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How to I motivate my son to reach his full potential (he's very bright but only wants to put in minimal effort)

(56 Posts)
JEWALSH Fri 16-Mar-07 13:36:02

Hello everyone

I'm new to mumsnet - this is my first post.

My son got 3 level 5 SATS last year and started secondary school in September.

He is in the top sets for Maths, English and Science and all his teachers say he is a natural set 1 student who should aim very high as he has the ability.

I went to parents evening last night and all his teachers said the same thing - he is only putting in minimal effort.

His geography teacher said he has amazing ability for an 11 year old and he got 82% on his test without any revision.

I am extremly worried about his English as he has gone down to level 4c (he should be aiming at 6c) - he can do it, he is just being lazy. After getting a level 5 he is not using punctuation, capital letters and getting words like their and there mixed up.

I am at my wits end - I do not want to see his work slide.

He has said he will buck his ideas up and doesn't know why he is being lazy.

Has anyone any ideas to motivate an 11 year old boy and enable him to reach his full potential?

Lilymaid Fri 16-Mar-07 13:46:29

I wish I knew! I had a DS very similar to that. What did buck him up was the need to do well in public exams - but they are a long way off at present for you. It is a common problem with bright boys (and not so much with bright girls).

ssd Fri 16-Mar-07 13:48:11

this could be about my 9 yr old

will follow thread with interest

RedTartanLass Fri 16-Mar-07 13:50:32

I'm sure this is a question asked by generations of parents I was a lazy cow at school as well and as long as I could pass with the minimum of effort I was happy. My parents tried everything to no avail. My ds1 was the same, he scrapped through his A levels and he will scrape through his degree!

I know I will probably get jumped on from a great height, but good grades don't make for a happy child. 82% for a test with no where's the motivation to revise if he is still going to get great grades!

As you can see I'm now a lazy mother and I'd be chuffed to bits if any of my kids to get great results without studying, but I'm sure I'll be in the minority

JEWALSH Fri 16-Mar-07 13:54:42

His geography teacher said he has been earmarked as one of those boys who should be leaving school with 13 GCSES and aiming for the top.

I told him this and he was really pleased. Maybe flattery will work, I don't know.

He could probably put the minimum in and get C grades in 4 years time but he should be getting A and Bs.

His head of year has said she will put him on an effort report for the next few weeks so he can be monitored.

We have said he won't be going to the cinema or park with his friends until he bucks his ideas up.

JEWALSH Fri 16-Mar-07 13:57:15

Geography and maths are his favourite subjects and he will do really well in these without much effort. He probably has to try a good deal harder in the other subjects and that's why he can't be bothered.

I bribed him to do well in his SATS - £50 per level 5 which on reflection was way too much.

luciemule Fri 16-Mar-07 14:00:43

Agree with redtartanlass - no matter how bright you are, it doesn't mean that you'll be always driven to do everything at 110%.
Children are pushed so hard these days at school and home I think it's nice for them to relax a bit and enjoy being children and maybe involve him in things at home that will motivate him at school but without him realising as such (taking him to the theatre to insprire him in english for example or a limestone beach for geography/science museum ect).
There were always kids in my class who were very bright and didn't have to try and got excellent grades and now they work on a checkout/work in a pub/make pizzas for a takeaway (i'm putting these jobs down by the way, only implying with their grades (1st degrees at good unis) they possibly might have chosen other predictable career paths- so what I'm trying to say is even the extremely bright children might not choose to use their high grades once they're adults anyway. You can only help them so far and then it's up to them!

auntymandy Fri 16-Mar-07 14:01:11

I can offer no advice. My son was/is exactly the same. unless someone can motivate him at school and sto him from coasting I dont know the answer.

With no effort my son will get b and c grades at gcse if he put in alittle effort he could get A* but nothing i say seems to make a difference!!

Good luck you have a few years left to motivate!!!

Hassled Fri 16-Mar-07 14:07:25

My oldest DS is now 19 and at Uni, doing fine. However, he coasted all the way through Secondary school - he's very bright, very lazy, had no academic ambition and realised early on that he could do "well enough to get by" with the bare minimum of work - I mean that he was sufficiently bright that he didn't really have to try, and he sussed that out early on. I nagged him relentlessly all the way up to Yr13 and in hindsight wasted my time. He was just plain lazy! He did average/good in GCSEs, badly in A Levels and had to retake (that finally seemed to wake him up)and now at Uni has finally found an enthusiasm for academia. None of this helps the OP in terms of how to motivate - I tried and failed, and some kids just aren't that ambitious.

fizzbuzz Sat 17-Mar-07 20:22:14

Hmmmm as a secondary school teacher, I really hate to say this, but a lot of bright boys are like this, in fact dare I say it, the majority are, to different degrees. However this doesn't make it right.

As your son has just changed school is he finding himself socially and concentrating on that instead of school work?

Ask for him to be put on effort report. This is where every teacher has to sign a report card saying how well he has worked in class, and also about homework. This should be bought home every day to be signed and checked by you. It is usually administered by Head of Year in our school. It does work usually.

He has got plenty of time to change his attitude yet. Boys are recognised as underachieving at the moment, but the government doesn't seem to want to do anything about it

themoon66 Sat 17-Mar-07 20:30:19


My DS is the same and is now year 11 with GCSEs coming up very soon.

