Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

The Joys (or not) of Parent-Teacher Interviews September 9, 2011

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This week we had the joy of parent teacher interviews.  Since there are two men-children, it requires either both of us to attend so we can split the interviews with their teachers, or one of us has to see twice the number of teachers as any other parent (that can involve several hours).  Thankfully this year Father of a Man-Child and I split the task – and even then it was a killer – let’s face it how many people feel like going to the school at 8pm on a Monday night – what were they thinking?

Not surprisingly it was a mixture of good news and bad.  Good news – doing homework, improving behaviour in class, some good results etc.  Bad news – not doing enough homework or revision, not turning up for class on time, not organised, distracting others in class……one of the men-children in particular falling into the latter news category.  Sadly for us, it’s a recurrent theme, and has been for three years now.  If we don’t decide to pull him out of the school, it may be the school asks him to leave.  This is a real possibility at the end of next year (year 10) which is crunch time for the boys, as they head into the all important Years 11 and 12.  Important for the boys, and let’s face it, important for the school’s reputation and grade averages!!!!

It’s quite difficult to sit with your son and be supportive when you learn that he has failed to hand in homework on numerous occasions, knowing that every night you have asked if all homework is done.  Moreover, knowing that you get them up each day to be out the door in a timely fashion, yet somehow they can never be on time to school?

At the P/T interviews (that’s Parent/Teacher for those of you who are new to this stuff), we bumped into one of the men-children’s head teachers.  Quite frankly she’s a delightful and seriously pragmatic teacher of boys, who really understands them.  We have exchanged numerous emails over the last 12 months, so now know each other well – I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not? 🙂

Anyway, we cast each other a knowing glance as we met to chat briefly, with Man-Child II accompanying me.  The topic of conversation was her recent email, which was to let me know that our son was now the proud owner of such a huge number of demerit points and detentions that they had escalated the issue to the head of middle school.  A fact our son had failed to mention for some reason?  Sadly it seems the demerit and detention system has absolutely NO impact on the man-child’s behaviour – it’s akin to water off a duck’s back.  I understand the head of school left him quite clear that the current spate of lateness and other offences leading to the detentions was to stop, as this situation could not continue without future consequences.  Hmmm, I certainly hope he’s successful, but I’m not convinced.

The pain point for this man-child is that he is fast earning himself a reputation in the school for being a difficult student – not a place you want to be in my view.  It just becomes increasingly difficult to get teachers to invest in you if they think you’re already a pain in the butt!  Thankfully I still saw signs the other night of wonderful teachers who are really keen for all their students (including my sons) to succeed under the tutelage.  If anything, like us, they are just frustrated to see boys who don’t make the most of the opportunities granted to them, and don’t achieve their best.

Easy in hindsight isn’t it?  Personally, detentions and slackness are quite foreign to me – I was such a goody two shoes at school I handed out detentions to other students.  Maybe this is the payback?  LOL!  Any hints to assist in reducing detentions or motivating the men-children welcome.  As you know bribery via a cash incentive is already on the table.

Read about “Money The Great Motivator” here.

 

Money – The Great Motivator July 29, 2011

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money boxAs the men-children head towards Year 10 (can you believe we’re already talking about subject selection for next year – Gulp!), Father of a Man-Child and I realize we are indeed getting to the pointy end of their school education.  And with that, we are keen to see an overall lift in their performance at school, as we all know that diligence in the early years pays off in the later years.

So with the latest school reports in hand, we discussed how we might incentivize the boys onto greater things during the second half of the year.  One of the men-children is a reasonably diligent student, although we think he does the bare minimum to achieve results, so is capable of a lot more.  And the other is a pretty poor student, in so far as he is not at all engaged by school (academia at least), not motivated (or even propelled by the threat of detentions) to do homework, listen in class, study etc – in short lacking in a basic belief in the importance of school education for his future prospects (sigh from Mother of a Man-Child, the most diligent of students).

On countless occasions the school tells us both are capable of far more – which I suppose is the biggest disappointment, especially with our disengaged man-child.   And so, to motivation – what better solution than MONEY!!!  Every 15-year-old boy who doesn’t have access to an in-built ATM at home, or a paying job, or has tight parents, surely needs money.  Especially with extended summer holidays on the horizon.

So we put a deal on the table for them:  For every B grade or better they achieved in their exams, we would pay them $100 per subject.  So they can both earn themselves $600 if they really want to – not bad for a 15-year-old we thought

In the case of one of the man-children, there was however a catch.  For whatever reason, he is consistently late for school.  No amount of detentions at school for lateness or positive reinforcement from home and school for timeliness seems to impact his behaviour.   His last report had 11 “half day absences” – basically the times he was late and was unaccounted for.  So we added a catch to his reward scheme.  For every late day on his report he would lose $20.  So if he had 10 late days it would cost him $200 offset by the B grades he would hopefully earn.

Do you know what he said?  No deal!!!  Crap – I didn’t see that coming.  He just refused to partake, point-blank, and said he’d rather go without than pay some money back.  I was exasperated.  How hard is it to get up and go to school on time – it’s such a small thing to do isn’t it?  Especially when your mother wakes you up every day!

No amount of reasoning in the next few weeks would convince him to partake in the scheme.  I was pretty pissed off with him especially since we’re even paying for a tutor for one subject, which should guarantee he gets a good grade (yep, double impost for us really).  Not one to be beaten (you know I hate to lose), I came up with an alternative deal that I wouldn’t let him refuse.  I basically flipped the penalty on its head.  So if he got five or less absences we would pay him a bonus $100.  That’s right, not a penalty but a further reward.  It seems weird, but hey if it works it’s worth it.

So time will tell how we go with the carrots for the men-children.  Father of a Man-Child and I are optimistic that it will motivate Man-Child I.  We’re less convinced about Man-Child II, but maybe he’ll surprise us?

Any other thoughts on how to motivate students?  Is the carrot or the stick better?  It’s hard to know sometimes.  Although removing PS3 for the term and taking the plug out of the TV certainly ensures they don’t have much to do except homework whilst they’re sitting upstairs some nights! 🙂

Read about more challenges with educating the men-children: “The Challenge of Educating Boys”