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Year 7 Regression - academic and behaviour-wise

(10 Posts)
AnyoneFancyAPint Fri 28-Jun-19 14:20:02

DS is 12 and coming to the end of year 7. In some ways, it's been a successful transitional year - he made new friends straight away and joined lots of extra-curricular clubs. But lately, it feels he's going backwards, and I'm wondering if anyone's been in the same boat and has any advice.

DS was well-liked at primary, though by no-means one of the cool kids. He was bullied briefly (by one of the 'cool' kids who made it clear DS didn't belong in that particular clique) but the school dealt with it brilliantly, and DS moved on with a nicer group of friends who have all moved on to secondary with him (along with a handful of the less-pleasant kids). He was always strong academically, got greater depth in all his SATS (for what it was worth!) and was well liked by the teachers, who always said how polite and kind he was and a pleasure to teach. At home, he could be pretty argumentative and boundary-pushing at times (what pre-teen isn't?), but generally funny, warm, kind to his little sister and us.

Over the last year, his behaviour at school has deteriorated. It is a super-strict secondary that hands out detentions for relatively minor indiscretions, but DH and I support this because we understand the logic of enforcing minor rules to stop the major issues getting out of hand. Nevertheless, DS has had 20 ten-minute detentions over the last year (always for minor disruption), and was even on report for a week. But it's NEVER his fault, apparently. It's always the teacher being unfair, or making a mistake. We've spoken his his form tutor and head of year about his behaviour, and they are scratching their heads because in many ways he's an outstandingly well-behaved student - he constantly clocks up awards for his kindness, politeness etc, but refuses to wear the badges he's been given as rewards. They've said that his behaviour isn't bad as such, he just doesn't know when to stop talking in class.

We've tried sanctions - banning the PS4 for a few days, docking his pocket-money, and this works in the short-term. But he's recently admitted that the detentions are seen as a badge of honour among his cohort - that nobody wants to be seen as being 'a goody,' and I'm worried this is because he's trying to fit in with the 'cool' kids from primary again. Many of them have had considerably more detentions than him, and some familiar names are slipping back into his conversations.

Academically, he's been going downhill since the middle of the year. At the start of year 7, he was generally getting at least 80% in exams; in his end of year exams, he's just about scraping 60%. While he was revising, we were very supportive but not helicoptering - I believed in letting him get on with revision himself, because he was a very independent learner when it came to SATS and his mid-year 7 exams had gone well. Nevertheless, we made sure he revised often, had plenty of peace to do so, lots of breaks and a few treats, and made it clear we there to help him if there was anything he'd forgotten how to do/couldn't understand. Several times, I found him playing on his phone or on the computer rather than studying. He'd get very defensive, saying he was 'taking a break.' I'm now convinced he wasn't studying anywhere near as much as he was letting on, but he gets angry when I suggest this and accuses me of not trusting him. He didn't do that well in his exams because he's got rubbish teachers, apparently (he hasn't. The teaching at his school is outstanding).

He's started lying to us. He's allowed on Fortnite during the weekend but not during the school week, but a couple of times I've come back from picking DD up from a playdate to find him alone in the house and the PS4 on. He denies using it. He's been present when some of the 'cool' kids from his old school have got into scrapes, too (nothing major or criminal, but potentially trouble-making) and we've only found out he was there several days or weeks after the event, when another parent has told us, or he accidentally lets slip. He doesn't go out that much - maybe once or twice a week, and just to the local park or shops or a friend's house - but it seems he's been forgetting to mention who he's hanging out with, and what they've got up to.

He also doesn't try anymore at the things he used to enjoy, and was really good at - music in particular, because it isn't cool to play the piano (he's just scraped at pass in his grade 2 exam; for grade 1 he got a distinction). Now he just wants to play basketball, which he's never been very good at (by his own admission), and only seems to leads to arguments with the other boys.

