12 year old stepson failing school


My stepson is 12 years old - in 5th grade and is currently failing his subjects. His father and I have been to school and talked with teachers to see what kind of input they have about how he is doing in classes. He currently lives with his mother, stepfather and brother. His brother requires alot of attention from mom (older brother is 16 and severly autistic). He has missed 15 days to which 5 are unexcused absences…he creates attention at school (mostly negative) and is not doing his work as he needs too…Homework and classwork. We think he is somewhat trying to rebel because of wanting to come live with his dad. His father and I have him for every other weekend and summer and the holidays and can only do so much with schooling and making sure it is done…We live 2 counties apart. We discuss what is going on at school with him and don’t get anything from him other that he don’t get help at home with homework. Don’t know what to do now…his teachers say he is going to fail if he don’t straighten up and do his work…they know he can do it but don’t seem to…we do our part at our house to encourage him but it don’t seem like it is enough…Not sure what to do now.


I am in a similar situation. The difference being that my youngest stepson has talked with his father previously and his behavioral issues and neglecting school work boils down to him being angry at his father and me. He’s angry at his father for the divorce, and he’s angry at me for being there, “taking his mother’s place”. It’s not a secret that he doesn’t like me and though he’s not rude or disrespectful, it’s more out of fear of what his father would do, rather than because of any feelings towards me. I love him and it breaks my heart, but it’s not something I can change, and I’ve tried. He just will not let me get close to him.
Last summer the lady that took care of the boys since they were babies passed away. She was like their grandmother. This was very traumatic for both of them. The youngest began acting out not long after, and we realized very quickly that he was going to try going back and forth between the two houses depending on who he was more angry with at the time. We share custody 50/50 with equal time. My husband and his ex discussed it and have finally gotten on the same page with everything.

This year, he is also close to failing 5th grade for not doing his work, and his behavior. He’s a smart boy and we know that he can do the work, he’s just not doing it. He’s been offered help, he’s in afterschool tutoring, he’s been pleaded with to do this for himself, he’s been threatened with being held back. Previously, whenever we punished him at our house with grounding, his mother didn’t back it up. She would tell my husband that the punishment was too harsh or would not follow through with it at all.
Now, he’s been grounded for the last three week in a row and he has been grounded with the same rules at both homes. My husband and his ex realized that he was sort of trying to see how long they would allow this to go on before breaking…he’s figured out that neither of them were giving in this time and his grounding will end tomorrow.
The next step is to begin working on our “family” relationship. I’m not sure what it’s going to take to fix this. There’s a lot of emotional issues going on right now, but the school work…that’s his JOB. That’s his responsibility and we can not do it for him.
We understand that we can not force him to do it or force him to even care about doing it. All we can do is be there to offer help, and let him know what the consequences are of his actions and behavior. Showing him that we care enough about him to NOT want him to fail and hope that he learns that the only one that loses out by him not doing what he needs to, is him. Sometimes, though it’s not the easiest, it is the best thing to allow them to be responsible for their own actions, or lack of in this case. That’s the only way that some children learn…I know it was for me as a child. My youngest stepson has had a difficult time with this and I’m still not sure that he’s learned it. But we’ll see…

Maybe your husband and the ex could try agree to a trial period to see if living with his father would help…? My husband’s ex calls everytime either of the boys need help with their homework…
Not getting help with his homework may not be the bottom line. Maybe it’s a bigger issue and it’s coming out with his school work.
Could he not call his father when he has something he needs help with? Could he not get some time with the teacher? I know it’s late in the scholastic year but we’re getting ready to start over in order to help him with math…


We have told him to call us anytime that he needs help…we have let him know that we are in contact with all his teachers now via email and they will be letting us know what is going on a little better now… we are hoping that by us being in contact with his teachers now he will do his work because he will know that if he don’t the teachers will let us know…when we told him that we were in contact with his teachers - he didn’t seem to think it was fair … but nothing is fair …he has not done his work and we have had to do this so we will know what is going on…we have taken this measure so he can’t come up with the excuse that he didn’t know about work… we hope that this may help. We don’t think the ex would go for a trial period but we have never asked either because of what has gone on in the past…but guess it couldn’t hurt. Hopefully we can see some difference since we have become this involved and we hope that he can pass. He main problem with his work was not turning it in.


As a teacher and a divorced mom with children, this business of not doing school work is a way to get attention albeit negative. Children who are not products of a divorce don’t do their work either. If this child has suddenly gone from an A student to one who is failing then it simply is a negative way to draw attention to himself. It’s a way of saying he doesn’t like his life. He doesn’t like his family torn apart. He doesn’t like himself. I would do everything to try to encourage him to do his assignments, but I wouldn’t force the issue. If he fails, let him fail. Sometimes children need to know that their own actions or inactions cannot be remedied by anyone but themselves. Sure, it’s tough when mom and dad aren’t together, but there are worse things that could happen to kids. Quit blaming yourselves, the teachers, and put the blame squarely on the shoulders of where it belongs. School is his responsibility. Reacting is what he wants from you. If he sits in whatever grade another year, then he’ll sit. It won’t kill him and might teach him the best lesson he ever learned. Just my opinion. He’s got to care first! My child made a zero and he’s an A student. He expected some sort of reaction from me…for me to run to the school and fix it. I simply asked him why he made the zero. He said he didn’t turn in his work. I said, “There you go…your problem”. It never happened again.