Teen Feels Pressured to Be Amazing

By Sylvia Rimm

February 2, 2014 5 min read

Q: I stumbled upon an article you wrote and felt like I had found the Holy Grail.

Unfortunately, my child is 17 and in junior in high school. Whether we just never landed in the office of the right professional or not, I just don't know, but my concern for him is greater than ever, and I'm hoping you can offer me some guidance as to how I can get my point across to the professionals now working with him.

There is no doubt in my mind that my son has some mental health issues. He has been diagnosed as being bipolar, having oppositional defiant disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although he did pretty well in elementary school (B's mostly), once he entered middle and high school, he barely scraped by. I could see that he wasn't doing the classwork or the homework, putting his head down in class, but on the exams, he would take them, get A's and skate through classes with low D's.

He amazes family and friends with some of his abilities. You can number a paper one through 20, and name 20 objects. He will write them down. If you take the paper away and conceal it, you can give him the numbers in any order, and he can give you the words. He can also figure out how to do or fix anything. I have been pulling my hair out throughout his educational career, because I want my son to do what I know he is capable of. He tells me he can't.

He is impulsive and highly manipulative in his environment. He is always looking for an opportunity to get away with something. He has been involved with the courts because of his very short fuse and impulsivity. He is currently in a residential home for boys for 90 days to get his behavior under control.

After reading your article about why bright kids sometimes fail in school, it smacked of my son. I would appreciate any guidance you could provide.

A: Considering the diagnoses that have already been applied, and the many professionals who have worked with your son, I can only assure you I have no magic solutions. With all the attention he's received for his amazing abilities, he no doubt feels that he must be spectacular in order to reach his potential.

Does your son have some interests that could lead him to a career in which he could eventually make a living? Getting D's in high school will not lead him to college opportunities. You might want to suggest he get a GED since he tests so well. He could begin work at a community college to explore possible skills that he can apply.

You mentioned his ability to fix things, and that might fit well with becoming an electrician, contractor, computer repairman or plumber. If his hands-on work can be fulfilling, he could work for a contractor for a while or develop his own business. If he wants to pursue a more advanced degree, a community college could lead him to a four-year university and toward engineering. If you're clear your expectations aren't impossibly high and only emphasize a respectable work ethic, he might actually find he can accomplish much with effort.

At age 17, he might benefit by reading the first part of my book, "Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades and What You Can Do About It" (Great Potential Press, 2008), and I think you would certainly learn something from it as well. You could also find an article on my website titled, "Marching to the Beat of a Different Drummer" to be helpful. Please don't give up on your son, but do help him to learn that hard work builds confidence and that avoiding effort destroys confidence.

For free newsletters about "Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades And What You Can Do About It" and/or "Marching to the Beat of a Different Drummer," send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the address below. Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or [email protected] To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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