As good as it gets?


New Member
There is roughly 5 weeks of school left. My difficult child is failing his sophmore year almost completely. Presently, his only passing grade is in metals. He's even failing strength and fitness and auto and he loves these classes. I am at a total loss as to how to help. I have offered to get him a tutor, I have suggested he drop one class so that he could more study halls (presently he gets one 70 minute study hall a week). He refuses everything. He tells me that he doesn't need help but he fails to help himself.

I was starting to feel like I was running out of time. difficult child is 16.5. My goal since middle school as been to get him to graduate high school. Anything after that was a bonus. I have fought long and hard to reach this goal. I've used a combination of rewards, punishments, natural consequences. In the past, I usually got some positive result even if it was only temporary. Now I get nothing.

I know a big part of the problem is poor attendance. He's had several minor physical health issues this year; as well as, his usual "mental health days". He is forever playing catch up and its getting harder and harder for him to do. In middle school he had a guided study hall every day. It's probably the only reason he passed. He really does seem to care about his grades. It's a sensitive topic for him that often results in frustration and tears when its brought up. But he does not seem to be doing much about it.

At the start of the new quarter, we talked. I asked him what would motivate him to bring up his grades. Imagine my surprise when he told me I should be more strict?! After years of everyone, (dex, easy child, difficult child)telling me I was too strict. He told me not to back down. "You don't have to be a complete jerk" he says to me. "I probably will be but don't back down. I think that might help me"

Well he missed the first 6 days of the new quarter because of a tonsillectomy. The following week was spring break (I originally scheduled the surgery during break but dr. cancelled). I collected as much homework as the teachers would give me. It was an annoying task that required 4 trips to pick up work for 5 classes, twice the work was not where it was supposed to be and had to be hunted down. All of these trips were before work or on my lunch break because the office is closed by the time I get off of work. I digress. The next step is to get all of this work done and he did get everything done that he knew how to do. But then I find out he only handed in the work for one class and not the others. GRRRR. Do your kids do this?

I was so irritated. I came down on difficult child one morning. Told him I was sick of arguing about this issue. I was taking away his computer privileges and XBox until he was back on track. I used a stern voice which to difficult child equates to yelling. He ends up in tears, crying really hard, "I'm sorry I'm not the son you wanted" (insert knife in my heart-I felt terrible.)I stay with him until he calms down but he still refused to go to school. He stayed home and slept all day. sigh. When I got home he was doing homework...which was short-lived. Then he ends up being sick again later that week(I think he really was) and misses another day of school. He's missed 10 days this quarter alone.

Last week, it occurred to me that I was stressing out because it did not seem like difficult child was going to reach my goal for him. It's ironic that after I came to this conclusion. I read a similar thought in another post. It really is not about me and what I want, it's about difficult child. So I start to change my focus and I start thinking about what life skills he needs to learn to be successful. He talks about getting a job, but makes no effort. He talks about doing alot of things but he never follows through. I am so afraid that I am going to fail this kid. I love him so much. But nobody lives forever and who will look after him when I am gone? I am so confused. I am just rambling. Part of me thinks I should be upstairs right now taking away all of his priviliges hoping that sheer boredom will make him complete his work but I don't think it will. After the blow up,I think he will do what he always does to escape...sleep. I am just too tired to even deal with it tonight-how lame is that.

I know this is stupid in comparison to what other people are going through with their difficult children. My difficult child has come along way. He doesn't rage anymore, his impulse control is better. I am thankful for all of that. I guess I am mourning a bit, maybe this is as good as it gets. Sorry for the long post.


New Member
There is something that my husband and I keep hearing from psychiatrist and from therapist and all the books we keep reading that we have finally had to learn the hard way, and believe me, it is NOT an easy concept to swallow for us because, same as you, we WANT our difficult child to be successful....

