General Question

SABOTEUR's avatar

My 16 year old grandson refuses to do schoolwork. Any suggestions?

Asked by SABOTEUR (14079points) May 3rd, 2021
30 responses
“Great Question” (7points)

My ex-wife became his legal guardian at 3 years old. He’s considered “special needs” due to ADD and various learning disabilities. He frequently displays anti-social tendencies but he excels at playing online video games and “making beats”.

Numerous attempts have been made by the school system to help. My ex has consulted numerous doctors to no avail (he won’t take his medicine). The police has visited her home over 23 times to respond to violent outbursts. He’s been committed for psychiatric examination more than a few times. My ex-wife is at her wit’s end trying to resolve this ongoing dilemma. She’s afraid she’ll be charged with failing to have the child attend school.

What can she do?

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rebbel's avatar

Are you sure (pretty sure that you are) that he doesn’t have hyperactivity added to the ADD?
Because of the outbursts?
I had/have ADD myself, and as far as I can remember (I’m 54) I had no noteworthy outbursts in my (pre)teens.
I don’t know if it is significant in light of your specific question, but I wanted to mention it

And how about those few times he was committed for psychiatric examination?
Does that mean he still has to undergo that, or did they already happen?
It sounds as though he is not aware at all that it is quite important to at least take the meds.
You would think that the person prescribing them would have made that clear?
From a distance it sounds as it could get messy (messier) sooner rather than later (the 23 police visits).
I was a pretty lousy student myself, due to the symptoms that go with ADD (which I only found out I had when I was 30).
It didn’t occur to me at all that this was, supposedly, an important period of my life, school life that is.
Only when I worked as a production worker in a factory for nine years it dawned on me that I’d better had done better in school.
So, I think the main thing is to get him on his meds first.
That will likely make him see easier the consequences and responsibilities that go with studying.

I want to add though, that personally I think children are way better off when they get educated to their specific needs and talents, rather than run of the mill, general curriculum.

Good luck.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@rebbel Thanks for your suggestions. My ex has a literal suitcase full of examination results from various physicians. He’s quite aware that he’s considered “special needs” and he uses that knowledge to his advantage quite well. He’s learned over the years that no one will make him do anything he doesn’t want to do, so he practically runs the household. His grandmother caters to his desires while making idle threats over what she will do if he doesn’t “behave”. He knows better and readily informs her he doesn’t care.

Cornelis1977's avatar

Just my five cents then. Individual needs require individual approaches. Maybe consider another kind of professional workers too, but i cant judge that.

My son of 10 lives with my ex and has some similar issues but maybe mildly compared with your grandson.
On the mental field, routine, rest and safety applies. Can you offer such conditions at the moment. Is his basic resort and environment balanced?
Also, his brains havent developed a right feeling for risks and consequences, so needs some guidance anyway, regardless of other brain parts already matured.

Its a good idea to offer him other options besides gaming. Recently, my ex provided my son with technical Lego. Try to appeal to other interests to get him away from the pc. Also, sport can help. My son switched from soccer to volleybal, maybe less physical sport is better.

Diet: less to no sugar, less coke(with) less cafein. Is there any control on his eating disciplines? Maybe you can mix meds with his consumptions, but on regular times. In time, he should be able to take more responsibilities with such.

Besides this, he needs a fatherly coach and a lot of positive affirmation in these tough times. Make sure to focus on good things en to encourage him. Not to mention to take some quality times together. Maybe the Five languages of love (Chapman) will make a difference either.

Finally: radiate peace, rest and security in your presence. Believe in him, project hope, faith and love. Adress issues, but be a positive beacon in this times.

I wish you wisdom and strength

Cornelis1977's avatar

Regarding the information in your second reply, my ex had some similar issues with my son. Anyway, stop making threats. Sanctions must be applied in consequent and disciplined ways, else your ex can better cease such considerations. If she doesnt take it serious, how can she expect her grandson to do so?

I will ask my ex hows she is doing so far, at the moment it seems ok. A good approach will be multi-disciplined to work i think.

rebbel's avatar

@SABOTEUR What is the difference between physicians and psychiatrists?
I think it is time for one more talk and/or test with a (new) health professional, (with or without the suitcase to assist) because apparently so far the previous consults and tests have not resulted in preferred improvements (of behavior).
And it sounds prettig serious right now (also considering his age; he might be still a bit susceptible to behavioral change).
I know all to good that ‘we’ are pretty good in playing the care givers; that comes with the disorder.
But a strict hand (and the grandson understanding of the why’s) is necessary.
I can attest to that.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Cornelis1977 Excellent suggestions, however I must emphasize my grandson does nothing he doesn’t want to do. He doesn’t like anyone that advises or tells him what to do.

He doesn’t like himself.

The only things he does like is gaming and writing songs/making beats.

janbb's avatar

What kind of schooling is he in? Is it all remote because of Covid? I have a cousin who had similar problems – not ADD but finally diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was taken out of regular high school and went to an alternative high school. He did somewhat better there. he refused medicine for a number of years but now, in his 20s, is finally somewhat stable.

