” You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. We as parents have to get to a point where our kids learn to work for what they want, not what we want for them. We are so afraid of them failing in this big bad world, but perhaps it’s time for him to take responsibility for his choices … he may surprise you?!”

” My daughter explained to me that she needed her party tank full to fill up her study tank. I backed off, as even if you take everything away they will literally just sit and stare at the wall, if you interfere. She did brilliantly in the end, even with Daisies just before finals etc etc. The only thing to do is re-visit their dreams. Not yours for him but his for him. Re-investigate the requirements for him to achieve his dreams. And previous post is correct – prepares them for tertiary education.”

” Abdicate all responsibility. No chasing. No ‘how’s the revision going?’ questions. Totally back off. You can’t be there to motivate them post-school so handover 💯. It does work and will improve your relationship immeasurably.”

” Sounds exactly like me when I was in Matric. Unfortunately, the ability to pass without much work is a real curse. I’ve found that sometimes it takes people like us a little bit of time to really find our passion…and often it happens well after school, but when it does you can’t stop us! My best advice for right now is to keep encouraging him, remind him of his talents.
You might also check for some underlying anxiety there that stops him from trying too hard – that was one of my issues.”

” This piece from The UK Guardian, suggesting that parents may have some responsibility for our kids NOT getting good grades, is really worth a read.”

I’m borrowing their “Do’s” List:

Remember that attitude matters more than grades: this will help you and your teen to relax and, paradoxically, your teenager will perform better.

Reflect on your own experience of exams to avoid passing down unprocessed anxiety or paralysing guilt.

Panic may spread throughout your teenager’s school environment, so stay calm for him.

Disconnect your teen’s sense of self from her grades: getting A* doesn’t make her a star, nor is she a failure if she fails.

Notice if you project a hopeless future: are you overlooking your teenager’s talents and undermining your own parenting achievements?

Allow your teen to have a different approach to revision – there’s no “best way”.
Maddening behaviour (laziness, procrastination, slamming doors) often expresses underlying panic: address the root cause.

Play down the importance of revision, usually exaggerated. “It’s never too late to start”, “Every little bit helps”, “Just do 10 minutes, see how it goes” helps to get someone started.

Offer support whatever the outcome – knowing that a parent’s love is not grade-dependent can free up motivation.

” Sounds like my son – without the clubbing/partying/friends and girlfriend part … oh and the part of him doing well! What have I learnt from almost having a nervous breakdown? I have given him ALL the tools to help him ie. medication (he is ADD), tutors (a fortune every month), all the bloody help over the last 10 school years of his life – he now has to step up …. literally. My husband and I have taken a step back so that he can step forward (dont confuse with not interested). Its up to him if he wants to achieve or not. I recommend you do the same for your son. You can’t write the exam for him, you can’t do it for him – he has to do it himself and if he screws up …. then you can assist him with recommendations as to what to do. But stressing about this? I’m telling you – TELLING YOU – its no worth it. They have to step up by themselves.”

” After having worked in an academic environment and with teenagers for 26 years, I’ve learnt many things  One being: If he has a subject package that predominantly requires understanding and problem solving, he would be less likely to be able to scramble at the last minute to achieve results. The learning and memory subjects can benefit more from outright commitment towards the end. Perhaps this is why he seems a little more in “control”
Secondly , the really bright students tend to know exactly when and where to work hard. Which tasks and tests are important and generally get ahead because of this skill. I think he will pull through for you, mom! Perhaps he is self-soothing (by drinking and clubbing) because he is experiencing stress. Many of them do this !
Your concern poses a far bigger question and that is ….how the hell do we learn to sit back and observe our older children’s mistakes without serious mental burnout to ourselves.”
WTF…. Wine Time Finally !


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