School Problems:
“My gifted daughter has given up on school!”

Dear Annie,

I have a 14 year old daughter who at one point had been in the Gifted And Talented Education program for 4 years. She can read an 800 page novel in two days. She has been in the student ambassador program and traveled through 7 different countries. She held an elected position in an international civic organization. Yet, when it comes to her school work, she has been failing many subjects for the past almost two years now. She barely scraped through the eighth grade and now her freshman year in high school is almost over and she is still getting F's and D's. This child is even failing P.E. How does that happen?

I have tried many different forms of discipline such as grounding and removing the computer and telephones and restricting her activities outside of the home, but she acts like she could not care less. Whenever I get a call or email from a teacher about missing assignments and bad grades, my daughter says she'll try harder and she does for a week or two. But then we're back to the same old thing.

She is so smart and artistically talented and just generally a nice girl to be around. I don't know how to help her with this. Even with summer school I am worried that she may have to repeat the ninth grade. I've repeatedly discussed college and how important it is to get good grades (or at least passing grades) for the next four years. I am so worried that she is sabotaging any chance at a good future. What do I do? I'm out of ideas!

Frustrated Mom

Dear Frustrated Mom,

I don't blame you for your frustration. Your daughter obviously has the intelligence to be achieving higher grades than she's getting. It sounds like she was shining in everything up until the beginning of 8th grade. The obvious question that comes to my mind is "What happened starting in that school year?" My sense is that unless she's got some yet-to-be-detected learning difference or a hearing or visual impairment that you're not aware of, or that she's doing drugs, then the evidence points to something in the social/emotional realm.

Whatever is driving this behavior may be beyond her current level of awareness and control. That's why the forms of discipline haven't yet worked. Something is causing your heretofore high achieving daughter to "not care less" about her school work. Have you had her evaluated by a therapist? If not, I would get a recommendation for a licensed family therapist and make an appointment for you and your daughter. This shouldn't feel like a punishment to her. Because it's not! Tell her quite simply and honestly that you're going to get her the help she needs to figure out what's going on here. She may seem like she doesn't care, but I have to assume that she's not any happier with F's and D's than you are. I hope this helps your family. I wish you well.

In friendship,

Annie

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