Motivation for a pre-teen
October 20, 2010 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Practical tips to motivate a pre-teen

My 12 years old is a normal kid with no learning disabilities (as far as I know) who has done well at school but not excellent; I know he can do better and all his teachers through elementary school told me the same. I always insist on the efforts more than grades but he also knows that grades somehow reflect how hard he is trying. He is now on 7th grade and cares about school less than ever; he forgets to do homework or does it but forgets to turn it in; he falls behind on school work because he is distracted. I communicate well with some of his teacher and I can follow up; some others are not into constantly emailing parents on progress - I know, I know; it's 7th grade... not 3rd.
Same with sports; he is in a swimming team and some days he swims as a shark, some other days he doesn’t feel like it and spends the whole hour almost floating on the pool. He actually has more floating days than shark days but I know if I tell him he won’t go anymore he will be happy… more down time…
Other than that he is very creative, smart, mature on some aspects; with a ton of friends; loves videogames, music and has a great sense of humor.
I’m asking the hive mind; what did you guys did or are doing to motivate pre-teens in your life that work well and give you results?
posted by 3dd to Human Relations (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe talk to a doctor about this - it sounds a lot like ADD and it's possible that medication could make a huge difference. I know that sounds pat, but really - a lot of it leapt out at me.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:59 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Come on, ADD? No, he sounds like every 12-13 year old boy ever. It's a phase, a phase that lasts 1 year for some kids and 10 years for others.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 10:01 AM on October 20, 2010 [14 favorites]

I'm sorry, but I'm going to agree with FAMOUS MONSTER. As someone who has ADHD and wasn't diagnosed until the age of 30, this really resonates. Every report card said I wasn't working up to my full potential, that I wasn't trying hard enough, that I wasn't applying myself. But the thing is, there was nothing in the world that could have motivated me. Cash for good grades, treats, games, prizes, nothing - because lack of motivation wasn't the problem.

I wish someone had diagnosed me when I was in school, rather than writing me off as just being lazy.

Talk to your son's doctor about his distractability and ask if he can be assessed for ADHD. If that's not it, THEN look for ways to motivate him.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:15 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, let's not rush to ADD. There could be a lot of things going on. The first that lept to mind is that (I think) kids in the early teen age group need a ton of sleep. I would find sources for you, but I haven't much time. Is he getting enough sleep?

The second thing that comes to mind is rebellion. If you're putting a lot of pressure on him, he's likely to push back and this may be his way of pushing back.

You might consider reading up on recent research about development in adolescents and maybe pay particular attention to things that run counter to your current expectations.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 10:16 AM on October 20, 2010

Well, my kid (13 years old) does have diagnosed ADHD and while this sounds a lot like the way his manifests, it could very well be that your kid is simply 12. As a matter of fact, unless you've dealt with attention issues for his entire life, I'd be willing to bet he's just being 12.

I tried all manner of motivation for my son up until this year. The medication helped, sure, but he never really seemed to care about his grades. This year, though, it's like a whole new world opened up for him. I don't know if it was me telling him he won't get to study abroad if he's a C student (we took a trip to London two summers ago and he fell head over heels in love with being overseas), or if his brain just simply switched on, but he's getting straight A's and he studies for tests and he talks to his teachers about extra credit. His goal is to get straight A+'s. He's almost there, too.

I wish I could give you concrete advice, but really, it's true: he has to care on his own for things to change. Or, you know, see if he has ADHD and go from there.
posted by cooker girl at 10:17 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Let me add that I'm not against taking your son to the physician and discussing ADD or counseling you against such things. I'm just saying there may be a constellation of causes for his behavior and ADD may be an easy, but incorrect answer.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 10:20 AM on October 20, 2010

How does he actually do on his tests, etc.? Does it seem like he can understand the material, or is he not really getting it? Make sure that he's doing work that is appropriate for his abilities. Don't push him to be a high achiever; just see how his mind works and if he can handle more complex work.

I didn't do my homework because I didn't see the need. Clearly, I was getting it, so why bother? But instead of running with that, I got punished by having to go back to the group with everybody else so the teacher could pay more attention. That was 5th grade, and I still find it very hard to motivate myself -- if I showed my achievement, nobody cared.

