How do you get a 17 1/2 year old motivated for adulthood and to graduate from high school on time?

Dawn - posted on 04/25/2009 ( 10 moms have responded )

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My 17 1/2 year old has been having the worst time in high school. Not that he is not smart enough to do the work just that he is being really lazy and unmotivated to do it. I have done everything from grounding him to letting him try an alternative type school to see if that would work for him and nothing is working. He only has 50 days left of high school and he is failing 3 of his 4 classes. I am on him constantly and all he tells me is he is going to graduate. But the past shows differently. He was moved from the school he was going to for 3 1/2 years to the high school he is in now at for 1 semester for reasons of credits. He would have had to go to high school for another whole year if he stayed at the high school he was at most of his high school years. THe one he is at now got him in the classes he needs to finish with everyone else. The problem is he is just soooo unmotivated to do anything that I am afraid graduation is something that we will never see. Any suggestion on what to do.. I know it seems a little to late. Thanks.

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Angela - posted on 05/11/2009

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Holy cow, I think we have the same son!!! I have learned at this age you can't make them study and get good grades, they are choosing to fail. My son is supposed to graduate in a week and last progress report he had 4 D's on the low side so we are holding are breath. He will be 18 next month, has a nice car, no job and no goals. we have actually been taking him to a counselor for the last 3 months in hopes of hearing the reality of life from someone else and it's not even working. He decided to to join the Army National Guard, however he failed the test to get into that, and has to wait another 30 days to take it again. I wish he would go into the military full time, I think that is what he needs. I wish I had an answer for you because I know how you are feeling, all I can say is what our counselor said is to let him fail if that's what he chooses, they may learn the hard way, but they have to learn it on their own. Good Luck and if you figure out something in the mean time let me know! Have a great day!

Kimberly - posted on 04/28/2009

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Talk to him. Find out what he wants for his future. What will make him happy. Where he sees himself. Ask him what kind of career he would like to have as an adult and maybe coordinae with someone in that field to visit them on the job for a day. Maybe take him to college events. Fun events so that he sees what campus life is like. Take him to car lots so that he can look at new cars. Maybe even pick out one that he likes (but can't buy yet) Do things and show him things that he can only have if he choses to succeed. then ride him through the ghetto. Maybe the two of you can volunteer at a homeless shelters or soup kitchens for the weekend. Maybe he can share stories with residents or individuals that are participants. Expose him to both sides of the track, and you can do this all with out preaching or saying a thing in response to either situation. Actions speak far louder than words.



We have to be proactive as parents. Sometimes when we get caught up in our adult lives and we don't take the time, we end up running out of time.

Pam - posted on 04/25/2009

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I have an almost 17 year old Junior in highschool that has been driving me crazy like this. I found the book "Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion against low expectations" It's Christian based and written by two teen twin boys and it is GREAT! So inspiring that I'm having all my teens and my husband read it. It really opened my eyes to how little we expect of teens. I'm seeing a spark back in my teen and he's saying he's excited to set some goals. He has been checking out the authors website. It tells great stories of great things teens have accomplished. Another book that had ideas that I read was "Boys Adrift" but I like "Do Hard Things" the most.

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Sherry - posted on 04/25/2014

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I was reading yesterday about motivating kids and discovered you can't. Motivation comes from within. All we can do is support and allow natural consequences to take over; translation: don't take away the natural consequences aka enable.
My son is 4 weeks from graduation, 48% in English. Plans to join the Army but is 10 pounds to light and in a year unable to gain but 2 pounds. He doesn't eat regularly or workout consistently, so his goal of the Army will not happen. I have decided that after graduation I will give him until the first day of school in the fall to have made significant progress toward weight gain (5+#) or working on a plan b, or he will need to start paying to live at the house or move out. (Rent in ND is nearly $1000 for a one bedroom--living on his own is not an option) Me, my husband, all my sisters, all his cousins moved out after their senior year and got on with life. I've decided he will move on too.

Annette - posted on 01/24/2014

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I do believe it is a stage in a young man's life that he has to get over but in the mean time, what to do as a parent? We've been counseled to allow him to make his own mistakes but I also believe that we need to encourage a bit more. I don't have the answers. I'd like to read the book "Boys Adrift". I will that one up. Thanks very much.

