My 14-year-old daughter is constantly in detention at school because she has not done her homework. I have tried checking her homework diary but it's rarely up to date. I am very worried about how she will cope next year with GCSEs as her grades are getting worse.
There is nothing quite as painful as being a parent and watching your child make mistakes. It's the feeling of being powerless that is so hard to cope with.
Before we rush into finding a solution though, it might be worth thinking about why your daughter has lost interest in her school work.
Is this a recent change? If this is a new situation, then something has changed. You need to find the reason. Does she have new friends who are behaving in the same way – or even a secret boyfriend who is so much more important than homework? And don't forget hormones; one minute she probably feels very grown up, the next she feels like a child. As parents, this can be very hard to deal with.
Because you are so frustrated with her behaviour, and presumably angry too, it is easy to overlook the fact that she must be unhappy too. No child likes being in detention. The fact that she is there so often shows it is not the answer.
Coach Elaine Halligan from the Parent Practice suggests, "Parents should stop nagging. It doesn't work."
What she does suggest is, "Try hard to connect. Ask her how she is feeling. Acknowledge that being in detention can't be much fun. Ask her why she can't keep up with the work."
Elaine concedes that these types of conversations may be met with silence or a child storming out of the room, but reminds parents, "It's like ringing a door bell. No one may answer, but you have left your card. You have given them the chance to talk - and keep on giving them that opportunity."
Advice from Ghislaine Forbes, Head of Year 11 and teacher for over 35 years echoes this. "Praise her for her achievements, no matter how small. It's easy to focus on the negative, but acknowledging what is going well is a much better solution."
It could take weeks or months to turn round the situation, so don't expect an overnight fix - be prepared to keep communicating.
Have you had a chat with her teachers recently? Could she find the work too hard – or even too easy? Children who are bored in lessons often under-perform as much as those who find the work difficult. It may be worth talking to her subject teachers, before the next parents' night and discussing if she is in the right set.
At 14, she may have no idea about how she sees her future career- but it's still a conversation you could have. Has she mentioned what she might like to do? At the end of Year 9 she will have to choose her GCSE options so now is the right time to be discussing these.
You could take it further to talk about A levels and the grades she will need at GCSE, or courses she might like to do at college or university. Again, try to be positive and focus on her strengths.
Could she be struggling with peer pressure? If her friends are not working hard either she may, if she lacks self esteem, feel the need to fit in with their behaviour.
Teaching our children to say no to certain behaviours is essential. But they can only do this if they have confidence. Building confidence can be a long haul but it is the answer to so many issues and really is worth it.
So next time she does do some homework on time, really praise her for it. And don't just focus on school - praise her for anything she does such as helping round the house, looking after pets, being a good friend. Talk about what she is doing right rather than what she isn't.
Above all, keep communicating. There is a reason for her change in behaviour. It is so easy to be a nagging mum - I did far too much of it myself - but if you can find a way of keeping the communication going, be supportive and keep in touch with her school, she will get back on track.
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