I feel he's going backwards. He ended year 6 comfortable in his own skin, and doing well academically and socially. He started year 7 with a real up-for-anything attitude - new friends, doing well at new subjects and trying loads of extra-curricular stuff. Now he's hanging around with the kids who made his life a misery when he was 9, trying to join in with the things that they're good at (but he's not), getting involved in playground 'banter' rather than going to any extra-curricular clubs, and being a pain in the arse to the teachers. All the new friends from other primaries he made earlier in the year irritate him, he says.

He absolutely denies being bullied, and I do believe him on this one - his behaviour is not the same as when he was bullied before. If anything, he seems cocky and arrogant (though know this could be hiding his true feelings). His cousin is in the same year at the school, too, and while she doesn't hang out with him, she says he's popular and always seems happy at breaktime.

I don't know how to handle this. DH thinks we should avoid lecturing and issuing ultimatums, and just focus on the things we have control over: PS4 usage, when and where he goes out (though not necessarily who with, because I don't want to start following him!), limiting phone usage even more (because he's only allowed on there a couple of hours a day as it is) and so on. But when we try making stricter rules, he blows up and gets argumentative, and DH and I end up yelling at him, which inevitably leads to tears.

Please help if you can. He's a lovely boy with so much to give, but I'm worried this is the start of a downhill trend that will not go at all well.

OP’s posts: |
marytuda Fri 28-Jun-19 15:07:17

Gosh - I read this because I have a DS the same age . . And some of the same issues. There's a tendency on MN to apologise for long posts but personally they are always the most interesting, I find; thoughtful, as yours is, honest and heartbreaking sometimes too.
I've no solutions, only sympathy and some shared experience . . I do think this is an age when they are changing a lot, and obvs from our point of view, not all of it for the better. I think avoiding rows is crucial, my instincts say you need to preserve good lines of communication above all else, so that they don't hesitate to come to you when the chips really are down . . .Beyond that, they are growing away from us, and at no stage probably is that more evident than in Y7 at a new state secondary. We have no choice but to trust them, because we can no longer control them even if we wanted to.
So - just make sure he understands what's at stake, with exams, friends, activities etc. Tell him from me that being good at music is actually super-cool; just wait till he can sit down at the school piano a couple of years down the line and improvise around some popular tune; watch the kids' jaws drop! (Maybe suggest he might like to try jazz piano??) In the meantime - relax; you can only do your best (never give up at that) and accept that he will change and grow in ways you can't anticipate; he's only just starting . . .
To be honest - as parent of another bright Y7 - a lot of Y7 work will not require a lot of revision from a child who gets stuff pretty quickly. Quite a lot of maths, for instance (for a Greater Depth SATS child) will be repetition of what he has already done in Ys 5 and 6. Hours of revision, for better or worse (unless your school is super-selective and pushy from day 1, perhaps) are totally superfluous, which your DS probably knows, but can't quite say . .
That doesn't mean he won't go on to be a super-high-flyer, though, on the contrary. But at risk of sounding corny, he has got to want to. Your job and the school's is to make him realise he can, and that you are there to help. The rest will be up to him . . . All of it. Make him realise that too.

BlackCatsRock Fri 28-Jun-19 15:07:25

I'm not sure I have anything useful to say, but just wanted to say that I have a 12 year old son about to finish Year 7.

I was dreading it as he was the only boy from his primary going to his secondary school. He knew some boys from his football club but not very well.

He's probably slightly above average academically but nothing outstanding. Always been polite and well behaved at school. Very shy though.

When he started I wAs so worried he wouldn't make friends but he did, virtually within the first week. Since then, some of those friends have been and gone and he's got to know other people.

BlackCatsRock Fri 28-Jun-19 15:10:20

Ahh! Hit post too early!!

I think they're all trying to find where they fit in. It's a confusing time, with puberty kicking in as well, and I think maybe they need a bit of space to find their feet.

It sounds like you're doing your best, which is all any of us can do.