And I knoooow that ADD is always trotted out, but it's worth it for you to bone up on and see if some of his other behaviors fit. Keep it in the background for now, but keep an eye on it. Then, if you think you have some evidence for it, make sure to have him tested. It's a disservice to consider a possible diagnosis a cure-all, but it's also a disservice NOT to consider it.
posted by Madamina at 10:20 AM on October 20, 2010

I don't have much information about ADHD, so I'll research and take it from there.
I love that things are working so well for cooker girl.
Madamina my son does pretty well on tests; he is either As or Fs mostly of the time. He does well on tests and gets As or don't do the work and gets a F.
Just yesterday he finished reading a 400 pages book, he can sit everyday for 30/40 minutes straight to read. Today he took the test for that book and scores 97% (I just saw it on showing that he actually pays attention while reading. But again, don't know much about ADHD.
posted by 3dd at 10:38 AM on October 20, 2010

How much responsibility does he have? And not just at home, but in the wider community?

In my observation, pre-teens and young teens who feel a sense of agency tend to be more motivated in other areas of their lives. There are some kids who manage a plot at the local community garden, who not only have a sense of accomplishment but a sense that others depend on them. (There are some community obligations to having a plot there.) Other kids find this sense of responsibility and agency in scouting-type organizations. Or in teaching others -- there are a couple of 13-year-olds who participate in the local orienteering organization who are always explaining maps and compasses to newbie adults, and they carry themselves with so much pride when they do.

I'd certainly check for learning disability-type issues and be thorough, but I'd also look for ways he can try out his nascent adulthood and stand or fall on his own. Ideally in non-school ways, ideally as part of a community where he's depended upon by others.

I seriously think one of the biggest problems with adolescence today is we keep teenagers being "kids" with little real responsibility or agency long past the time when in the past they would have been adults. They do still need protection and nurturing and fifteenth chances, but they also need some practice being adults, and they're way less bored if they get to do some adult things and take on some adult responsibilities.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:42 AM on October 20, 2010 [11 favorites]

He sounds normal. Not every person needs to be hyper motivated in this world. Being a low-key person will serve him well in many ways.

Having said that, normal life for a middle schooler is often pretty challenging. The things that made the biggest difference in my life at that age and through high school had one common theme. Whenever I could hook into something, anything, that had real meaning and that I was truly excited about, all aspects of my life improved. For me it was finding a really cool youth organization that I could take a real leadership role in (the Unitarian church). Later it was doing anti-war activism during the first gulf war. Again, I had real decision making and responsibility in that group that helped form ways of thinking and behaving I still carry now.

What is your kid MOST excited about? What does he LOVE? Video games? Can you sign him up for some kids game design class? He loves music? How about chorus or a rock band class or guitar lessons? He's social? How about a kick-ass youth group or club of some kind?

As for the things he enjoys but doesn't get obsessed with - let him be! If he likes to float in the pool, that is a completely benign and healthy way to relax. Let him enjoy it. He doesn't need to be a shark at everything he does.

Kudos for being pro-active and thoughtful. And I'm confident he'll be fine.
posted by serazin at 10:43 AM on October 20, 2010

Oh, you might also look into project-based learning, although I suppose you'd have to do it out-of-school. Sometimes kids who are bored at school and unmotivated don't see the connections; if you build the learning in to a PROJECT, suddenly the math isn't boring (or if it is boring, they at least see a point to it) because they can't build their whatever without doing all the math first. There are schools that use this as the primary curriculum driver, but they're still fairly rare.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:45 AM on October 20, 2010

Many students have the problem that they don't really know why they are studying other than that there are other people (such as parents) who want them to. There are basically two reasons to want to succeed as a student: some of the information is actually useful and will come in handy later in life, and by doing well as a student you get to impress people whom you may want to impress (such as potential employers). I could only urge an indifferent student such as your son to think about those things. But some people will never really see a point to study until they are actually faced with the problems that can result from a lack of educational credentials. Or in other words, they have to learn the hard way.

As for the swim team, since he is not obligated to be on the swim team anyway, and may just want to be able to spend more time in a swimming pool, there is no apparent reason to worry that he is not sufficiently competitive. If the thrill of victory is not enough for him, so be it.
posted by grizzled at 10:47 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you live near a big four-year university? Take him on a tour. I fucked around in high school, so it kind of blew my 19-year-old mind to actually tour a real university, with dorms and recreation facilities and football games and whatnot, and see what I missed.

