Help, My Niece I'm Co-Raising is Failing Classes

posted 3 years ago in Parenting
Post # 2
Member
10631 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: City, State

My advice would be to get to the root of WHY she’s failing before any punishments. Whats going on with her causing her not to be able to keep up? Is she just not understanding whats being taught? Or having trouble at home/school? Does she need a tutor for certain classes? That would be my first step and then go from there.

Post # 3
Member
571 posts
Busy bee

She has time before Christmas to raise her grades, I think that is horrible. And the two have nothing to do with each other. I am actually in a somewhat similar situation with FI’s son. And this is what we are doing… mind you, everything we do to try and punish him? His mom completely negates, but we are doing our best. Firstly, have a discussion with her about her grades, making sure that she understands your expectations. Offer to get her tutors or assist if she really doesn’t understand the material. Then take away things that mean something to her and are important to her, and don’t give them back until you see progress. Currently, we have his phone taken away and he wants a pair of expensive name brand basketball shoes that we won’t get him until I hear from specific teachers that his grades have been raised to specific levels. At the 12-13 age, other things have become important, social status, peer group, etc, and there is nothing we can do about it, except for continuing to be great parents. If at all possible, I would look into a custody/primary caregiver arrangement, because that sounds to be what is best for her, but it may not be possible. 

Post # 4
Member
10550 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2016

Punishment is not the solution here.

As PP suggested, you need to find out why she is failing classes. Is there something going on at home? Is she having trouble at school (like bullying?). Does she need some extra help, like a tutor. Is she doing her assignments or not turning them in at all? How is she doing on exams? Is she missing school? 

Can you talk to her teachers? They may have insights into why she is struggling as well.

Post # 5
Member
2308 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2019 - Chateau Lake Louise

View original reply
anonforonepost :  This is so tough. 

I appreciate that you want to help. It seems like a situation where trying to make sure this girl has the right kind of support has been something of a challenge. I understand the instinct to want to jump in and offer a solution, but let me caution you; that can open a huge can of worms that someone about to have their first child might not want to contend with.

I think the first step would be to try and identify what’s going on at school. If you are empowered to talk to her teachers, or the school counselor, you might get some insight into what’s going on. Is she skipping classes? Not turning in homework? Is she withdrawn because she’s being bullied?

It could be an emotional issue, or a social one. It could be that she has a learning disability, or that she needs glasses. There is an almost limitless range of possibilities, and narrowing the field could go a long way toward identifying a potential fix.

Moreover, if you are only seeing her a couple times a month, the prospect of moving in with you – and your soon-to-be-newborn – might not appeal to a 12 year old. Would that require her to change schools? Would she still be in the same neighborhood as her friends? Would you ask her to help out with the baby? How well does she know/like your husband? If she does have regular contact with the other side of her family, are you willing to take on the conflict that comes with that, now as you prepare to bring home an infant?

Now, it sounds like her grandmother has been her primary caregiver for a long time. That she is aging, and beginning to need help isn’t necessarily sufficient cause to think that isn’t a good place for her. In reality, it may benefit both of them to stay together. She’s getting old enough to help care for her Grandmother, and that can be a grounding experience for an adolescent who is struggling.

I think the first thing to do is to talk to your niece about what’s going on at school. She may be able to articulate what she’s struggling with so that the family can determine what the best way to support her is. Contact the school for additional clarity and ask them to develop an IEP to help bring up her grades.

Second, sit down as a family and discuss what the future is going to look like for niece. If she’s in middle school, the transition to High School might be a more natural time to discuss relocating her. That will give everyone time to see how things are working out now that the issue has been identified. And after the adults have talked, ask her what she wants to do. She’s approaching a time in her life where she has to start taking responsibility for her own choices. Giving her the opportunity to practice that, when the stakes are still relatively low, is a good way to help her know how to do that as she becomes an adult.

I’d take and beat and explore the situation a little futher before deciding anything, and reach out to her to tell her you care and want to help if you can. Ultimately, she’s young enough that she can still develop habits to support her getting the most out of her education. She doesn’t necessarily need to live under your roof to learn them.

Good luck

ETA: Punishment is not the answer. There should be natural consequences for her actions; if she’s too busy playing video games to do her homework, take away her games. If she’s not spending enough time studying, mandate an amount of time at the kitchen table where she must review her school books. Telling her she’s not getting anything for Christmas is cruel and counterproductive. That’s punishment unrelated to her crime and unlikely to improve either her attitude or her grades. 

