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Sandra asks:

I really hope you can help with my teenage son. He has no motivation and no interest in studying for his exams. I know he can achieve good results but he has to try harder. His academic performance is declining.

Also, last year he was diagnosed with slight dyslexia and ADHD. I know he is capable and can achieve anything once he puts he mind to it.


Our response:

Possible reasons for lack of trying

You say your son starts studying but then gives up after 10 minutes. There could be a few reasons for this:

Incentives

To help get your son back on track and into a rhythm of studying, you might like to try using incentives if you haven’t already. Incentives can be a really powerful way of helping teens to get motivated and to get used to a study regime (in other words, building good habits).

You could try using a combination of short term incentives on a daily or weekly basis (for example, if you do X number of hours study this week you can do Y this weekend), AND longer term incentives (for example, a reward of some kind that he will receive after exams).

It’s important to reward incentives based on the effort put in, and not the grades your son gets. The important thing is that he starts trying again, and not as much exactly what grades he ends up getting.

Dyslexia and ADHD

We don’t have qualifications or expertise when it comes to working with children with learning difficulties such as these, but I have known kids to have Dyslexia and ADHD, and I have seen how it can affect their motivation. I hope I’m not speaking out of line, but it might be that your son is feeling a bit down and disheartened by these diagnoses, and that he needs some time to figure out how to do well at school despite these obstacles, which is perfectly understandable.

I would hope that with time, and thinking about how he can study in a way that works for him, he will find his motivation again. He might just be going through a period of adjustment.

Use his interests

It’s great that your son enjoys science, because at least that’s one part of school that he should still be finding enjoyment in. I would try to encourage his enthusiasm with science. If he’s not so keen on other subjects, then I would suggest to him that when he’s studying, he alternates studying for his science subjects with the subjects he enjoys less.

For instance, if he doesn’t like math, he could schedule an hour of math study followed by an hour of science, so that he has something to ‘look forward to’ after getting through the subjects he doesn’t like as much.

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