All the "brains" keep stressing the importance of "natural consequences". This does not just apply to school, but to other things as well. They tell us not to be afraid to let difficult child fail. This is very hard for us, and probably for ALL parents because we don't want to see our child have to repeat a year of school or go through any of the tough things that we try to teach them to avoid before they get involved in something they shouldn't.... this was brought to us by everyone when we were concerned that our difficult child was going to fail her 7th grade. At first, I was FURIOUS that her psychiatrist suggested this to us and even MORE furious that she suggested it in FRONT of our difficult child. But, same as your son, our difficult child told us that she did NOT want us to back off of her about it because she didn't want to fail.

We made a simple arrangement that she would be responsible for completing homework and studying for tests, and that we would be available and MORE than HAPPY to help if she wanted us to, but that we were not going to get involved unless she approached us about it. I requested the school send us a copy of her progress report updated on a weekly basis, and when I receive it, my husband and I, along with our difficult child sit down and review her grades and talk about the things that are going on in each class and if any of her grades have dropped, we discuss the difficulties she is having in those classes and we offer our help and advice and try to work on getting them up.

This helps us in many different ways. Number one, if she is the one that approaches us for help, she is going to be more accepting of the advice we give, rather than feeling like we are attacking her or hoarding over her during homework time. Number two, the weekly "meetings" offer her the stability of KNOWING what we will be discussing and giving her a chance to prepare herself for how she would like the discussion to go, rather than us surprising her with it when she isn't prepared to answer for her performance. Number three, just knowing that we are keeping track on a weekly basis helps with the accountability. She knows that even though we aren't standing over her with an iron skillet, that we are still keeping track of what she is doing and it motivates her to stay on track.

I can't say that this will work for you, but it seems to be doing wonders for us, because in January, her progress reports were always D's and F's and we were constantly battling over schoolwork and studying. Now, only 4 short months later, we are seeing progress reports with A's and B's and only an occasional C....and there is hardly EVER any fighting over schoolwork. We still have an occasional battle when she gets ahead of herself and asks us for our help just a little too soon and she is still not quite ready to accept it, and times when she waits too long that she is already too frustrated to understand what we are telling her. But that takes some learning on how to wait just long enough that they are sure they are stuck and are ready to accept help, but not waiting so long that they are frustrated to the point that they can't think clearly to UNDERSTAND the advice they are getting. After a while, it gets easier for everyone and difficult child can also learn a LOT by this about how to handle their frustration and when is the right time to back off of a task for a while before going back to it. Many times NOW, if difficult child is stuck, she will walk away from it for 15 minutes, go get a drink or a snack and rest her brain, then when she goes back to it, she has cleared her head enough that she understands it all on her own, but if not, then she knows she is ready for help.

I don't know if this will work for you, but it certainly has helped our difficult child bring her grades up...PLUS as an extra bonus, our rage fits at home have been cut by about 75 percent. The biggest thing that her psychiatrist and her therapist keep telling us is that BEFORE attempting this method, we must be prepared for the possibility that if our difficult child doesn't comply, she could possibly fail, and we have to be ready to let that happen. This was tough for us. Luckily, it didn't come to that for us, but as advised, we were prepared for it just in case, so imagine our surprise when the grades started going UP and not DOWN.


difficult child does homework..I see him. Doesn't turn it in. he says they lose it, they say he never turned it in. I have gone through his locker and found many of the assignments that he said he turned in. Luckily they do not take points off for late work (spec. ed only).
difficult child usually waits until end of the quarter to do a lot of missing work. But he gets really good grades on the tests. Even though those grades will not earn him a passing grade if he has all zero's for daily assignments.
He has refused to go to class (twice last week), but so far has not refused to go to school. I expect that will happen.
I am excited that there are only 29 days of school left. But I am scared to think of the summer. I pray he finishes the school year on a good note. That will make or break the summer.
Dear ROE,