Case in point: The campus of UC Santa Barbara is literally on the beach. You can walk right out of the freshman dorms and into the waves.

My reaction: "Oh shit, so this is why everyone was studying and doing sports and stuff. Why didn't anyone fucking tell me????"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:53 AM on October 20, 2010

FeistyFerret's comment in a related thread is the reason I joined MetaFilter, if that's a selling point. I think his advice is still gold.
posted by yaymukund at 10:54 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

So I have a son the same age and he's roughly similar. My son "struggles" with keeping organized and we have to nag him a bit to get everything done. But he sounds like your son.

I would have you ask yourself why, from your son's point of view, should he get straight A's? Why should he bust his ass in the pool?

Seriously. Kid don;t see the world like you do. Time passes differently for them. What really motivates him? What does he care about? And beware that the answer to this question may be that he doesn't really care about anything. Which isn't so bad but as you've noticed ennui doesn't get you very far in life.

So maybe spend some time talking to him over a few weeks and see where his head is at. Because once he gets fired up about something he'll attack everything else with more energy.

Also, you know, low iron levels? Too many carbs at breakfast? If nothing else maybe try having eggs at breakfast and see if that helps his blood sugar levels. I find too much cereal makes my kids out-of-whack.
posted by GuyZero at 10:56 AM on October 20, 2010

I think others will job of talking about the academics. I'll just mention that I had/have similar symptoms and don't have ADD, but I'm very close on the various scales. So he may need a little support from you as if he has ADD, even though he may not have a clinical attention deficit.

The point about the swim team was interesting. Does he get to choose any of his activities, or are they all chosen for him? I'm not going to advocate "he can do anything he wants and nothing else," but if he doesn't apply himself to his extracurriculars then maybe he doesn't find them interesting or rewarding.

My parents forced me into many extracurriculars (e.g., piano / violin lessons, soccer) and I chose some myself that they never considered (e.g., building & maintaining computers, lifting weights). I'm a young adult now, and what do I do? I work in IT and lift weights for exercise. I wanted to be a drummer, but was denied - so when I finally had a job I bought my own drums and now drumming, not piano, is my musical outlet.

If you want him to apply himself to his extracurriculars, spend some time understanding what he's interested in and encouraging him. Not that he can just drop swimming to do nothing, but if he is actually excited by another activity he's much more likely to put in the effort to be good at it. He may have a talent for swimming now, but if he just doesn't care to practice he won't do well as the competition heats up. But if he finds a sport that he likes, he'll actually practice like he's needs to - that's where successful athletes come from.

Also, be sure you're encouraging his activities and not forcing them. If my parents had sent me to a course in IT, I would have hated it. Instead they let me build the next family computer without much direction. I spend untold hours researching and troubleshooting, and it led very directly to my current career path.

On preview: I seriously think one of the biggest problems with adolescence today is we keep teenagers being "kids" with little real responsibility or agency long past the time when in the past they would have been adults. This. So much this. I think my point is somewhat similar - let him be a little self-directed, as long as it leads somewhere.
posted by Tehhund at 10:59 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree with him needing some kind of real responsibility. The penalty for not doing something has to be "now I don't get something I set out to get" rather than "now they will harass me." Boy Scouts, Sea Cadets, CAP, and similar organizations are built to take advantage of this need in young people. The 4H kids have living animals depending on them for their survival; it's amazing what teens can do when you rely on them.
posted by SMPA at 11:02 AM on October 20, 2010

It sounds like it could be normal but I find it interesting you did not mention anything about friends. Where do his friends fit into this? Is the problems with his friends? Does he just have a circle of friends at the school or does he have other circles? The more the better whether it is through church, volunteer groups, clubs, or whatever.