I remember when he was in year 7 and 8 he said the most de-motivating thing the teachers did was to give out merits to the naughty kids when they did something minorly good, like sitting still for half an hour. He said 'why should I bother when I don't get a merit for getting homework in, getting 90% in tests and being good for 100% of the time, but ** gets one for just managing not to swear at a teacher for one flipping lesson!?'

I see his point.

fizzbuzz Sat 17-Mar-07 21:19:51

So do I. As a teacher it really pisses me off as well.

I hate giving merits to naughty kids if they have done something like sit in their seats for 10 whole minutes, whilst the rest of the class are working. However we are expected to do it, because they thrive on praise apparently

cat64 Sat 17-Mar-07 21:28:34

Message withdrawn

FrannyandZooey Sat 17-Mar-07 21:34:59

Do we all have a responsibility to reach our full potential, academically?

I was an over-bright, under-motivated child at school and I have found the greatest happiness in my life in doing useful work that many people would regard as menial. I have never been well-paid and I certainly don't have any status.

I don't think another person can motivate you to achieve and I think our current education system saps inner motivation at every turn. I would be concentrating on your ds's self-esteem, and in helping him to find interests and goals that are meaningful to him - rather than trying to get him to jump through academic hoops that to a bright child often seem pointless and dull.

fizzbuzz Sat 17-Mar-07 21:35:02

Yes your're right, it might take a lot for a naughty child to sit down for 10 mins

But the other children perceive this as unfair, and that is what makes it so difficult. Also some kids are naughty deliberately

juuule Sat 17-Mar-07 21:47:37

I think you should just leave him be for now. If as Fizzbuzz says he might be concentrating more on the social aspects of school at the moment. Y7 is a big change and it can take a while for children to settle down in the social order. He is still holding his own academically so I can't see much to worry about at the moment.
I can't see how putting him on report would help, though. Surely that's like punishing him for doing well in contrast to naughty kids getting merits for turning up? That doesn't really add up, does it?
I was told when I queried my child dropping to a 4-something in Y7 after coming out of primary with a 5, that the levels meant different things at secondary school. Think I was fobbed off with that. But I have heard that the intense cramming for Y6 sats can give a false high level which secondary schools disregard and set their own levels on entry. Obviously I don't know how true that is.

grannycrackers Sat 17-Mar-07 21:55:37

buy him loads of good books

don't let him play on he computer 'til he's done his homework

ask him every day about the lessons he's done and what he will be doing tomorrow

give him a surprise reward when he's done especially well

these things have worked for me. my ds is 14 now and very bright and motivated - now he's doing gcse's. he went through a phase when he just did the bare minimum which was a worry at the time but really didn't matter

luciemule Sun 18-Mar-07 09:06:52

completely agree with frannyandzooey - I was very academic and as my parents didn't have the opportunity to go to uni, they realy pressurised me into going, even though I was very homey and didn't want to go off at 18. I would have much rather have worked in M and S or similar and worked my way up. But I did go to uni and got a 2:1 geography degree but did nothing with it really and instead followed my boyfriend and worked for DEFRA (started on only 7 grand doing admin and left after 3 years to have my children). So it really doesn't matter what qualifications you have if it's not what you really want.
I really love all of the self made entrepreneurs in the Dragon's Den (the Dragons not the public) who really know what it's like to have self motivation and follow their dreams to the max.

noddyholder Sun 18-Mar-07 09:11:00

When my ds started primary school they called us in after 3 months saying they thought he had special needs as he had no interest in learning and just wanted toplay!After another 6 months they said that they had made a mistake and he was actually advanced for his age and was gifted(?) in certain areas (language use).He is 12 now and is like your son clever but not motivated.He loves life and works hard enough at school to get a good report but no more.His teachers say the sky is the limit if he put more in but he doesn't want to so I don't force him.He is a child and I think you should let him find his own way.

FrannyandZooey Sun 18-Mar-07 09:18:50

I think also if you focus exclusively on this aspect of your son (his academic skills) then you risk giving the message that this is the only part of him that you value

this happened to me, and I still struggle with major self esteem issues because I often feel that I am only useful and lovable when I am acheiving or winning at something

noddyholder Sun 18-Mar-07 09:27:40

Fand Z I had exactly the same experience as you.My mum is still going on about my brain and how I could have done more

FloatingNeedsAnEasterName Sun 18-Mar-07 09:29:52

I'm the same as FrannyandZooey and luciemule - i too needed minimum effort to get good results, but my parents & teachers despaired of me because I wasn't achieving the straight As I should have got. I had no academic ambitions, only got 1 A Level, chose not to go to uni, and took meaningful people-related jobs instead. Never did me any harm.

It is the most infuriating thing when the adults in your life are bleating on about something that seems so unimportant and uninteresting to you. I agree, you have to find what he is genuinely interested in and take it from there. I think the school system & the careers advice I got at school really failed me - it would have been very easy to spot that I was interested in people, and I could have been guided in that sort of direction instead of nagged to do Science/French/English, all of which bored the pants off of me.

FrannyandZooey Sun 18-Mar-07 09:30:06


I really admire the line you are taking with your son btw

FrannyandZooey Sun 18-Mar-07 09:32:37

It's like - if your child was very beautiful and you forced them into modelling against their wishes, because it would make them a lot of money and help them be successful in life

it's imposing your values onto their life, but what you think will make them happy and successful may be meaningless or even abhorrent to them

juuule Sun 18-Mar-07 09:47:20

So very well put.

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