I am new here, and I felt compelled to respond to your post. Your description of your difficult child could easily be our difficult child. He also is a sophmore, and we've been able to make it on a wing and a prayer until this semester. All of his issues are the same with the exception of two: I can't imagine him ever asking us to be more strict, and he has a serious physical disability having been in a pedestrian accident four years ago. This issue makes us tread even more lightly in our parenting.
My husband and I are so concerned about using the right strategy here, and believe me , we have tried many and are always looking for more. We have come to the realization that the goals we have for difficult child are just that, our goals. Next year is even scarier because in our high school the Junior year is the most difficult. Currently difficult child is failing one class (by the way, his favorite - where he reports that he is "way ahead of everyone else", and means it!) and making a D in a core class. Even the D is a showstopper when it comes to college acceptance in our state.
I understand what you mean about grieving. We live in a very small community outside a major metropolitian area. We chose it for its wonderful school system - which is small , with small classes. It was wonderful for easy child - you couldn't have asked for a better educational experience. But guess, what, it just doesn't work for kids who are outside the usual... Our community is wonderful though, after difficult child's accident, and his first 2 month inpatient hospital stay - we never cooked one meal. They were really there for us. As time as passed though,difficult child's other issues have become more and more apparent - and the friends have pulled away one by one. He has been with his same classmates since pre-K and we know all of the parents and other kids. Every day it becomes more and more difficult and bittersweet to watch their development and accomplishment . It also becomes harder to interface with the school and the teachers - we've become difficult parents for them to deal with. (I don't think that is due to change anytime soon).
I met with the principal last week and asked for more help. She suggested a "study skills' class that operates like a study hall, but is one-on-one with the homebound teacher that worked with difficult child right after his accident. We have our fingers crossed , hoping that a)it will happen and b)difficult child will let it happen. He so desperately wants to be "normal" that anything that hints otherwise is persona non grata with him. I'm hoping his good relationship with this teacher will make it work. (My best memory of her is when she brought two fetal pigs for dissection to our front porch and worked with him so he wouldn't miss out on the 8th grade science experience).
Sorry for the long response. I just really identified. I'm hoping for the best for all of us!


Active Member
just want to say I am listening and I sympathize. I wanted want son to have the diploma. no matter what. ya know what? that is not the end all. after that you may have to prod push and cajole him into getting a job, a life, a spouse, etc etc.

let the chips fall where they may. make sure he knows the class will go on without him. tell him you will get him a tutor and if he still will not help himself, let him fail. yes it will take one more year of his life. then again, some of us have sons long out of high school and they still are not fitting the mold of life.

try not to stress so much. tell your son your life will be the same whether he makes it to graduation or not, however his will be much more difficult.


Well-Known Member
I am wondering if it was my post last week that got you thinking. I am right where you are.

I contacted the school today, again, to try to get something accomplished.

I may try Neednewtechnique's suggestions! It sounds like something different than what we have tried in the past - worth a try.


New Member
Thanks for the replies. I feel a little stronger today, although today is not any better, but hey it's not any worse either. difficult child missed yet another day of school today. "Mom, you don't understand I really feel like Sh##T"

I don't think he has gone to school two days in a row this past month. He really did seem sick on Friday and over the weekend but one never really knows with him unless there's fever or vomit. He went to school yesterday, mood seemed happy, but still complaining mildly. Earlier this month he had the tonsillectomy, then he had an infection on his leg that needed to be drained and required antibiotics, then the flu (?). I took him to the dr., maybe he has some lingering infection. Nobody believes he is sick. I felt embarrassed calling the school again to report his absence. Today a live person answers (I like it better when I get the machine)I felt by her tone that she did not believe me. Co-workers don't believe it when I tell them I have to take him to dr. again, dex doesn't believe it, nobody believes it. Heck I don't even believe it. I believe he doesn't feel in top form but sometimes wonder if his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is playing in-making more of it than there really is. Guess what, he really is sick again. Dr. said his throat is too raw to be just allergies (which he has). She said its a good thing that he had his tonsills out earlier or his throat could be swollen almost shut now (his tonsils were huge.)She told me if it doesn't clear up by the end of the week to take him for mono test. But she also said if he felt well enough he should go to school.