Sorry, I know that's not very helpful!!

sendsummer Fri 28-Jun-19 19:05:02

IMO basically give him space for how he socialises and tries other interests.
He is in the phase where he independently needs to find out the sort of person he can and wants to be (and that is n’t necessarily by staying in his and yours previously ‘safe’ comfort zone) and test authority.
It is excellent that he is taking the risk of trying out new things like the basketball especially as he knows he is not very good at it. DCs don’t always want to pursue their best talents. Even if it is from wanting to spend more time with his new friend he will be at least giving something new a go which might help build his social confidence.
Just keep up the reinforcement of good behaviour, study habits although he won’t be regarding academic work as a priority .
Don’t expect him to communicate to you as he used to.

marytuda Fri 28-Jun-19 22:25:16

And I agree with sendsummer about the basketball - it's not really about how much talent they have, it's about getting them active and socialising. One of my gripes about school sport is that it is by definition competitive so, equally by definition, the majority of kids who know they will never be "winners" are bound to feel unmotivated - yet they need to be active just the same as the "winners" do!
My DS was disappointed not to make the Y7 football team (didn't surprise me at all) so now basically does no extra-curricular sport at school - I wish he did.

Lougle Fri 28-Jun-19 22:57:08

It sounds like he's under a bit of conflicting pressure, tbh. His peers are expecting one set of behaviour and you are expecting another set of behaviour, and he'll lose out whatever he does. But you are his safe people, so he's better off disappointing you than his fickle 'friends'.

A couple of things about exams, though. Certainly in my DD2's school, the end of year tests are based on a foundation GCSE exam paper, so they aren't expected to get it all right, because they haven't been taught it all. Unless you know grade boundaries, 60% is meaningless. He could be middle of the pack, or he could have got 10% higher than the highest scoring child apart from him.

DD2 point blank refused to revise. She said she would either know, or she wouldn't. I tried to convince her that revision was a good thing, but at the end of the day, it's her education. She aced some tests and didn't do quite so well on others. She's acknowledged that perhaps revision might have helped.

Have you thought of incentivising good behaviour, rather than punishing bad? Is there something he'd really like, so he can earn it by not getting detentions? It sounds like you're pretty strict with electronics, so perhaps Fortnite time or phone time? We have 3 DDs (13, 11 and 20) and we've found that a 7am - 7pm rule works well with electronics. No electronics before 7am or after 7pm, and we reserve the right to say "Ok, you've been on electronics for a while now, go and do something active/read/ play a game for a while" during that time, too.

Lonecatwithkitten Sat 29-Jun-19 08:56:58

Year 7 has lots of challenges children move from being the big fish in the small pond to being the tiny fish in the massive pond.
They have to find their way around school between lessons, usually find their way to and from school and suddenly they have a whole array of new subjects to contend with.
On top of that hormones are starting to surge giving them feelings they totally understand. They may find it tricky to find their tribe and struggle to fit in.
I found rewarding effort rather than achievement to be the key at this stage and to move back to praising the good and ignoring some of the bad -picking my battles.

AnyoneFancyAPint Sat 29-Jun-19 13:52:11

Hello all,
Some fantastic advice and reassurance here. Thank you so much! I need to stop over-reacting and overthinking I think. The advice about rewarding effort than achievement makes a lot of sense.
Funnily enough, he's been absolutely lovely since I posted yesterday, and even came out for a run with me this morning. I need to remember all the positives, of which there are still many.
Thanks again all.

OP’s posts: |
nonicknameseemsavailable Mon 01-Jul-19 11:01:11

perhaps over the summer if you can get a clean break from the boys he will settle back down again and you can talk to him about approach to next year? I know there is the confidence code for girls book, is there something similar for boys which could teach him again to be confident in what HE believes and what HE wants not doing stuff to fit in?

I have one about to start year 7 and we are already getting moans about being the only one who isn't allowed x y and z and how she is left out as a result but I am scared if we start giving in and she bows to all the peer pressure already then things might get worse. We have been talking about standing up for herself and what she wants (she doesn't actually want all the chat groups, she just doesn't want to be left out but equally we can see her friends are all doing it just to fit in too) and we are hoping (probably very naively) that if she keeps out of it then some of her friends will join her as then they won't be taking a stand on their own and so on. but we could be setting her up to be a target so ....

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