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Preteens and homework responsibility

Laura Willard is a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting. She's a wife and an adoptive mom to two kids who, without a doubt, the cutest kids ever. Motherhood is the best job she nev...

When social life trumps school life

If your once-focused middle school student suddenly seems more interested in her social life than studying, it’s easy to become the Worried Parent. If you’re interested in redirecting without being overbearing, we have suggestions.

girl doing homework with mom

Whether your preteen used to be extremely interested in her studies or was doing the bare minimum, if you've noticed a change in her study habits, don't be alarmed. Your preteen is not abnormal … nor is she beyond help!

The world isn't coming to an end

While grades and school are extremely important, a little bit of slacking doesn't signal a total change in priorities. Michael Ungar, PhD, a university research professor and author of The We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids, says that there is a normal development pattern with preteens. It's not unusual for their scholastic performance to drop during this period of their lives.

His advice: "Parents, ease up a bit here! It's not the end of the world if your child's grades drop 10 percent during this time and they are more focused on their social lives than their grades!" However, Dr Ungar also says that it is important to hold kids accountable and set expectations.

She who controls the toys …

… holds the power! If your preteen is distracted by some of her "toys," the solution seems simple. However, Dr. Ungar says he is often surprised by how quickly parents forget this. If texting is cutting into your teen's homework time, take away the cell phone. Are video games keeping him up late? Repo the Wii! Set clear consequences for not making the grade -- and follow through.

Reality check

If your preteen doesn't understand why you're so intent of keeping her on the straight and narrow when it comes to scholastics, Dr Ungar suggests having a discussion about "real life." If she doesn't intend to buckle down at some point and follow high school with additional education, whether it's college or vocational training, the future may well hold a minimum-wage job. Work through the math with her. How much money would she actually earn? How much would remain after paying living expenses? And how much does that leave for the fun stuff? Probably not much. Sometimes laying out the cold, hard facts puts things in perspective.

If all else fails: summer school

Bring out the big gun if necessary. Most preteens who are consumed with their social lives do not want to spend their summer in class. However, tell your preteen how it is: If she doesn't buckle down during the school year, she might have to spend her summer catching up. Those two words alone -- summer school -- are often enough to motivate a disinterested middle school student.

Keep Dr Ungar's advice in mind: A slight drop in performance isn't the end of the world, but it's also within your parental rights -- and responsibilities -- to be concerned. Setting and maintaining good study standards now will only make your preteen's future high school experience easier.

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