Underperforming 17 yr Son

(28 Posts)
ScottishAnn Mon 15-Oct-12 16:50:02

Due to poor grades my 17 is now repeating his AS year - I've just seen the results from recent tests and they are very poor. I feel like I want to read the riot act but doubt that will do any good - any experience that has worked for any of you to change this behavior?

At the start of this repeat year we discussed what needs to change in his approach/attitude and he is the one who came up with the actions ....they seems to have fallen by the way side....

FellatioNelson Mon 15-Oct-12 16:53:11

OK, first of all, are you sure that he is actually capable of doing much much better, or should you consider the fact that perhaps he was never cut out for academic study post-GCSE? I worry that there is too much pressure on kids to carry on with A levels when they may not be appropriate. Even if he is perfectly equipped to deal with their rigour, is he not happy with the choice of subjects? Is he secretly wishing he could do something else entirely?

usualsuspect3 Mon 15-Oct-12 16:55:16

I agree with Fellatio, Is this the path he wants to follow.

Would he be better going down a more vocational route? A levels and university are not for everyone.

ScottishAnn Mon 15-Oct-12 16:58:04

Thanks good ideas - yes we have talked this over and told him he does not need to do the academic route, there are other possibilities ... he says he wants to stick with it; current subjects - Theology (he likes), psychology (he likes), business studies (likes less) & history ( he likes). I am at a loss to know how to bring this up so soon after the start of terms.... Also I know I am dissappointed if he is messing up this 'fresh start', and that will come through

noddyholder Mon 15-Oct-12 16:59:48

My ds did exactly this and has done brilliantly on a more vocational course.he hated AS from day one but we persisted Ideally we shoudl have let him leave and re start teh next year maybe working in between but we kept arguing and he lasted until April. Then he left and re started an advanced diploma and is on target for uni

noddyholder Mon 15-Oct-12 17:02:57

The riot act never worked for us it only changed when he really engaged with the course. He has just walked in from college about 10 mins ago and has already gone out filming for his course. Is there an NVQ or BTEC which leads to his career interest?

HeathRobinson Mon 15-Oct-12 17:09:34

Would it be worth having a meeting with your son and some of the teachers at the school, to see whether they think he is able enough/committed enough to take the AS course?

Because if he isn't, then he's only wasting time that he could be spending on something better for him. Apprenticeship? College? On the job training? What does he want to do eventually?

Isn't there some kind of October cut-off this year, for anyone not doing so well at AS?

Faxthatpam Mon 15-Oct-12 17:15:36

I agree, I think they get sucked in to the A level route when perhaps it's not for everyone. My DS 2 was gutted when his school told him he couldn't do English AS and advised him to do a mixture of BTEC, Psychology AS and Photography AS. He is so happy now with his choices and would not have thought of doing a BTEC before - it just wasn't on his radar - but it really suits his way of learning.

ScottishAnn Mon 15-Oct-12 17:16:02

Thanks Noddyholder. I've now emailed his teachers to ask to meet with them again to discuss further. In the meantime I'll try to probe further with J to see if he really does want to continue with AS. I would so much rather he took a vocational course than continued with this and failed again; that would be a sad start to his adult life. Also note his teachers last year said he could easily get As & Bs if he put in some effort.

FellatioNelson Mon 15-Oct-12 17:22:48

The difference between the workload and ability needed to do well at GCSE and to do well at AS level is massive. Coupled with that, as 6th form is not compulsory the nurturing, hand-holding, coaxing and cajoling from teachers eases off a bit (especially if they've moved from a school to a college) and there is much greater need for self-motivation, self-discipline, good time management, the ability to engage in self-led study, and to generally adopt a more mature approach to being the architect of your own outcomes.

This can come as a bit of a culture shock to some teenagers, and they may have a few false starts in the first year. They tend to either get their acts together towards the end of the first year, or drop out all together and accept it's not for them.

ScottishAnn Mon 15-Oct-12 17:37:21

Are you suggestiing I leave things as they are, not say anything (other than see his teachers) and let J work it out for himself? Then if he decides to opt out then support him?