I wouldn’t worry as much about the school work right now as controlling the violent outbursts. He night need a short stay in a residential clinic for a time.

Perhaps talk therapy could be encouraged at least with the stick of less computer time.

Cornelis1977's avatar

Yes, I understood the gravity of that part. And 16 years means more of stubborn behaviour then my kid of 10 years. I also realized its no use to have a load of good advices when few will apply. My son’s no was often also a real no – sometimes, it still is. Refused therapy, they did not want to treat him, he was impossible.

Still, in your case, more years passed and the window to make a difference is limited.
I think a part will be the acceptance of your ex about her limited influence. You cant control someone’s choices, but you can set some consequences on it. Every kid – including special ones – still needs basic social rules.

Your ex might first start to master the only person she can control – herself, and see what she needs in this situation for her personal boundaries and wishes. As for him, rules down to a minimum – but to be taken serious.

As for making changes, one at a time and see how that works- certainly with a fellow of 16 year. But youre right: he has power and his own will, so maybe a step down and let him face more responsibilities. Or better – the consequences of not taking them.

In a few years, he will be legally adult, if im correct. So to let him make his own mistakes, better soon then later – and not save him from consequences. Certainly a complicated balance, given the circumstances.

Tough for (grand) parents, as ex I also had mayor struggles in accepting my own limited abilties to coach my kids, but in time i found the grace to let go and make the best of it. Now ive good connections with them. Sometimes, letting go is the best to do.

Youre also an concerned and good empathic granddad, I understood he is the responsibility of your ex. Its great if you two can discuss it in reason. If not, its her responsibility anyway, giving mutual respect and freedom.

I hope things turn out well in the end, it can be heartbreaking to experience his struggle.

jca2's avatar

Does he go to school in person or attend remotely? If he is attending every day, whether remotely or in person, there’s nothing you can do to make him do work and there’s nothing the school can do to make him do it either, but it shouldn’t be a CPS report as long as he’s attending. Whether CPS is called for other things, like the violent outbursts you mentioned, is another story and might be totally legit.

kritiper's avatar

Find out why he doesn’t like school. In the meantime, give him lots of positive reinforcement. Remind him, gently, of the credits needed to graduate high school and how important it is, and the consequences of not having a high school diploma, and what would be required to get a GED.
Pressuring him too much will get you nowhere, and you will have to let him find his own way and suffer the consequences.

JLeslie's avatar

I would find out the minimum credits to graduate. I would also look at electives available to him to see if there might be classes he’s more interested in.

Does he hate school? What does he hate, I’d there anything he likes?

Can he double up on required classes and finish a year early? I did this and finished a semester early.

Does the school have an elective study period where he can get homework done at school?

If you make a goal that he really wants, he might buckle down and focus more.

KRD's avatar

Try talking to him and see why he is like that way first. second you can reward him for doing his schoolwork and if he doesn’t do his work don’t reward him and punish him. Third if any of the stuff I said didn’t work tell him that he can’t do the things he loves until he does his schoolwork.

janbb's avatar

I’m not sure how much help any of us who are perhaps not parents or not in the situation you and your Ex-wife are in cam be very helpful with your very troubling situation. I just hope that focusing more on his mental issues and perhaps less on a battle over schoolwork might be useful.

Therapy for your Ex-wife, or family counseling for all of you, might be useful too. I know it helped my cousin’s mother in a similar situation.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Just a suggestion. Have you tried homeschooling? I am sorry that I didn’t read the above answer’s or all of your question. I was told that I had ADD, and was disrupting the class since grade 5. I made it to university and passed the first year.

My learning style was watching educational materials in Television and videos. I watched high school educational materials from the access television series. Like Math Factor, and Biologix, and Chemistry Connections. At my own pace.

I did very little homework and skipped school in junior and senior high school. I did however do the homework years later and I caught up enough to take the first year of liberal arts.

I would ask your grandson what subjects he likes and try to find classes that he likes. Academics might not be for him. Maybe find a trade or craft that he likes, and go from there?

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You might have to drop your grandson out of high school and get disability benefits in place when he turns 18.

Sorry that It might come to this.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

“He likes making beats?” He could become a musician. Or a story writer for video games?

JLeslie's avatar

I meant to suggest homeschool if he is currently in regular school, I am glad @RedDeerGuy1 mentioned it, although it might too unstructured.

Also, another thing that occurred to me is when you find out about electives in his school, if his school doesn’t have the sort of classes that might interest him, maybe another nearby school in the district does. Like my school had cosmetology and auto-mechanics class and you could apprentice in the afternoon in lieu of the last three periods. We also had some computer science and accounting class and several AP classes. The next school down county had Chinese Language class and some other subjects we didn’t have. Kids who wanted to get their cosmetology certificate to transfer to be in our program.

