Sunday, July 1, 2007

Our 17-year-old son just graduated from high school and doesn’t want to go to college. I think he should get a job and take classes part time at the local junior college. My husband thinks we should let him find his own way in life. What do you think?

A: I think your idea is good, but I agree completely with your husband. Your question tells me that you’re going to have some difficulty letting go, that you’re in danger of trying to micromanage your son’s decisions in order to make sure he does the “right” thing. The danger in question involves conflict between your son and yourself, not to mention conflict between your husband and yourself.

You need to accept that in the process of finding his niche, your son is going to make mistakes and that this process takes longer with some young people than with others. The less you try to manage him, the more quickly he will find his way and the more successful will be the outcome.

Q: Our son will be a junior in high school this fall. His grades crashed during junior high school, and he has been getting a weekly report card since eighth grade. He did fairly well last year. Should we put him back on the weekly report card at the start of the year, or should we take a “wait-and-see” attitude?

A: Before I answer your question, let me explain that a weekly report card is a motivation program I developed in the 1980s and published in my second book, “Ending the Homework Hassle.” On the last day of every school week, the underachieving student takes a report card with him to school. At the top is a Statement of Achievement that depends on the exact nature of the problem and therefore varies from student to student.

A generic form would read: “This week, [child’s name] completed all of his assignments, turned them in on time, and all of his work was satisfactory.” Next to each class (only problem courses are listed) is a space for the teacher’s signature.

Before the program begins, the parents should obtain a sample of each teacher’s signature, which is given only if the student’s work for the week meets the criteria specified in the Statement of Achievement. The student is responsible for taking the report with him from class to class and presenting it to each of his teachers.

If the regular teacher is not present on the day the report is presented and the substitute does not know whether criteria have been met, the signature is counted as long as the child obtains a note from the office verifying the teacher’s absence. All signatures are required for the youngster to have access to privileges from Friday afternoon to the next Friday afternoon, when a new report card “kicks in.”

If the student fails to bring the report card home, no excuses are accepted, and privileges are withheld until it is presented.

Now, to answer your question: I would take a wait-and-see position, but I also would make it clear to your son that the weekly report waits in the wings should the need arise.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (

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