I talked to difficult child after the appointment. I told him that I would be restricting his priveliges on a daily basis until he shows me the homework he completed. He was agreeable (probably change later) I don't expect him to finish every single missing assignment in one day-its too overwhelming for him right now-and its best to break it down. Once he has completed what he can for one day then he can have his privileges back (computer time, game time, time with friends)for a period of time each day.

I also told him that I will not follow up with his teachers to make sure he handed in his assignments (1/2 of them don't respond anyway-but I didn't tell him that). But that if I were him I would turn in the work for credit since its done anyway. He get's this little smirk on his face-yes he knows how foolish it is not to hand in work that he finished. It is downgraded when its late.

I am not going to stress about it if he chooses to sleep (which is what he is doing now). I have prepared myself as much as I can for the idea that he will likely fail the entire year-such a waste but not the end of the world.

Thanks again.

by the way, Welcome to the board one day at a time. You will find alot of wise people here. I'm sorry to hear about what your son's been through. The accident sounds very traumatic. It's great that you live in a supportive community and school district. You'll find that here too.


New Member
Busywend, We must have been posting around the same time-I did not see your reply before my previous post. I have been struggling with this issue for a while, but yes, I think I did respond to your post last week.

What is Neednewtechniques?


Well-Known Member
No, this is not insignificant. As you've seen from the notes here, it is what we all struggle with. I'm so sorry about your son. That comment about "I'm sorry I'm not the son you wanted" is a heartbreaker! :frown: :eek:
I'd take him in for a mono test asap.
Sounds like he's going to fail this yr. It's already May 1. You've got to make him understand (gently) that it's not your fault... it's his responsibilty. Whenever you're sick and you lose a lot of time, it's 10X more work to make up the diff. He's having a hard time just getting by, much less getting ahead. Maybe repeating the grade will help. It will at least teach him about natural consequences.
Sounds like it's a viscious circie about the illness and the classes... he gets sick, falls behind in school, gets sick again... focusing on getting well and choosing maybe 3 classes to do well in would be a good plan. You're idea to sit and talk with-him was a good one. This time, talk and make a plan that he has to sign. If he bucks you, remind him that he asked you to be more strict. :smile:
Good luck! I hope his throat heals.


New Member

I am Needanewtechnique...busywend was talking about what I posted yesterda....I replied to this post yesterday and explained the method that we were encouraged to try by our difficult child's therapist and psychiatrist. See my last response for the details. It seems to work well for us, granted, our difficult child is only 12 and in 7th grade, so she is much younger than your son. We have only been doing it for about a month, but have had such great luck with it so far. Unfortunately, since we have only been trying it a short time, I cannot vouch for it's long term effectiveness. But it has decreased the amount of tension in our house SO MUCH it seems like a dream come true. There are days when I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop because it seems to be going almost TOO well, if that makes any sense. :smile:

Good luck, I can relate, as I know how frustrating the school and homework issues can be. As I have explained before for the parents who use the "basket methods" outlined by Dr. Greene, he states that homework should be a basket C issue at first, but unfortunately for us, that is NOT an option. Our difficult child was placed in our home by CPS and they keep a very close eye on EVERYTHING, ESPECIALLY her school progress, and every dropping grade must be explained, so we have to make sure homework is completed and tests are prepared for....

Check out my reply post and if you want to discuss it more, I would be happy to!


New Member
Thanks neednewtechnique. I did read your previous post but obviously I forgot your screen name, duh. When busywend referred to it I thought you were a website or a book. lol.

