You are here:

Parenting --Teens/12 year old boy not showing interest in learning new things!


We used to live in the UK. My son is now twelve and we moved from UK to my home country ( a country still in transition after a war) around four years ago (when my son was eight and he continued schooling here with year 5).
His father has not been living with us (in the same country for the past year and a half; though visits were often during these periods).
He is a bright kid, with a wicked sense of humour, intelligent and with empathy to other human beings, friendly and communicative.He asks very intelligent questions and sees things in an different light.
His father has now moved back, so we live together. It might be worth mentioning that when we moved over our son had to start school in a different language (though mother tongue he still went to school in a different country/language for 4 years).
He is two years younger than any other boy at his school class (due to the former system where he started school) and I do tend to find excuses for him whenever he does not perform well or he doesn't show interest ( I either say he is too young, he still hasn't adjusted, I blame myself and not him for not liking the way teachers explain things', in general I tried not to over pressure him as I did not want him to end up hating going to school, etc)

Now, we do not know how to act further, he learns only when forced to, he is performing badly, achieving really lowest marks. He does not find joy in learning:( nor in reading (which he used to enjoy). He is taking guitar lessons (though hardly ever picks up the guitar for practicing at home); takes extra math lessons (but never ever undertakes any initiatives to do any extra math  out of his own freewill). His only "freewill" thing is to play football at a local club.
He has to be told to do one simple thing approximately ten times for him to actually do it, doesn't pay attention easily; sometimes has an attitude and is argumentative; he still communicates to us about his personal feelings but tends to hide everything that relates to his school grades or mischief he is sometimes up to at school.
We are trying to install the habit of trying and trying over again in order for him to succeed and we do not want him to resent us - but it seems so hard to find the right way!! We need help!!

Hello Becky,
It seems like maybe you have allowed your son to get away with doing poorly. He has not had high expectations and what often accompanies high expectations: Structure and discipline. So he has become a somewhat lazy boy who makes excuses and doesn't put forth much effort.
If you want to change this, then you have to change your attitudes about parenting. That is, parenting is not a popularity contest where you try to do everything possible so your son likes you. Parenting is, at least in part, training children to work hard and put forth effort. It doesn't matter if he dislikes you at times. You and I both know that to be successful in life, children have to be self-disciplined. In  order to bring about self-discipline, you have to require him to work. It really doesn't matter if he always enjoys learning and doing school work. Hard work is hard work. It's only when people are much older that they figure out that they enjoy learning -- but that's only after they have been trained to work hard at achieving.
I would suggest that you set some fairly high standards for him and insist that he studies at a regular time every day. You must supervise this closely and he has to show you what he accomplishes. That might mean, for instance, that each day after school he must study night anywhere from one to three hours. He must get into the habit of doing this. Of course, he will hate it. And he will try to avoid doing it. But there is no other way to teach him to be successful at school. In order for him to be successful in life, though, he must first be successful at school.
Any questions?
James Windell

Parenting --Teens

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


James Windell


I am a parent trainer, psychotherapist, and author specializing in parenting issues.During the past 40 years I`ve worked with parents with discipline problems and challenging children. I give frequent lectures and workshops related to discipline, social skills, and aggressive children. I consult with various agencies and schools where there are child behavior problems. I am listed in the American Psychological Associations` media panel as an expert on parenting and am frequently quoted in leading magazines and newspapers.


I have worked in a juvenile court as a clinical psychologist and as a psychotherapist in private practice. In the Oakland County (MI) Juvenile Court, I developed an award-winning parent training program for parents of adolescent delinquents. In addition I have done group therapy with adolescent delinquents using a social skills-building model. I have consulted with courts, schools, churches, preschools, and domestic violence shelters in areas of parenting.

I received my BA with a major in Psychology in 1963 from Wayne State University. I got my MA in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University in 1972.

I am a member of the American Psychological Association and the Michigan Psychological Association. I have written pamplets, newspaper articles, and professional journal articles. I have been the Coping With Kids columnist for several newspapers for 26 years, and my columns appear weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been the author or co-author of 16 books. My books include, 8 WEEKS to A WELL-BEHAVED CHILD, CHILDREN WHO SAY NO WHEN YOU WANT THEM TO SAY YES, 6 STEPS TO AN EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT TEENAGER, and THE FATHERSTYLE ADVANTAGE. My most recent parenting book (2012) is THE EVETYTHING CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT BOOK. I have appeared on over 180 radio and TV shows related to my books and parenting. For more information about me, my books and columns, go to my website at

I have an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University.

©2016 All rights reserved.