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I have a 10-yr-old son. He's a fifth grader right now and I have been really worried about his attitude toward homework and everything that has to do with studying. He constantly calls himself stupid and has no motivation for getting good grades. He has many friends, so I have no worries in that aspect. He is half American, half Japanese. He goes to a public Japanese school. At first, I thought maybe it was because of his inability to understand the Japanese language as well as other children his age since we were living in the States until he was 3 and a half. But, in my opinion, him being 10, it's been long enough to make up for that time now. I try to come up with things that might motivate him, but it doesn't seem to work. People have told me that around the time when he's 12, he will be able to cover everything that's been taught in elementary school, but I'm not completely buying it. How can I motivate him?

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    Can you afford a babysitter/tutor? Sounds like he may just need a little extra adult attention now that dad is gone... – Jeff Y Jun 10 '16 at 13:55
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    He used to be teased about being half Japanese when he was in the first and second grade, but they were never so serious to the point where they kept him from going to school. But he could've been just acting okay and they might've been more serious than I was thinking. – Mikiko Jun 10 '16 at 15:25
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    Just throwing this out there: perhaps he's incredibly bored by school. Either the teaching style doesn't suite him (lots of sit & listen?) or the material is boring him (lots of repetition of topics he's already understood?). Does that seem like a possibility? – deceze Jun 11 '16 at 15:53
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    @deceze Thank you for your reply. Some of his teachers have told me that my son seems he's not very interested in studying, which I think is probably because he's bored as you pointed out. The only classes he seems to like are arts and crafts, music, some science, and some P.E., which are mostly unnecessary for any exams to come in the future for getting into a high school (which is mandatory here), college or univesity. I wanna ask you a question. Have you had any struggles in your adulthood which resulted from the past indifference to schoolwork? I'm sorry if I sounded rude. – Mikiko Jun 13 '16 at 6:44
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    @Miki I would say it has certainly put me on a different path in life. Had I done better in school I may have stayed in it longer and perhaps gone on to university. Since I didn't, I have worked in 4 different countries in a variety of jobs before settling on a programming career. Couldn't say if the alternative would have been better or not; I certainly struggled a bit at first, but I ended up in a place I'm pretty happy with. A good education will certainly open more doors from the get go, but it's not the only possible way... – deceze Jun 13 '16 at 6:50
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Not knowing your son I can only speculate, but the whole description sorta hits home with me, so here's my stab into the dark and advice:

He's probably incredibly bored by school. I know second hand that Japanese schools don't have particularly inventive teaching methods, and he's probably bored by sitting and listening all day to a teacher who may not be very interesting talk about topics he doesn't have any particular interest in. It can bore the crap out of anyone, and nobody wants to have anything to do with boring topics when there are alternatives (friends and games).

Fundamentally the things being taught in school are fascinating, the problem is that the presentation can often obscure that fact and that often no basis is being taught for why the subject is actually quite interesting. Also the fact that all subjects taught in school are fundamentally interconnected is often missed in my experience. So your son may be wondering what he's supposed to do with this useless knowledge he's supposed to retain and/or why it might be interesting to anyone at all.

To help him there, you can try to fill in the gaps between the theoretical world of school, practical daily life and the real world. Should he suddenly develop an interest in astronomy for example, he'll gobble up physics, maths and other related subjects automatically, because he can suddenly see how they help him understand a topic he cares about. Or an interest in war machinery will feed an interest in history. And on and on it goes. Help him find something to connect the dots. A new hobby could be it, but perhaps he also needs more exposure to the real world in the form of travel, a job, practical responsibilities or something of that sort. Whatever is practically available to you and sticks with him.

  • Best of luck to you guys, hope it works out! – deceze Jun 13 '16 at 8:12

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