The best way to motivate is to give him more responsibilities that will challenge him or use talents that he has.
posted by JJ86 at 11:16 AM on October 20, 2010

I meant to add something: he knows things aren't working for him. Give him a menu of options for figuring out how to fix it. At 12 this is one of those things he should be taking (a portion of the) responsibility for.
posted by SMPA at 11:20 AM on October 20, 2010

My grades took a nosedive around fifth grade, and I didn't pull myself out of it until ninth grade. (I did well on my tests, but routinely "forgot" to do homework or hand it in.) Two things were going on around that time:

- For most of elementary school, nearly everything came quickly and naturally to me. I did very well without having to study, and as a result I never really learned how to study, or, more importantly, that needing to study didn't make you dumb or bad at something. Take-home projects were harder, and my middle school algebra classes were harder, and because I couldn't do them effortlessly I kind of gave up.

- My self-esteem was in the toilet. Fifth grade was when popularity started to matter, and I was on the lowest rung of the social hierarchy. I was terribly shy, bad at sports, and nerdy. I was picked last for everything, and verbally bullied and sexually harrassed on a regular basis. I don't think my parents knew about that, though they did know I was apparently depressed and "not performing to full potential."

This is anecdotal, of course; I am not a parent, a teacher, a child psychologist, or your son. Your son is probably not a social outcast. Middle school can be a minefield, though, even for kids who are outgoing and well-liked, and schoolwork can take a direct hit. As a former teenager, I'd suggest you make sure he has an ally before he has a diagnosis. Does he know you believe in him, think he's smart and capable of great things, will listen to any problems he might have, love him no matter what his grades are? Pressuring a kid to perform or sending him to a psychiatrist can sometimes send the message that he's broken or wrong, and he needs to know that you think he's great.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:26 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just yesterday he finished reading a 400 pages book, he can sit everyday for 30/40 minutes straight to read.

I just wanted to follow up real quick with a few things.

My own experience with ADD and ADHD is only my own, and certainly is not everyone's. But what I've quoted above - it doesn't confirm the hypothesis but it doesn't rule it out, either.

I guess I'll bite the bullet here. I don't really like talking about myself but it seems maybe unavoidable, or at least like it may be helpful here. And please bear in mind that this is only my experience and as such certainly colors my perspective.

Almost everything you wrote about your child could have been written about me when I was that age. Up to a certain point I did well enough in school because it was all really easy stuff. Once I got up to middle school - basically once we started getting into things like long division and the sort, once things started getting complicated - I pretty firmly became a C student, if that.

The difference was that previously I could coast on not really paying attention. But all of a sudden I was at a level where I had to try hard, and I was finding that I couldn't. My parents, God bless them, tried everything they could think of to motivate me. But motivation wasn't the issue. I would sit down, knowing that I'd be grounded if I got bad grades or whatever, and swear to myself that I'd pay attention to the teacher, and then all of a sudden it would be half an hour later and I'd realize that I hadn't heard anything the teacher had said; I had just really been off in my own little world, despite my efforts. It was nothing I had control over. I tried, really I did.

One of my parents - and I don't blame them for this - was kind of a hard-headed person of the old school, and to them it seemed like a very simple problem: They noticed that I had no trouble learning all there was to learn about comic books, about drawing, about pretty much whatever I was into. I drew a lot, because I loved to draw, and the only class I would uniformly do well in was art. And, like you said above, if a novel interested me I would have no trouble staying engrossed in it. Some days I'd polish off an entire novel.


Imagine you're paying a whole lot of attention to your kid's academic career, observing and analyzing their habits, and what your data suggests is that they are doing really well in subjects they care about (of which there are likely to be few), and just barely scraping by when they're not interested. Imagine you find out that when they're interested in the subject, they're just an absolute model student, and when they're not interested in the subject, they don't pay attention. Ever.

Well, hell, to be honest, my first thought would be "Why is my kid so lazy?" And that was my parents' thought as well, and again, who could blame them? But over time they found that it was just not possible to discipline me into paying attention to, say, algebra. I felt stupid, and lazy, and I started hating and dreading those classes. I just plain stopped turning in math homework. This was stupid, of course, but the foresight of a pre-teen is rarely far in distance.

For someone who's never experienced ADHD, I don't know how to even begin to explain it. Some days are worse than others. What I remember most about it was that I would begin by trying to be attentive and sooner or later, my attention would just - independent of my actions - sort of slide off the teacher. A stray thought would pop into my head like thinking up a new comic character, and my brain would just start building on that, up and up and up, and more than once I would realize that in that span of spaced-out time, I had literally not heard a word the teacher had said. But also, being a kid, you only have your own experience to go by, so you figure that this is a normal thing and you're just not managing it the way one is supposed to. I became convinced that I was actually just really stupid.

