Disengaging from dc's education

(34 Posts)
minifingers Mon 19-Nov-12 21:00:16

Have posted on this board under another name, but have n/c as dd has been stalking me on mumsnet - reading my comments, and has been using them as ammunition in arguments. sad

I've made a momentous decision today not to have any involvement in dd's education any more, other than to make sure she gets to school every day, and gets there on time.

She has never let me help her with her homework. This didn't matter in primary as she was working at a reasonable level without my involvement, and left with level 5's in everything, despite being the youngest child in her form, and having no parental input into her school work (and no tutoring). TBH she didn't have much homework in primary and I did nothing to prepare her for her SATS. I don't remember ever sitting down with her to do writing or maths, although I did listen to her read every now and again, and read TO her a lot.

Since starting secondary she has just made less and less and less effort. She has consistently rejected all my attempts to help her or have any involvement in her work. I took her out of her last school after realising that her exercise books were practically empty (I really mean empty - she literally had NOTHING to show she'd sat in lessons day in day out for months on end). I tried everything to get the school to take this issue seriously, but they didn't seem at all bothered, and her behaviour was deteriorating fast. We found her a new school which was better suited to her (changed her from a huge mixed academy to a girls community school). She has been at the new school for three weeks, says she really prefers it to her old school, but is already on report for not writing her homework down or completing it.

The last few weeks have been grim as I've tried to take a more active role in encouraging her, and supervising her homework. She has behaved in an absolutely unbearable way, become more and more abusive and resistant to me as I've tried to become more involved. I've cried so much in the past week - she has gone out of her way to attack me, doing it in front of my other dc's. I can feel myself slipping back into a clinical depression and it's affecting my ability to parent my other dc's.

And it's dawned on me that unless she wants to achieve, and wants my help, then there is nothing to be gained from my involvement, other than to make me feel incredibly anxious and powerless about how badly she's underachieving. Her laziness (in all areas of her life, not just school) has been the source of so much sadness and conflict over the past few years, and nothing we have said or done has made any difference.

So tonight I've made a decision to step back and cease any involvement. The way I feel now I don't even want to go to her parents evenings or read her reports any more, because I can't see what good it will do if I'm powerless to help her. Having to know the finer details of how she's ruining her life chances will poison our relationship even more.

DH has some involvement still - he is trying to help her with her maths, and some of her other subjects, and to a limited extent she will accept this, but he finds it very frustrating too as she is really resistant to doing things in anything other than the quickest and most slap-dash way. He works long hours in a stressful job and is tired when he gets back in the evening. I feel incredibly guilty that as a SAHM and qualified teacher I'm not the one taking charge of her work, but she simply won't let me.

Also like me, he is profoundly disappointed in her unwillingness to do anything outside of school. She won't join any clubs. She sings well but won't do anything with it. Is musical but refused to continue with piano because she couldn't be bothered to practise. Couldn't be bothered to continue with guitar, despite being offered free lessons by my sister who is a music teacher. She has no hobbies. Never had. Never gets involved in any extra curricula activities. It doesn't help that all her cousins are sporty, academic and/or very musical, and are all busy developing themselves, while dd lies in bed texting and eating crisps day in, day out. It makes me dread family gatherings and feel like a total failure as a parent.

Has anyone else given up trying to help? How has it worked out?

minifingers Thu 22-Nov-12 07:59:13

You called - thank you for the links, I'll look at them today.

where is she in the fmaily, youngest, middle? i think you need to look at her good points, raise her self esteem, if she doesnt want to work - she sounds just like my dd of 13, always been opositional. there might be something else you can channel, or not. i think a step back as you suggest, might be the best thing for now.

flow4 Thu 22-Nov-12 08:53:28

minifingers, you are in a very common situation. If you scan back through these discussions, you will find lots of threads from parents who have problems engaging their teenagers, like this one:www.mumsnet.com/Talk/teenagers/1588526-Underperforming-17-yr-Son. And if you read this thread you will see your problems are a long way from being the worst. It is hard to accept that your child is not interested in education, if it's something you value yourself.

In my own case, I am educated to post-graduate level, spent 20 years in full-time education, then worked as a researcher and lecturer in universities and FE colleges, trained trainee teachers as a lecturer on a B.Ed. course, and then worked as a trainer, researcher and development consultant in the public and charity sector. My life has been all about learning - I have literally spent 35-40 years doing it, and love it. smile

On the other hand, DS1 (17) left school with 5 GCSE grade C and above, and dropped down/out to a level 1 construction course last year. sad

Throughout all of that time, there was nothing - nothing - I could do to engage him in school work and the homework that school set. And because he hated school so much, it was also almost impossible to engage him in activities that might stretch him or add to his learning and development outside school - he would go to no after school clubs at all and very few 'cultural' activities with me.

