14 year old struggling with academics during COVID19

My son a 9th grader is resistant to engage in virtual learning during this pandemic . Prior to last day of school March 13 I suggested getting caught with all classes (and he did) in expectation the lack of structure is a challenge .  He is not 100% academic motivated , but will do the work if in the classroom setting.

he doesn’t need to get up early and do the morning routine - so I assume virtual learning will be fun and easy- however is a challenge.

he doesn’t get upset when his mom and I talk to him about it - I assume he is aware of his choice to not engage.

few days ago told me it was annoyed by us telling him to get school work done, I don’t want to remove the cell because I am confident he can do the job with no consequences.

how can he get motivated ?

any similar experiences?

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I imagine that you've already asked your son for his input about why it's hard to get into online learning. But if you haven't, just using some curiosity WITHOUT responding with advice is a good place to start. Sometimes just our kids just want to be heard without immediately being given a parent opinion. So, starting with "What is it about distance learning that's not working for you as well as being in class?" (Again, you've  probably already asked this.) Then just validate how he feels. "Yeah, that makes sense. If I had to do 9th grade online, I wouldn't like it either." A few hours later, you can tell him: "I was thinking about what you were saying about how this method of learning sucks. Your mom and I get that. AND right now, that's all that is available until school ends. Our expectation is that you're going to do your school work on time every day. We're looking for you to manage that yourself. If that doesn't happen, we'll have to step in. We would hate to put away your cell phone (or other devices) until your work is complete. So what do you think? How are you going to motivate yourself to get your work done on time? We're happy support you if you have any ideas--like earning tech time or whatever you think might get you going. We all struggle with motivation at times." I hope that helps. Good luck with your son. Sarah

Both my 14yr old and my 9yr old are struggling.. I’ve come to a similar conclusion that they need the classroom and accountability to a teacher to be motivated. Even w the accountability - they both tend to exaggerate how much they’ve completed and often “forget” to turn things in online. It’s discouraging when I hear about other families whose kids are engaged. I’m exhausted from fighting w them about it.. I’m super busy w my own work and trying to balance the two is really hard. 

Hi there,

What you are seeing with your kid is not surprising!  He no longer has the social element to keep him motivated to do work that he did not design.  This is actually a great opportunity to take a page from what homeschoolers know about developing intrinsic motivation and self-direction. Check out the Alameda Oakland Home Learners website... we are offering free support for families during Shelter in Place.  


Yes, yes, yes.  I bet you describe what MOST parents are going through right now, from Kindergarten on up.  Parents are not the best motivators for kids to do schoolwork.  Teens, especially, become resentful, and remember, you have to live with this young person 24/7.  Trust your kid to do what's right.  If he says he's got it, back off and let him handle it.  My son is in 9th grade too, and even before COVID-19 he really wanted more independence in getting his work done this year, and I was checking in on him much less frequently than I everhad before.  Sometimes we need to let them go, set them free, so they can rise to the occasion on their own terms.  The phones can't be taken away right now; the phone is their lifeline to the outside world, and their social world.  My suggestion is to tell him your expectations (pass 9th grade!), tell him you're there to help if he needs it, and let him do it on his own.  Watch from afar.  He may surprise you.  

I feel your pain- same here at our house. My two boys, HS and middle schooler, are also refusing to engage with school and/or assignments. At this point it’s a constant struggle to get them to do any school work, even as I try to entice them with the credit/no credit grading.

Sorry I don’t have any suggestions, but I wonder how many other kids are in the same situation, and how this will impact the next school year. The longer this goes on the harder it gets for us.

Not sure if this will work for you but our kid gets overwhelmed with lack of structure or having to organize things himself. So I wrote up a did a daily schedule, printed it out, and have check boxes. He has to get up by 10, then has a set schedule of classes he focuses on that we devised based upon his school schedule. We included breaks, exercise, chores and shower. Then at any given time he knows exactly what he should be doing and he checks it off as he goes down the list.

The only complication is this requires some flexibility too as there will be different assignments that don't fit so nicely into the schedule. But so far for as, as long as he has a basic guide line he can make minor adjustments.

We won't let him start the video games or socializing until after he gets things done. That was the struggle at first, just saying friendly but firmly NO. First finish this, then you can do that. If I don't, he'll try to get away not doing things. I also check in several times a day to see where he is at. He managed to avoid math which he doesn't like, so I make sure he gets that in and sometimes award him with okay here are some cookies to snack on while you do your least favorite class.

For us the key is persistence, saying things firm but friendly and in a few cases taking away all electronics for the whole evening to do other things like cook dinner, or read. I did however feel bad about preventing him from socializing with friends so I try not to take that away.

It's tough for sure.

Thanks you everyone for your thoughts and advice.   I done tons of reading about puberty, development, and teenagers challenging phase as they go through puberty.  14 year old is a challenging age. We are trying to stay healthy, away from this pandemic and looking forward to the future and hoping next school year things go back to normal.  I am sure there are thousands of students across the US that are craving to be back on a classroom meeting.

Sorry to not respond to your question directly and instead to treat this as a general discussion - I think we are all having major challenges regarding our kids and distance learning! My son (HS junior) goes to a boarding school in NH. He has always been a good student. At boarding school, his time is structured - daily classes, athletics, "jobs", and evening study hall 6 days a week. Now home for distance learning, the class schedule is from 7-9 AM (to accommodate kids across time zones). Each class has been cut to 30 mins twice a week and no athletics. Since he has been living away from home, he feels quite self-empowered to decide how he spends his time and not open to any discussion. Once class time is over in the morning, he is gaming or watching something on a screen until the evening when he does what seems like the minimum amount of homework. He is supposed to be working on his college search but I have not seen any activity. It's been quite difficult to watch how he spends his time, as I hope that he would be intrinsically motivated to do more and would use this as an opportunity to pursue some other interests. And since he doesn't regularly live at home, it's been hard to get him to do any chores, although he does his own laundry, which is left piled in a basket instead of being put away. I worry that he is developing very bad habits.  Given that he has lived away from home for the past 2 years, he does not want input from parents. I have not been a very authoritative parent because I am still grappling with the trauma that I experienced from my parents growing up. Also, from the beginning, my husband and I have tried to co-parent equally but we don't always agree, which has left me to question my own instincts and follow his lead, which is often different than how I would parent if it were left up to me. I'm also interested in hearing how other parents are feeling right now.

Instead of a daily schedule, we worked out a daily checklist of things that need to be done.   The checklist can be simple (for example, listing 6 classes and 2 chores) or more detailed (each class has a sub-list of action items that need to be done).    Review the checklist together as often as needed -whether that is at the beginning and end of the "school" day or once per day, or every other day, whatever works for you.    The main thing is the checklist gives structure and the ability to know what "done" looks and feels like.    Our house rule is no video games until the checklist for the day is done.