My 13 year old child is dropping behind in school, what can I do?
A distraught parent, who is also an English teacher, asked me what she could do to help her 13 year old son, who is being kept down a grade.
One could no doubt write several books on this topic, but here are some initial steps to try. Notice what's working, and change if you don't see any positive results.
1. Check the child does not have any neurological problems such as attention deficit or dyslexia. These issues are surprisingly common today and if diagnosed, the child may benefit from extra help, or even treatment.
2. There is no magical cure. To improve takes effort. Therefore, I suggest arranging for a private tutor to help the child in one subject. If it were my child I would have the tutor for an hour a day in one subject, the same subject every day! I would hope that from massive input on one subject, it would improve tangibly, giving the child new confidence in his/her ability to learn. Hopefully that confidence would have a knock-on effect, improving motivation and results across the board. As for finding the money to pay for this, if there is no available money in the family budget then it could come out of the child's leisure budget - money you would have spent on an outing, or a present, goes to the tutor. That's called tough love!
3. Notice if it's working: If you get no results from the tutor, try a tutor with a different approach. OR try massive input on a different subject and see if you make any headway there instead.
4. Never make negative comments about the child's ability to learn. You might tell him/her off for having a poor attitude, but you never want to humiliate or deflate a child. You want to be encouraging, to give hope, and make the child feel like he/she can succeed. There's no need to exaggerate or over do it, just find some positive points to praise and nurture. You don't want to make him/her feel stupid, so he/she gives up.
5. Make sure the child has a hobby, such as dance, music, sport, drama or art that he or she has a passion for. Achievement in any sphere is positive for the child. Make time for that hobby or passion! Do not leave your child stuck with the paper and pen alone! Your child may have other skills and areas of genius, as Albert Einstein said: "Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
6. Never give up on your child. If you give up, your child will feel it, and that may be the nail in the coffin of his/her academic learning.
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