I have a lot to say on this subject (as you will see if you read the first thread I linked to above) but I can make a good guess at the root of your DD's problem, because I have observed hundreds of young people, and also adults who were failed by their schools. (One of the jobs I had was teaching 'access' students - i.e. adults who didn't get qualifications at school but later decided they wanted to go to university. I taught 300-400 people like this).

There is almost nothing left in the secondary school curriculum for children/young people who are 'activist learners' or 'experiential learner' - i.e. those who learn through doing rather than sitting still and listening. Many schools fail to recognise that they are simply not offering appropriate learning for these C/YP, and they punish them for being 'inattentive' or 'disruptive'. But a person's learning style is innate - different styles can be learned to a degree, but everyone has a natural preference and will learn best if they are given opportunities to learn in the way that comes naturally to them. I believe that in future years, we will look back with horror at the way schools treat activist learners, in the same way we now look back and are shocked at the way left-handed children were treated 30 years ago. Incidentally, many schools do now test children to discover their learning styles, so they know which children are activist/experiential learners, but they then do nothing with that knowledge.

I'd bet a million pounds that your daughter is an activist learner.

With all my experience, I failed to engage my son, since the school's negative influence was much stronger than my own positive one. So don't beat yourself up.

I can suggest a couple of things that may help, but won't solve, your problem...

- Reflect back on your daughter when she was young, and ask yourself if you agree that she is an activist/experiential learner. If so, recognise that she can't help a lot of the way she is behaving: she is being expected to learn in ways that are un-natural to her, and then probably getting into trouble for struggling and failing. It is exactly like her being left handed, being forced to write with her right hand, and then being punished for doing wonky writing. If you understand this, maybe you won't feel so frustrated and disappointed in her.

- She is angry with you because she knows (probably unconsciously) that the whole situation is unfair. You are frustrated and disappointed and angry with her for something she can't control, and that makes her frustrated and disappointed and angry with you. It's a vicious circle, and neither of you are to blame, but you can perhaps break it. smile

- If you can switch tactics and help her understand why she is struggling, and support her to find ways of learning through doing rather than sitting still and listening/writing, then things will be better. This is very, very difficult - almost impossible - once they have reached high school age. The only people I know who have succeeded are ones who have withdrawn their kids from school and home educated them. I couldn't bear to do that, myself. But maybe you can. Or maybe you can succeed in other ways.

- You are doing exactly the right thing by withdrawing from 'helping' her with homework. Instead, if/when you stop being angry with her, do other sorts of activities with her, where she can do and be active - cooking, building, modelling, creating, etc. She will learn more through those things - providing she engages.

Last but not least, don't give up hope. My own DS hit 'rock bottom' this summer, but has now re-engaged, and through his own free will found a course he wanted to do and enrolled on it. He dropped out entirely last year, but for the last two months, he has been getting up and going to college (almost) every morning, and is now talking about applying for university. smile

School is something to be endured for many children. It is not their last chance. Your DD may struggle now, but if you can help her to keep her self-confidence, there are opportunities for her to re-engage in learning later. smile

Good luck.

Inamechangedalright Thu 22-Nov-12 09:05:28

I think there is a world of difference between disengaging from your dcs education and relinquishing control.

Please do not give up: communicating with the school, reading and writing in the planner, reading and responding to letters home, reading reports, going to parent's evening, asking your child about their day.

There are parents who do not do any of these things. These are the ones who are 'disengaged' with their children's education.

However, I would strongly suggest relinquishing control. Your dd sounds like she is crying out in frustration for control of her own life. All of this vileness and refusal is her version of a sit-down protest. The more you try to motivate her, the more she will refuse.

You cannot make her do anything now. She is growing up. I understand this must be difficult, especially if you really value education and want the best for her.

How about treating her like an employee? At work, do you punish/reward/bribe your subordinates to do things? Can you shout at them? No, you can't.

Perhaps help her by putting a list of her homework on a pinboard/ the fridge, and she/you can add/take things off when they are given/ completed. When/how/where she does it is up to her. If she doesn't do it, that's up to her too. Let the school know what you are doing.

If it's any consolation, I thought most homework was bloody stupid when I was a teenager and my parents/teachers tore their hair out over. Absolutely nothing could motivate me to do it. I pulled my finger out for proper exams though and got a 2:1 from UCL at age 21, so don't despair!

minifingers Thu 22-Nov-12 09:42:17

Thank you Flow and Inamechanged for your posts. DD is hard to get a handle on. She's GAGGING for freedom. Is like a dog who wants to roam. I can see that in her. I feel that her hormones are behind most of the anger and conflict. Her hormones are RAGING.