Fast-forward to the middle of the sixth grade, and my pediatrician recognized what was going on - which he described almost exactly the way you did in your question - and prescribed ritalin.

The difference was like night and day. I still didn't particularly enjoy math class, but I could pay attention and spit back what I'd been told. I could do the work, and it wasn't that I could do it as effortlessly as, say, art or reading homework for example, but that I could do it at all. Listening to the teacher give lectures, I'd still be bored out of my skull, sure, but I'd be paying attention.

My point? Ah yes, my point. I actually agree that ADD and ADHD are probably over-diagnosed these days, and I am not saying all this to discount the feedback from people who are saying that the problem is something else, because it very well could be. ADD may be the problem here, or it may not - there isn't much way for me to know for certain, but I wouldn't dismiss it just yet. Talk to a doctor, see what they say.

And, of course, please also consider that no matter how vivid my story is, it's only one story, and has been greatly condensed, and ultimately may have very little do to with that of your son. But if you feel like you've tried everything, it might be worth a shot to start a dialogue with his doctor. At the very least it couldn't hurt.

Anyway. I'm sure it'll work out for the best. Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:30 AM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

3dd, I think you have my daughter's secret twin brother there. This sounds so much like she was 2 years ago.

What changed? She became an 8th grader, a Top Dog, a Big Cheese. She'd roll her eyes SO HARD if she knew I said that. Just aging into that role of being a good example for younger kids (more eye rolling) or being a leader, seemed to turn on something in her. She still didn't (and doesn't) care a whole lot about topics she wasn't already interested in, but at least now she puts in an effort, rather than "forgetting" to do her homework.

So my advice, fwiw, is to find some activity where your son is the oldest and can take a leadership role for that reason. It's hard to lead your peer group, but leading younger kids (even only a year younger) can be much less stressful. And the feeling of having to give your best effort because the younger kids are counting on you can carry over into giving your best effort in all areas.

On a different note, something that resonated with the son of a friend in a similar situation was seeing the really awesome high school that he would be going to, and hearing about all the activities that he could get involved in as long as he kept his grades up. So is there a way to get him over to the high school he'll be going to - maybe see if they have a video game club or somesuch - to give him a bit of something to aim for, that isn't as far off as getting into a good college or having a good job?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:53 AM on October 20, 2010

I have been working with teens in that age group recently. The hardest thing to do is decide warning flags from testing the water. Failing a class is not uncommon, lots of kids do not mesh with a teacher or do not like a subject; failing a quarter...bad. This is when his personality is coming out, let him play with who he wants to be and what his life is going to be like. Chances are he will be just fine without meds or doctors. I would push his interests and let go of the things he passes on. Middle school is not the end all be all of his life. He needs to get through it with a basic skill set. If I was in a swim meet today, I might just float on top too.
posted by Felex at 12:18 PM on October 20, 2010

For what it's worth, this description fits me to a T at age 12 (and through most of high school--I got chewed-out senior year for reading my own books during English class, for example), and to my knowledge I do not have ADD. I didn't come out of it until college, when I could pick my own coursework and then I did really, really well, going from a student whose grades ranged between Ds and As in high school, to graduating summa cum laude, and then going on to grab a 4.0 in graduate school.

In the time since, I've read fairly extensively about alternative schooling, unschooling, and private schools, and all I can say is that I really, really wish I'd known about them sooner--and really, when it comes down to it, I wish I'd had some say in my education sooner. I'm an incredibly driven person when I care about what I'm doing. That's not unusual for anyone, children or adults, and while I agree that to a certain extent everyone has to learn to swallow some of their lumps, we don't forcefeed choices down anyone's throats like we do children.

So before medicating, I'd talk to your kid about whether he's happy in his school, do some reading about alternative schools yourself, and really research what his options are. One of my biggest life-long regrets is that I essentially lost 8 years of productivity to the hell that was public middle and high school. This was a time when I could have been learning, writing books, creating, focusing my passions. Instead, it was a time when I was flunking notebook quizzes in geography. Ugh.