I talked about quitting school all the time when I was 14 and 15, I hated waking up so early and being exhausted and thank goodness for study hall where I did homework in school a lot of the time. I was smart and learned a lot, and got B’s doing almost nothing, but also lazy and tired a lot of the time. I got A’s my senior year when I doubled up on everything and took some harder classes I was interested in, and first period I could show up late every day because I just helped a teacher grade papers and whatever else he asked me to do in the classroom and he didn’t care if I was late, and I saw the LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL to get my diploma early.

Also, working helped a lot. I made new friends at work, and I was good at my job, and it helped me out of a depression.

It might not help your situation, but that’s my story.

canidmajor's avatar

@SABOTEUR, my heart aches for you and your ex dealing with this. It sounds like school is just a secondary issue here (albeit important, to a degree) and that the issue of violence and/or diverted focus is a main concern, as @janbb points out. She seems to have the most insight and best suggestions here.

Good luck with all of this. As he is 16, your ex won’t likely face a problem with truancy accusations..

Nothing in your description of the circumstances would indicate that homeschooling would be effective in this case, (as suggested by @RedDeerGuy1) and might, indeed, pose a greater threat to his grandmother.

A general search of sites devoted to parents and guardians of teens with these issues may bear more knowledgeable fruit than fluther, we parents on this Q seem to have been blessed with neurotypical children.

chyna's avatar

It really sounds like you all need to find a doctor or a facility that specializes in your grandchild’s special needs and disabilities. With the violence escalating, I’m sure your ex must be afraid for her safety much of the time. I know you said he has been to several doctors, but obviously you haven’t found one to help you yet. Good luck and I hope you all find help.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Brace yourselves. Anticipate and prepare for the worst. Meanwhile, attempt to get through to him through the few pursuits in which he exhibits any interest. Encourage relationships with others who share his passions and are of a mind to understand the utility of education toward formulating and developing videogames. This approach seems even better suited to his beat passion regarding music theory and development.

LostInParadise's avatar

At sixteen he is old enough to give serious consideration about what he plans to do with his life. Tell him that when he turns eighteen, if he is not going to continue his education, he is going to have to move out and support himself.

janbb's avatar

@LostInParadise Did you read the details? This is an oppositional anti-social kid with serious problems.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Here is a link to answer some of your questions in regards to ADHD behaviour in regards to studying . It may help in your situation.'s%20core%2C%20ADHD%20is,to%20change%20underlying%20executive%20functioning.

JLeslie's avatar

Apologies if this was mentioned already. Has any experts suggested that he might be bipolar or simply depressed? Depression is very common in teens. I think I mentioned above getting a job helped me get out of my teenage depression.

Also, I remember around the time when my dad was retiring that he was getting ready to approve a research study for children where ADD meds were not working effectively for children that they hypothesized it was the wrong diagnosis and the children might be bipolar, that’s what made me think of it. I don’t know what the conclusions were from the study.

You haven’t said the meds don’t work though, you said he won’t take them. I assume the meds have side effects he doesn’t like.

A close friend of mine’s son was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD as a child and twice he was having trouble in school and it got much better by changing schools. In elementary he went from private to public. Then for high school he switched back to private. I think the teachers started to pigeon hole the kid as a trouble maker and then it became a self fulfilling prophecy and the new school gave him a clean slate. Also, there might have been something he just disliked at the schools and we don’t know what it was.

Just throwing out ideas.

LostInParadise's avatar

@janbb , The kid may have serious problems, but a confrontation with reality may open up a discussion of what specifically he has problems with and what may be done to improve the situation.

rebbel's avatar

I think the kid’s reality is the (his) reality.
He’s confronted with it every day.

Kardamom's avatar

This publication is from the Ohio Department of Education, Some of the contact numbers are specific to Ohio, but the information about violence in children, especially special needs children, and the various assessments and guides on how to deal with it are very helpful, and extensive. I expect that if you used the contact numbers, even if you are not in Ohio, they could probably direct you to people and services who could help you, your ex wife, and your grandson. I’m so sorry you are having to go through this.

A friend’s brother, an adult now for a long time, had some of these problems as a child and never got treatment. Most of his adult life up until a few years ago, were fraught with pain, depression, money problems, losses of multiple jobs, never being able to work in a financially stable job, etc etc. He has some type of developmental disabilities. A few years ago, after multiple conflicts with my friend, and the man’s housemates, one who was a sibling (who let him live with them because he had no where to go, or skills to help himself) threatened suicide. My friend had to take him to the psychiatric hospital, and then ultimately, he ended up living in a group home, and getting psychiatric treatment. He really can’t live on his own, but his family (his parents were deceased by this point) were not in a position to care for him, as the man was easily agitated, and refused to follow simple household rules, and could not manage money, or keep a job. So it was determined, for his and his family’s best interest, that he no longer live with them, and needed to be in a living situation where he could get psychiatric help, as well as being in a semi-independent situation. He could not care for himself in the way that an adult could, even though he was over 18.

sorry's avatar

I can’t recommend more a programme here: Find a place that has these resources to help you, if you can’t on your own. PMTO changed our lives.

sorry's avatar

Here is a better link:

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