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Tough Parenting Decisions

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Everyone knows parenting is tough. It doesn’t matter if you’re a mom or dad, if you stay home or work, if you’re a grandparent or other relative stepping in, or anyone else in the role of raising a child. It’s hard.

Having a child with behavior problems, whatever they may be, adds another layer of difficulties.

My husband and I have a difficult decision to make at the moment. Our oldest child, who will be fourteen in June, has behavior problems that have affected her schooling. We’ve been working with her for years, and especially this year as she finishes up middle school, to teach her personal responsibility and work ethic. Nothing has taken.

So, with four weeks of school left, we have to decide whether or not to hold her back. It’s been keeping me up at nights going over the pros and cons, worrying about how we’re going to screw things up. Honestly, I don’t see any good options. We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

On one hand, she’s barely done any homework or classwork this year. She told me today that homework is stupid and she doesn’t need to do it as long as she has an okay grade. She also believes that if the homework is too hard she doesn’t have to do it. Or if it interferes with her socializing she doesn’t have to do it. Basically there’s no reason for her to do homework ever.

She completely failed the 2nd trimester this year. She had five Fs and a C. We met with her teachers to discuss options. Legally, they can’t hold her back. They have to pass her whether she shows she knows the stuff or not. Which is the most idiotic thing I’ve every hears. They are also obligated to allow the kids to turn homework in until the very last day so that they can pass. There’s absolutely no accountability for the students. They can do homework whenever they want, if they choose to do it. It’s completely optional in the long run as long as they do good on the tests. I want to point out that the ONLY reason she is failing classes is because she doesn’t turn her assignments in. She is extremely smart and in the highly capable program.

We could debate the pros and cons of homework (I’m against it unless the student is showing signs of struggling in that subject), but the point is that it’s been assigned, therefore it has to be done. But my philosophy and the school’s differ vastly. My child will always side with the school on this.

Her grades are passing this term. Only because her art teacher allowed her to take a “teacher’s aide” class, but instead of helping in the class she is sent to the library to do school work. It’s the only time she does “homework.” It’s been enough to keep her grades at a C average, but she’s still not learning that homework has to also be done at home. In high school there will be no study hall and the classes will be harder. And they can, and will, fail her.

Here’s the problem, though. If we pass her, I don’t believe she will make it through 9th grade. She will fail that year. I don’t believe she is mature enough (her birthday is after the school year ends which means she’s one of the youngest kids in her class). Maturity has never been an issue until the last two years of middle school, especially this year. Based on her attitude about homework and school, I don’t think she can handle the class load and responsibility.

If we hold her back, though, it will cause a war within the house. Her behavior is already difficult to deal with. If she can’t pass on to high school with her friends… Well, she’ll lose it. I know she will purposefully fail a 2nd year in 8th grade because she’s angry. She’ll run away, she’ll start cutting again, she’ll do all the things that got her into trouble this year, but tenfold.

I’m not sure what’s better–holding her back in the hopes she might actually do the work the second time through (I doubt it) or let her pass to 9th grade and flunk the year.

Honestly, neither option solves anything, but it’s a decision we have to make before the year ends.

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2 thoughts on “Tough Parenting Decisions

  1. Failing a grade level in high school affects college applications more than failing a middle school/jr high grade level.

    On the other hand, does the high school have more or less counseling/tutoring resources available to her, or are they spread thinner than what her current school has?

    Is there a summer school option which could be a negotiating point for her?

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  2. Jen Connelly on said:

    I think the high school shares counselors with the middle schools. It’s not a big district (1 regular high school, 1 alternate high school, 2 middle schools, and 3 elementary schools). And they only have summer school for the high school since they can’t fail the middle school kids there’s no reason for them to go to summer school. NCLB is utter bullshit with this. They may not be leaving kids behind, but passing them when they haven’t earned it is even worse.

    Anyway, summer school for the high school costs like $100 per course. So if she does need it, we can’t afford it.

    We’ve decided to just let her pass. If she fails 9th grade it’s on her. We tried. I tried to have her talk to my brother who failed 5th grade (almost failed 7th grade, too, but went to summer school instead) and struggled all through high school although he definitely buckled down once there and realized he needed good grades to get into college. He agreed to take her for the day. I was going to take her to get new shoes so she’ll stop complaining and then I was going to drop her off at his place with $20 and let them do whatever. But Patrick had to go and tell her and she refused to get dressed and go. Pissed me off.

    She just came in now asking if she was going to the 8th grade celebration (they don’t have a traditional graduation). I paid the $20 this morning so she’s going. But she needs a nice dress and shoes because there is a dance after and they treat it like a mini-prom. Don’t know where I’m going to get the money for that. We’ll either have to hit the Goodwill or put more on my Kohl’s card. She can’t barrow from friends because she’s so much smaller than they are. They all wear like a junior size 3 or 5/woman’s size 4 or 6. Meagan wears a girl’s size 10. I figured out that a girls 12 is the same as a juniors size 0/1 which is what Brenna wears. They are too big on Meagan and dresses in that size would be way too long and too big in the chest. Of course, anything in the girls section is too “babyish” for an almost 14yo. It’s going to be a pain.

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