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Just a Guy Whose Teen Wants to Drop Out of High School

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Bruce Sallan: Our teens love to surprise us with their latest brilliant idea -- and my 16-year-old didn't disappoint the other day.

boy in high school

Almost literally waiting at the door for my return home, he accosted me with the urgency only a hormonal teen can bring. "Dad," he declared, "I hate high school and want to drop out and do independent study."

I think I would've preferred, "Hey, Dad, whassup?"

We sat down and he began his pitch. He quickly dismissed as irrelevant the fact that all this followed a recent social disaster at school. His rationale was that he is totally bored at school, his teachers are boring, none of what he's learning interests him and he'd rather go back to homeschooling (or "independent study," as they call it at his high school).

Hmm. I think he may be the only teen in history who thinks school is a waste of time, that his teachers are boring and what he's learning is irrelevant. After all, he's a rock 'n' roller, so what's the point? I calmed him down and suggested he discuss it with his counselor to find out what would be involved. It's true that he did well when I homeschooled him during 18 months of middle school; also, he had attended a local community college at age 13, getting an "A" and a "B" in his two courses there.

But making such a rash decision didn't seem well thought out -- and while I didn't dismiss it out-of-hand, I said that such a big decision wasn't going to be made in a hurry. He has pretty much hated all of high school, with the exception of having a vibrant social life and a great girlfriend. However, that social life was set awry by a foolish Facebook post, and it hasn't gotten back on track yet. Could there be a connection?

So the next day, he visited his counselor. She explained all that would be involved -- and it wasn't easy or simple. After all the passion that had met me at the front door the day before, my son casually said, "Let's forget it" -- and that was the end of that. Another lesson in raising a teen: Don't overreact to their overreactions. But what do I know? I'm just a guy.


next: The Lohans: A Case Study in How Not to Parent!
10 comments so far | Post a comment now
jane April 27, 2010, 6:20 AM

Love this, Bruce. Hormones, can make us crazy. Firstborns, are cutting new paths, for us, and themselves, with no frame of reference, other than their friends. I, do, however, have a friend, whose son, is extremely similar to yours, socially, and he ended up doing independent study. It worked for him, BUT, it is so not preferred, and as a freshman in college now, he openly admits he missed the whole social scene of senior year. And he is adamant about his younger sibs NOT following his path. He got A’s but the cost was not worth it. Kudos to you sir!

Denise April 27, 2010, 7:35 AM

Bruce - sometimes you make me laugh; sometimes you make me cry; and often you make me both aware and scared of what’s to come! This time it was all three. Thanks for sharing!

Jackie April 27, 2010, 8:56 AM

“Don’t overreact to their overreactions.” I made need to get that tattooed on my forehead.

Suzette April 27, 2010, 9:07 AM

Ah! Been there done that. But, it’s my daughter who’s been hot and cold about school, sports and her friends, and we’ve made through with our 18 y.o.!

One day everything is great for her, the next it all went downhill. We even considered moving for goodness sakes!

Like you, we want to solve their problems and avoid them the missery.

She’s a freshman, and things are on a non-stop roller coaster of emotions, but I just listen, agree and tell her to think about it over night. We revisit the situation (after much whining already) the following day, and it has usually turned better.

We need to steel our parenting nerves … and it’s not easy with teens.

Anna Liljekvist April 27, 2010, 11:40 AM

Great article. I love your ending “Don’t overreact to their overreactions” and how you let him be responsible for his own feelings and life, but guided him in the right direction. Parenting is really a fine art…Have a great day Anna

Lori Lite / Stress Free Kids April 27, 2010, 1:12 PM

Love how you handled this in such a cool,calm, and logical manner. Often our kids/teens bring surprising situations to us to pull us into their own drama. When we as parents do not engage on a hysterical level it allows the facts and truth to emerge….as it did in this sitution. Kudos to you Bruce. Lori Lite / StressFreeKids.com(teens too)

Cindy Springsteen April 27, 2010, 4:58 PM

This was great advice, you didn’t panic as many would when faced with a situation like this. By keeping cool and waiting everything worked out. Great article!

Jenny Cyphers April 28, 2010, 1:34 PM

The whole way in which you handled this was very dismissive of an almost grown man who lives in your house.

Of course he said “let’s just forget it”. A school counselor is not going to be giving this kid the idea at all that leaving school is in any way an acceptable choice.

I don’t know your kid, but I know plenty of 16 yr olds. Dismissing their ideas as being over-reactionary due to hormones does not allow for truly well thought out ideas that are given any sort of credence by both the parent and the teen.

His ideas were valid, even if the last straw was a social one. Perhaps taking time off from school will help him put it behind him and help him get ahead in other ways.

What a shame that you lost the opportunity for a nice connection with your son by dismissing his feelings and ideas.

Bruce Sallan April 28, 2010, 4:03 PM

Jenny;

I think you missed the point - and my connection to my son. I allowed him to visit this idea and didn’t make any immediate or snap judgments! In fact, I know him well and knew it was a reactionary idea in the first place. If I encouraged it, he would’ve been totally confused.

We did home-schooling for 18 months and we both know its values and limitations. That is not what he wanted or needed. This is a grown boy - NOT a man by any means - but yet he comes to me to talk about everything, including problems with his girlfriend.

I couldn’t be more proud of how I handled it. I appreciate your comment but do feel you’re off base being that judgmental based on a short blog.

Jennifer  January 25, 2011, 1:13 PM

I wish it had turned out so well with our son. He was homeschooled through 7th and 8th grade because he could not keep up with the pace of his middle school classes. We gave him options for high school that ran the gamut from unschooling, a hybrid approach where he is at home 3 days and at school 2 days (there is a program in our area that does this), structured homeschooling, or high school. He picked high school and proceeded to perform at either C, D, or F level. He failed at least one and usually two classes each semester. His father and I tried tutors, afterschool programs, etc. He was tested for learning disabilities and that came to naught. He bitched and moaned constantly about how stupid school was, how stupid his teachers, assignments, tests, and classmates were. And then he would fail another class. He failed every class his first smester of senior yr and dropped out because he was behind in so many credit he would not be able to graduate anywhere near on time. Now he says he plans to “test out.” We are beside ourselves with disappointment, frustration, and anger at what a mistake he made and how he wasted 3 1/2 yrs at high school refusing to do even the simplest assignments. I feel like we’re part of a lame teen drama on MTV sometimes.


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