Sandrea - posted on 10/31/2012

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I am a grandmother who helped my daughter with her son. He is more like my son because I took every interest in his growing years..however he is now 17 years old and has struggled through school mainly because of the mother and his relationship, which was not that great... my heart aches because he is no longer in school and doing nothing.. we had a long talk and he is desperately sorry for the decisions he has made. They live in PA outside of Philadelphia. His desire is to get back into school and finish or get in an alternative program that will help get him back on track. He is not on drugs or been in any kind of trouble. He said that he got tire of fighting everyday going to school. He has been jumped by gain of boys and everyday there was a problem. Can someone give me some advice on how to keep this young man from being a loser since he is now crying out. I would appreciate it. Peach and Love San

Dawn - posted on 05/07/2009

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Thank you for all of the advice...The update is I had to talk to each one of his teachers individually to see if we can just keep on him for the next 37 days and counting... I am crossing my fingers and I just hope and pray he stay on coarse with his teachers. If he doesn't graduate he will be doing summer school...and for Jennifer Billings thank you for you comments you and I are in the same boat with the english teachers...unfortunately I am also on first name basis with his history teacher too...lol And for Kimberly Moore also thank you for your comments. He has done alot of what you suggested. We even had him in a running start program which is a program that the student goes to the junior college like high school and earns college and high school credits at the same time. He past the entrance exam with flying colors but after taking 12 college units his junior year for one quarter..he failed all 3 classes. He is just unmotivated and he has goals, just doesn't seem to want to get there very fast. Unfortunatly motivation has to come from within and I am doing everything I can think of and raising a 6 and 3 year old to boot, to get him motivated. But I do thank all of the wonderful advice.

Jennifer - posted on 04/28/2009

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Wow, I don't feel so alone. 5 weeks, my son has 5 weeks and 3 Fs to finish off his HS diploma. It is so frustrating because he has been an underacheiver in class but scored high on his ACT (like the SAT). He's been admitted to two universities and he thinks he knows what he wants to do, but he has to pass English. His teacher and I are on a first name basis. This week is midterms and if he isn't passing he starts packets to make up the work to make up the grade. Part of his problem is not that he doesn't know where he wants to go, he just already wants to be there.
In 7 months, he is planning on going on a church mission for two years. He's all excited to go and preparing for it already. He has goals in his life, he has just forgotten about finishing the home stretch of high school. One class period he actually has home study with me when we work on these classes and issues. I wish I had a really great answer to your problem, but my dad just keeps telling me it's a boy thing and he will grow out of it and that the schools are just too serious in high school these days. My dad is a justice, so he must have done something right after high school, but I know he had to fight to get into school after the war. I just keep reminding him I love him and it's just because I want him to succeed in his goals, not mine.

Alisa - posted on 04/25/2009

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Quoting Dawn:

How do you get a 17 1/2 year old motivated for adulthood and to graduate from high school on time?

My 17 1/2 year old has been having the worst time in high school. Not that he is not smart enough to do the work just that he is being really lazy and unmotivated to do it. I have done everything from grounding him to letting him try an alternative type school to see if that would work for him and nothing is working. He only has 50 days left of high school and he is failing 3 of his 4 classes. I am on him constantly and all he tells me is he is going to graduate. But the past shows differently. He was moved from the school he was going to for 3 1/2 years to the high school he is in now at for 1 semester for reasons of credits. He would have had to go to high school for another whole year if he stayed at the high school he was at most of his high school years. THe one he is at now got him in the classes he needs to finish with everyone else. The problem is he is just soooo unmotivated to do anything that I am afraid graduation is something that we will never see. Any suggestion on what to do.. I know it seems a little to late. Thanks.



I have an 18 that still has anopther year left and she hates school ever since we moved here 2 years ago. I have looked into alternative school for next year but after talking with the counselor at the college they suggested here just get her GED over the summer and then she cant start college in Aug. I talked it over with her and she has decided to do this instead. I really wanted her to get her diploma but with her age and being 19 whe nshe graduates this was a better option for her. Good luck.

Julie - posted on 04/25/2009

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I have an 18 year old that has the same problem. Very smart but very lazy. I wish I had the answer to help you but I don't. I've tried all the things you have...and still nothing! My son has been diagnosed with ADD and even the meds didn't help. I hope someone out here has some good advice!

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