FellatioNelson Mon 15-Oct-12 17:37:57

Yes. that's it exactly.

FellatioNelson Mon 15-Oct-12 17:41:13

Easier said than done I know, but having been there (sort of) I can tell you it was a weight off my shoulders finally listening to my son than trying to push a round peg into a square hole. and if it turns out that he really wants a complete change of direction he needs to do it sooner rather than later, otherwise he will run out of chances to enrol elsewhere for free.

ScottishAnn Mon 15-Oct-12 18:19:53

He's just home and tells me he is enjoying college.... I'll keep asking the open questions....

I have every sympathy OP and hope he finds his way.

My DS is similar, didn't get great AS marks, he's bright but doesn't display an aptitude for advanced learning if that makes sense, happiest when socialising! hmm.

Anything I suggest is dismissed and he is determined to go to University so maybe he'll surprise me, he's predicted C's but that doesn't get you on a really good course does it.

flow4 Tue 16-Oct-12 12:09:19

No advice, but you might find it useful to hear my experience...

My son had his 'lazy sod' stage a bit earlier than yours. He started truanting and stopped working in Y10. He's very bright, but wasn't at all interested in studying. He was predicted 2 Es in his GCSE, but managed to get 5 at grade B/C (without doing any work) including his English and Maths. He picked the 'easy option' after GCSEs and enrolled on an NVQ level 1 bricklaying course last year. I tried telling him he'd find it too easy and he'd hate being bored; but at the time, his desire to have an easy life with lots of free time was stronger than anything else. hmm After 6 weeks, he did indeed get bored, and stopped going to anything other than workshop sessions - and not even all of those. His attendance dropped to 60%, and the course was only 2 days/week to start with - so he was in college less than one day per week on average sad The rest of the time, he hung around with his mates, played on his play-station, and fought with me as I tried to get him to get his act together.

There was no advice or support. Connexions are supposed to fulfil this role (in England anyway) but they were totally useless. They're focussed on keeping young people out of the 'NEET statistics' and so long as they're registered for something, that's good enough for them. They told us my son was on a course, so they couldn't help. When his course finished in early May, they said they couldn't help again until closer to September.

By this summer, my son's confidence had hit rock-bottom and the choices he was making meant his life was pretty off the rails (drugs, arrests, etc.) I was pretty desperate throughout the whole year, as things seemed to get worse and worse, and I only had two choices: throw him out or hang on in there.

When term re-started in September, he said he wasn't going back to college, there was nothing he wanted to do, they wouldn't have him anyway, he wasn't clever enough to study, yada yada... I said (and kept saying all year, really) it was fine if he didn't want to go to college, but he had to dosomething - an apprenticeship or a job - doing nothing was not an option. We had a lot of conflict, because my fear for his future and my need for him to do something useful to contribute to society, whatever that was clashed directly with his lack of confidence and his desire to be a lazy sod.

We got right to the brink. He missed an interview and two enrolment days at college, and wouldn't go job hunting, and didn't go into Connexions to discuss other options though I delivered him to the door three days running. Finally I set a deadline, and on the Friday of the first week in Sept, I told him that if he wasn't in college or in a job or apprenticeship by Monday evening, I would throw him out. IN, I emphasised, not just 'applying for'. He complained that that wasn't enough time. I pointed out that he'd had all summer, and the reason he only had 3 days now was that he'd left it right to the last possible moment.

We got to Monday evening - college enrolment was 5-7pm - and he said he wasn't going to go. I said that was fine, and I'd pack his bags if he wasn't enrolled in a course by the end of the evening. I stayed calm. confused And somewhere in the middle of all his chuntering, I realised that although he was saying he wasn't gonna do it, I couldn't make him, blah blah blah, he was in fact getting ready. He actually told me he wasn't going while he was climbing into the car! He moaned all the way to town and we sat outside for 15 mins while he said he just couldn't, and I said of course he could. Finally he went in!