I think some children go in on themselves in adolescence. I did. DD is the opposite, which actually I prefer if I was being given an option as to how my dc's get through this time. She's a very weird mixture of maturity and immaturity. She presents as VERY confident. Adults generally really like her and some of her teachers rave about her, say how lovely she is and full of ideas. She's always been one of those children who engages with people - as a little girl she got a lot of attention because she was so bold and confident (and VERY pretty). People say she's not like a 13 year old. She's also sharp as a tack, and has a phenomenal memory. And yet at a practical level she's a chuffing disaster. She has hardly any possessions that don't have bits missing or are damaged. She loses/forgets PE kits and school equipment, leaves a trail of destruction as she roams around the house. If I wasn't having to clear up after her I'd almost find it funny. grin I'm going to look into the whole ADD thing, just to learn a bit more. Her lack of organisation skills is very striking, but then so are mine......

Flow4 - what you say about being an experiential learner, you know what dd's biggest learning success has been this last year? She did a course in cake decorating when she was at a private tutorial college in between taking her out of one school and finding her a place at another. And she was FANTASTIC! OMG you should have seen the cakes she made! They were completely professional, and amazing. I was posting pictures of them all over facebook and sending them to friends and family. She is also gifted with small children - knows exactly how to behave with them, is very natural and nurturing. Whatever else happens in her life she will be a wonderful mum (not too soon hopefully!).

Flow4 - your posts about your ds are so interesting. What would we do without hearing from other parents who are going through what we're going through with our dc's? I've spent so much time blaming myself for my dd's behaviour, and I suspect other people in my extended family blame me as well, as all the children on DH's side seem to be breezing through adolescence in an exemplary way (well, apart from one niece with an eating disorder, and even she's managed to keep going with school and extra curricula activities despite being miserable as sin for two years. She's coming out of it now thankfully and is in good health. Phew.)

flow4 Thu 22-Nov-12 22:17:36

Glad to be helpful, minifingers smile

hollolew2 Fri 23-Nov-12 11:39:15

This is such a common problem. My DS didn't work through school got ok GCSE's very bad As levels resat in January did a lot better then didn't dp enough work for the rest of his As resits in June did ok in his A's but not enough to get him on to university . Now he's at college we have given him every chance to choose what he wants to do he's adamant he wants to go to uni . so far this term has been the first month very good then all his friends went to uni ( although he still has plenty here and at college ) let everything drop but had a chat and was on the hope that he was working properly heard from a tutor to say notperfect but ok. Yesterday open a standard letter which states that he is not doing enough work for his UCAS to be submitted so I rang the college and the secretary tells me that she doesn't think it's that its he hasn't bothered with his UCAS. Eventually speak to the Vice principal who although shouldn't have sent that letter checked up and has told me his work is erratic (always has been). he cant give me a reason why he hasnt been to see the Ucas woman meanwhile we sat down togeteher with his choices ans went through the whole thing so it was ready weeks ago. he's lied to me repeatedly about the UCAS appointment ???? (bizarre) . so this morning I spoke to my DH ( this cause a lot of friction between the two ofus with one of us shouting and the other one being calm) and told him that i'd had enough that fine his work had improved but stil not enough and i am sick to death of chasing round an adult and that either he stops and finds something else to do or as he's so adamant and frankly cock sure he's gonna do really well he can pay for all his college exams etc and i'm bowing out ( DS has money from job and is a adult) DS happy with this because he's gonna do so well but is not talking to me because I shouted because he lied to me and he can't deal with someone as unreasonably as me! husband cross cause clearly I should sort out his shit ( didn't actually say that but know) but at least my bank account and sanity will be restored. All I can say is it's pot luck my daughter whose 22 is a prize winner at school 3 As in her Alevels a 2:1 just been offered the job of her dreams after working her balls off interning for nothing for 6 months both my children have been treated the same the only difference is that she has quitely worked like a trojan to get there no big I ams etc. Unfortunately this doesn't make me any less sad but at least from now on the only person he can lie to is himself. If anything stickng it on here is a great release and everyone in general is very helpful, astute and kind.

Meringue33 Fri 23-Nov-12 18:25:38

I was just like this as a teenager. If its any consolation, there was pretty much nothing my folks could have done differently. I grew out of it about age 27!

Agree with the early poster who felt fear of failure may be holding her back. Not sure whether finding some sort of therapy or support group could give her the language she needs to express the feelings she is acting out on at the moment.

You might also suggest a part time job outside of school, she might enjoy the increased responsibility, respect, structure and incentives of the workplace.

Good luck x

gemblags1980 Fri 23-Nov-12 19:44:39

Hi some suggestions
A) do school have any homework clubs or learning mentor/ pastoral support she can access, she may be able to do this as part of her school day with one to one support. When I was a learning mentor I offered support to two or three children

B) can the school assist with more structured learning / behaviour support as part of a behaviour support plan, speak to her head of year or form tutor, who will then talk to the inclusion managers.

C) to get her involved in activties after school and maybe get one to one support with her homework, you could contact your local youth service and ask them about a referral to their positive activties for young people scheme.

D) is there anyone who she relates to in her extended family, that she gets on with, closer to her own age, e.g cousins who she would accept help from.
Good luck
Gemma

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