It was your previous post that got me to thinking about my new "plan" I want difficult child to be accountable for his school work. I am not going to hound him to do it. But I also added a consequence for not doing it. Basically he would have to earn his priviliges by completing homework since he previously asked me to be more strict?! Hmm, I make have to rethink that one especially since by the end of the evening he had already "forgotten" about our agreement and was fighting me on it. The situation definitely has brought out an increase in OD behavior which I expected. He went so far as to tell he wasn't going to take a shower because "I told him to". I told him that I didn't care because I wasn't the one who had to sit next to him in class. He says "Nobody has the nerve to tell me that I stink". The exchange was lighthearted and his tone was joking. But guess what, he didn't take a shower. I am asking myself whether it's worth the hassle. I have written off this year-it's his worst academic year ever.

One question I do have for you, what do you do if your difficult child doesn't do the work at all? Do you just let it fall back on the natural consequence of failing? This is a big issue with my difficult child right now. I think that he is so far behind that it's overwhelming. He's given up but he won't admit it.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts

My biggest fear for the tweedles is dropping out because their academics are so very delayed. I think that there is a great deal of bravado hiding the fact that our difficult children just cannot keep up academically.

Are there any tutors that could/would work with difficult child. Is there a different school setting that would be more beneficial for difficult child? Is difficult child willing/able to complete online high school courses?

Just some thoughts to consider. While failing is a natural consequence, I think that, as parents, we need to explore & use any & all interventions available to support our children to their highest level of functionality given their disorders, while maintaining mental emotional stability & calm at home. A fine line to walk, in my humble opinion.

Just some thoughts for you.


My difficult child doesn't do his school work either. A real sore spot with me. He passes the tests but doesn't do the work. Therefore earns a failing grade due to all zero's for assignments.
Told him no computer if We get any calls from school. All assignments must be done before computer time.
He knows, doesn't ask for computer if we recieved a call. School work he says he doesn't have any, until we recieve the weekly progress report with all the missing work on it.


Sorry I'm getting in on this a little late, but I had to post. You can see from my signature that my difficult child is now in community college. In her sophmore year, I was preparing myself for her becoming a hs dropout. She skipped classes regularly, missed assignments and failed classes. I grew exhausted chasing after HER homework and making sure SHE was meeting project deadlines. If she had a paper due, so did I and went to the library along with her.

Then, I just stopped. I told her that if she didn't graduate at 18, she would be out of my house and on her own. Eventually she saw that I was serious when I stopped checking up. She failed classes and I refused to go to the teacher to try to get her extra assignments to bring the grade up. One time she even shouted at me that "you don't even care if I don't graduate. What kind of mother are you?"

So, guess what happened? She started doing better. Kids that she had been with since second grade started talking about what to wear to the prom and the senior picnic. She wanted to go, too. She went to summer school and made up the classes she failed. We had it worked out in her IEP that when she felt she was about to lose her composure, she could take a few minutes with the high school counselor so she wouldn't end up in detention or suspended. But the trigger for all of this was my difficult child. No matter what I wanted, she had to want it too. And oh yeah, she dropped her loser friends.

So, she'll have to do community college before she goes on to a 4-year school, but that's okay. I think you are on the right track. Remember, there is always summer school if your difficult child has to get some additional credits, if he cares to.