 

Post # 7
Member
950 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

I have a new 13 year old that does crappy in classes as well, and have spent the last few months sorting out his attitude and grades.

And I agree with others. Don’t punish, work with her. Figure out why. For my son, it was not understanding the subject or caring, which turned to apathy. He is also one of the “cool kids” at school, so focused more on his social life than schoolwork.

Could be different for your niece. But if you take away the stuff she cares about, she’ll start withdrawing more as she will be mad and upset at life – and YOU.

Also, to take her from her grandmother’s house to yours over a few failing grades may be overkill unless the grandmother truly isn’t paying attention to her or doing a good job. Trust me, kids will be little shits, and if by the time she reaches adulthood, failing a few classes in middle school is the worst that she did? That would be damn lucky. Grandma can support a child all she wants, but she can’t physically sit in the classroom and make the girl do the work or turn things in. Trust me. We’re very involved and good parents, but kids are individual people and we need to guide them but can’t do it all.

Read the book “How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk” to get started.

What worked well for us is to have my son meet with the school’s guidance counselor once a week. She set goals for his homework and grades, and also gave him a forum to talk about the root cause. 

Post # 8
Member
950 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

Saw another one of your comments – it’s great she doesn’t talk back to you, but you are there as a wonderful older friend, mentor and aunt. Grandma is there all day, every day. She’s going to push back a lot more against Grandma than you. If she came to live with you, you’d be getting that attitude. 

Honestly, the tweens and turning into a teenager is a HARD HARD time. harder than any other period in my 13 year old son’s life, and it took a LOT for me to learn to navigate it. It’s not just crawling to walking or kindergarten to reading in 1st grade. It’s a whole new dynamic. 

I would say bring up the idea of her moving in after the baby is there and you can feel out the dynamic. The natural time would be in high school, which would be good timing anyway. But it may be a battle if it involves moving towns and schools, and if the grandma is doing generally a decent job. 

Post # 9
Member
1897 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2017

View original reply
anonforonepost :  I raised my sister after my mom died. She was 14 when she passed, I was 19. Our biggest struggle was her school work. I am very type A, and I was always extremely concerned with my grades and how I was doing in school, my sister was not. I tried everything, sitting there and doing her homework with her, punishing her for bad grades, tutoring her, getting her into study groups. I quickly learned that nothing was going to change unless she wanted to. She would have the work done, but “forget” to turn it in. She finally realized that school was truly a priority, and things turned around. Here is my advice. 

1. Figure out why she is failing. Is she struggling with the material? Is she not turning her work in? Is she not paying attention?

2. Once you know the source, work towards a solution. If she is struggling with the material, get her a tutor or work with her yourself. If she is not turning her work in, get her started on an organization system for completed homework. Something that worked great for my sister was having a “turn it in” folder, with a tab for each class. 

3. Dont give punishments if she has not had ample time to improve. If you help her, and get her what she needs, and she still is failing, then you can talk consequences. 

4. What is happening after school? Is homework done first? Or does the TV or Games get turned on? Is there someone helping her with homework at home if she needs it?

Post # 11
Member
571 posts
Busy bee

Similar, my future stepson is completely disrespectful to his mothers (and sometimes to teachers), but not to us or our family and friends. He knows what he can get by with at her house versus our house and it seems that your niece is doing the same. Unless you think you can actually make living with you happen, I would NOT bring it up to her. Either you will get her hopes up or if she doesn’t want to, she will start not wanting to come on your weekends for fear you will keep her.  It seems to me that grandma has no control (ie the friends) and doesn’t know how to punish her, just like my future stepson’s mom. You have a long hill to climb, and I am right there with you. She is obviously more preoccupied with her friends and social status. So, discuss the issues with her and set expectations, and tell her exactly what her punishment will be if they are not met. How far away are you from the grandmothers? 

Post # 12
Member
950 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

View original reply
anonforonepost :  That’s great! Grandma may be more of a pushover in that area, while you guys aren’t. There are lots of different types of parenting styles, and each has their own pros and cons. Just saying that the guardian who is functioning as the “main parent” will get the brunt of the sassy attitude, no matter what, as they are the main authority figure. smile

Post # 13
Member
571 posts
Busy bee

Mentioning her parents is a good idea, I think. It is important for kids this age to realize that what they are doing affects their whole life, and they can still stop it and change their ways. Your biggest issue is going to be (I think) that you’re the only one who is going to punish and she is going to stop wanting to come to your house. 

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