I know if I tell him he won’t go anymore he will be happy… more down time…

Uh . . . god forbid? Look, your kid doesn't want to be on the swim team. If you're going to insist that he do some sort of sport or activity, let him pick one that he actually does want to do. I know it doesn't seem like it, but he's becoming a grown-up. He can pick his own extracurriculars.

(For me, it was art club and college-level creative writing classes and hiking club. And I loved it and was happy to go because I was passionate about them. Seriously, give him the freedom to choose.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:25 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


**I essentially lost 8 years of productivity to the hell that was public middle and high school.**

I assume you mean your public schools and not public schools in general.
posted by teg4rvn at 1:02 PM on October 20, 2010

I assume you mean your public schools and not public schools in general.

Well, yes, that's clearly implied, though I must say that my current opinion of public schools as a whole is not positive thanks to the increased emphasis placed on standardization and the like. There are good schools (particularly in areas of wealth); there are good teachers. As a general rule, though, I feel that most students would be better served by the quality of education in private schools (many of which offer scholarships for students who come from poorer backgrounds), or the flexibility of alternative schools. Hell, even the students I know who went to the local vo-techs seemed happier, as a rule, than those in public schools. But of course YMMVetcetc.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:10 PM on October 20, 2010

I agree 100% with PhoBWanKenobi. I had the same experience as your son and many people here (abysmal grades when I didn't care, soaring grades when I did). But, unlike PhoB, I was fortunate enough to avoid any loss of time and productivity. Instead, I dropped out of high school at fourteen (with my parents' blessing) and by 15 I was enrolled in a university in my hometown. It's not that I hate, or hated, school; I'll be ABD in a PhD program a few weeks from now. The problem for me was the mismatch between what I wanted to learn and what my traditional suburban high school was telling me that I had to learn to be successful. College provided the right balance of structure and freedom for me to stay interested. When I got sick of that too, I would could take a semester off without penalty to work, travel or write. I came to understand my education as a full-life and lifelong process rather than a race to the finish line.

I have been shocked to learn how many of brilliant people that I meet have similar stories. It's not a topic that comes up frequently, but when I mention my experiences as a dropout, there is nearly always someone in the room who will exclaim "me too!"- and a handful more who wish that they had. I don't think that dropping out is necessarily the answer, but it's a good option to consider, and it will certainly not bar your son from any future success. The key with any program is figuring out how to tailor it to your son's needs rather than tailoring your son to fit its needs.

There is a great (if a little syrupy) book on this called The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Get a Real Life and Education. It covers self-education in a way that is useful whether you're in school or out, fourteen or thirty-four. The method relies upon many of the alternative education techniques mentioned here (e.g., project-based learning) that you may find in alternative schools if you feel that your son needs more structure.

Whatever you decide, it's great that you care about your son's motivation. I wish you the best and hope to hear about the solutions that you find.
posted by subterraneanblue at 2:52 PM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Look like 3dd jr has a lot in common with some of you or people you know (with or without ADHD) which is great news for me. I won't rule out ADHD but will try first to get him involved in some extra-curricular acitvities where he can take responsibility and be proud of at the same time. Last night we went to a CAP meeting (thanks SMPA), he is thrilled, so he will go a few more times to decide if he wants to enroll or try some other alternatives.
I’m giving a lot of though to every single answer because each one has something I can use or apply and will be reading over and over this post for a long while. I want to thank you all for taking the time and honesty to share your opinions and experiences. It is a great help. YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST!!!!
posted by 3dd at 9:40 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hey OP, I think you're on the right track. Just chiming in to say that one of those options for exercising responsibility should probably be letting him have more agency about what activities he's in. There's something to be said for encouraging participation and stick-to-it-iveness by "making" him join and go to things, and of course I don't see an indication that you're pushing him too hard.
But perhaps the key to making him feel engaged is to let him be a bit more self-driven: fewer activities, not more.

Giving him some more unstructured time can help him really develop his curiosity about the world. You might want to put a couple of rules on it, just so he doesn't spend the whole time in front of the TV/Xbox/Facebook (God knows I could use those rules...). Encourage him to daydream. I hate to be one of those "these kids today don't know how to play and be kids" people, but... these kids today don't know how to play and be kids. That flexibility and curiosity of the mind is what leads to great critical thinking skills in the future.
posted by Madamina at 9:58 AM on October 22, 2010

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