School Problems:
“My son is a gifted student who is failing.”

Dear Annie,

My son is only 11 and in the 6th grade. He went to a small private school until we moved a few months ago and we enrolled him in the local middle school. I thought my son might find the slower pace of the new school a little easier since he was starting to have trouble juggling all his class work in the prep school.

The first progress report said that my son, who is a gifted student, is not turning in his algebra homework and thus failing. This is after asking on a regular daily basis how things are going. We removed his computer from his room and told him that if his grades didn't improve that he would not see it back.

I understand that this school situation may not be the right choice for him and that we realize that moving is very stressful, but he appeared to adjust quickly and even had a new friend. However, his self-sabotaging behavior is getting acute! I don't want him to think failing is a way of conveying the message that "I'm not happy." He's done this once before and I don't want him to create a pattern that he'll use for the rest of his life. He's always been a quiet kid, so how do we get to him without lecturing him to death about personal responsibility and communication?

Troubled Parent

Dear Troubled Parent,

You say he has made a friend. That's great, but I'm wondering if he feels accepted by the other kids in his class. The reason I ask is this: it's unusual for a child who has always excelled in a subject (and probably gotten praise and acknowledgement for his achievements) to suddenly start failing in that subject. That, to me, is a red flag that may be signaling some emotional stress. Have you talked with his teacher? Is there a chance that he's being picked on or bullied?

In friendship,

Annie

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