When he came out (2 hours later) he was about 4 inches taller grin He had a place on the level 3 BTEC course he'd wanted to do, but he hadn't believed they'd have/want him. "I was really scared you know", he said, "I wasn't putting it on".

He has now done a month, and he has been every day, and he is loving it. It's a bit of a shock to the system (to say the least) but he's rising to the challenge. And he is much, much, much happier than he has been for at least three years. grin And I am sooooooooooooooooo relieved... Though not counting chickens quite yet!

I have drawn a few conclusions from all this that may or may not ring true to you - but they're all things I wish I'd worked out sooner, so maybe they'll be useful:

- School really doesn't suit some kids, mostly the ones who need to do practical stuff - 'active learners'.
- It's a bloody stupid time to try to get people to study, work hard and concentrate anyway! Teenagers are full of energy and we expect them to sit still?! Their natural body clocks mean they're awake half the night but we still expect them to get up at 7am?! Seriously?!
- Some kids have their confidence and self-belief badly damaged but trying and failing to do what's expected of them sad
- They respond in different ways, but many of they respond by not bothering to try very hard. If you're not going to do very well (and you don't realise that's because the curriculum doesn't suit you) it's easier to fail if you can pretend that it's because you didn't even try.
- Some of them get very angry and disengaged.
- Some of them get very afraid about their futures (they probably pick this up from adults) but most of them wouldn't ever admit it.
- Some of them have to hit the bottom before they take control of their lives again.
- There is nothing you can do to 'make' them do anything. Literally nothing. They have to do it. Any steps they take because you force them will only be temporary. Bribes will only work if they basically want to do that thing anyway.
- From a parent's point of view, it's incredibly stressful. It can take a long time to work out where your 'bottom line' is. It often seems to be below wherever you thought it was! Any ultimatums you make need to reflect your bottom line - what you absolutely cannot stand - not what you think they 'should' or 'shouldn't do.
- Loads and loads of kids have a 'wasted' year some time between 14 and 19. Most of them pick it up again at some point. It's never really too late.

Oops, I've gone on longer than I meant to! Sorry. Hope some of it is useful!

flow4 what a fantastic post and I'm thrilled for you that your ds is finally working things out.

flow4 Tue 16-Oct-12 12:51:52

Thanks Scary smile Like I said, I'm not counting chickens yet, but I starting to believe it was worth keeping the eggs warm!

amothersplaceisinthewrong Tue 16-Oct-12 12:55:28

Wow, what a great post,

Boys, they do put their mothers through the ringer (she says from experience!)

Happybunny12 Tue 16-Oct-12 13:12:00

flow4 - great post. All the best for you and your DS.

flow4 that's amazing. You are an inspiration to have stuck at it and got this far. I really hope it works out for him and I hope he realises how lucky he is to have a mother who didn't let him give up.

flow4 Tue 16-Oct-12 13:48:39

Thanks, ampiitw, bunny and Squirrels smile

And d'you know what, Squirrels? Sometimes I think he maybe does!
I was helping him with his first essay on Sunday night, and when it was nearly finished, he suddenly said "I'm so lucky to have a mum like you!" I sort of humpfed, and he said "No, really I am"... Of course I didn't shed a tear blush grin

I tell you though, it has been far too bloody hard for me to get all sentimental about it now. The stress has certainly made me ill. But at the mo there's hope again smile

To say that he was lucky to have a Mum like you is lovely in itself and shows he's maturing Flow. Bless him! smile

flow4 Tue 16-Oct-12 14:17:52

Maturing. Yes. That'll explain the smell of cheese, then! wink grin

ScottishAnn Tue 16-Oct-12 14:39:22

Flow that was a really moving email, I could really feel your dispair (I'm not quite there yet) and can understand how relieved you must have felt to see him engage! Like you I get so stressed to watch my son refuse the opportunities available, but as you note they need to do it themselves, I've moved to a more supporting role over the past few months; though also wondering just where my bottom line is?? You give me hope that my former happy engaged youngster will re-appear in the next few years.

He is v.v. lucky to have a mum like you.

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