New Member
I think maybe I should explain a little better, because I am afraid I have left a few people with the misconception that we just stepped out of the way without offering much of anything for her to lean on. And that is not the case. We are lucky in that, in our town, the Jr High and High school are in the same building. And although they don't spend much time interacting, somehow our difficult child ended up in a mostly high school student study hall even though she is only in 7th grade. Since she had an IEP that came back that she was ineligible for Special Education services, we have not had the ability to fall back on them for support...but at the advice of our therapist and psychiatrist, when we chose to try this method, we did contact the school and made other arrangements. She has an open pass during study hall for all of her core classes stating that if she has a question on a homework assignment that we are not able to resolve at home in 10 minutes or less, she is to take the beginning of her study hall and go to that teacher for help. We seem to be having good luck with the fact that she doesn't lash out at her teachers, and she does really well holding herself together at school, so she IS focusing better there and that is usually the best way to help her. Also, we found a Senior in her study hall that has volunteered to work with her on her other homework durning study hall on a daily basis so most nights she doesn't even have to bring it home. At first we were concerned that if we tried to step out of it and let her be responsible, that she would just not use the free pass or the free mentoring being offered to her, and we were prepared for her to just give up, but we were pleasantly surprised when she didn't. As for what we would do if she just decided not to do it....that is another matter all together. Technically, if you follow Dr. Greene's advice in "The Explosive Child", while going to school everyday falls under a Basket A issue, homework is supposed to be Basket C...if you go by that, we are technically NOT supposed to impose other consequences...however, the weekly "meetings" we have with our daughter once we review her progress reports would be a good time to discuss additional consequences if we felt the need to have any. (whether you do or not has to be a decision that you as the parents make) This is a good time to discuss that because the meeting is planned, scheduled and she has had time to prepare herself for it. She has a daily planner and a calendar, and I have written our little discussions on both the calendar and in her planner, so she sees it on a regular basis and always knows when it will be happening. I have found that if they are not taken by complete surprise, and have had time to prepare themselves, they will always take these things better. Knowing the meeting is coming up, she will be able to prepare for what to expect, based on what she has and has not done that week in school.

Granted, we have made a few rules that we insist she follow regarding nights that she does happen to bring home work...we ask her to hand over her cell phone (if she will not give us the phone, we will "compromise" by letting her keep ahold of it as long as it is turned off) and she is not allowed to take any calls, watch TV, or get online until homework is complete. If she has assignments that require the use of the computer, she is allowed on, but she is not allowed to sign in to messenger or check her mail until all work is done. (this kind of serves as an added consequence, because if she chooses not to do her homework, then she will not be able to take calls, watch TV, or get online that evening at all.)

Also, in regards to your comment about how your son seems to forget the arrangement before all is said and done, we have found it helpful on some occasions, for our difficult child AND for us, to have these things written down and put up someplace that our difficult child is sure to see it on a regular basis as a reminder. For example, we have a list posted of the "Basket A" issues so that not only does our difficult child clearly know what issues we are NOT negotiating on, and also so that we can remind ourselves if we start to push and issue, to check the chart and see if it is really worth the meltdown. We tried to post a general list of the routine basket B and C issues as well, but those are very basic and limited to only the issues we deal with on a regular basis, as there is always new things popping up that we have to make the decision where to put it in perspective.

The biggest thing, overall, is before you step out of the situation, not only do you have to be prepared for the worst, but also hope for the best and make arrangements for them to have an opportunity to get help from a "neutral" party. You don't want to just throw them in the lake with no life jacket, tell them to swim, and walk away. It is more like gently lowering them into the water WITH a life jacket, telling them to swim, taking a few steps back but still being available to help if they start to drown......if that makes any sense, maybe that's a bad analogy, but it sounded so intellectual and profound...... lol

Homework is one of those things that strikes us close to home, so I am very interested in helping you any way I can. And if anything new comes up that you try and it works, please share, because I am sure that we are not through it all yet. Like I said, it seems to be working so well that I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Luckily with only three weeks worth of school left, if things are already bad, how much damage could he do in three weeks? This is a good chance to try it out without suffering the consequence of STARTING OFF the school year with this method and hoping that it turns out okay.
The way we try to rationalize things is, if they are at the bottom already, the only place they can go is up..... :smile: Our difficult child seems to be okay with doing the same old thing she has always done and failing at it, but she has a huge fear of trying something new and failing at it. I think that is why a lot of these things work so well for our difficult child's in general. By the time they get to a place that it is so bad, they KNOW that it can't get any worse, so they can either stay the same as they are, or get better, but if it can't get any worse, there is NO possibility of failure. I don't know why that makes sense to them, but that seems to be the way it is.