Annie's Mailbox: How do I make my teenager interested in school?

Dear Annie: Our 16-year-old son, “Kevin,” finished his sophomore year and received nothing but D’s and C’s on his report card. He is not concerned in the least, telling us, “D’s are passing grades, and that’s good enough for me.”

We have made it clear that we want Kevin to go to college, not only to learn skills for the job market, but to fully develop himself as a human being. I have repeatedly tried to encourage him and be positive, but without more effort, we are afraid his grades won’t be good enough to get into any college.

He tells me he does his homework at school, yet his online grade book indicates assignments are missing. He told me before finals that he passed his last science test by looking at his neighbor’s paper. I told him he was never to do that again, and it is better to fail than cheat.

Kevin is simply not interested in getting decent grades. The only initiative he’s shown lately is studying to get his restricted driver’s license. What can we do?

— Worried Mom in the Midwest

Dear Worried: Many car insurance companies offer lower rates for drivers with higher grade point averages, and you might tell Kevin that he won’t get his license until his grades improve. But you also should have him tested for hidden learning disabilities, which may not only be hampering his efforts at school, but discouraging him from trying. Please keep in mind that some kids simply mature later. Kevin may need to get a job or do a little traveling after high school. And don’t ignore your local community colleges. A four-year university would be a waste of time and money if Kevin isn’t ready. You cannot force him to do better, so you may as well back off a bit and hope he’ll get there on his own eventually.

Dear Annie: You have mentioned hoarders in the past, but I never truly understood what it meant. Recently, I had to make a service call to a customer who refused to let me in. When I finally convinced him to open the door, I immediately regretted it. Oh, my.

This man had every living area filled with stuff all the way to the ceiling. The halls were littered with trash and old food as high as my knees. It was a fire hazard and highly unsanitary. I am sure no one had set foot in his house for decades. There was no air conditioner in this hot weather, and to make matters worse, the man was breathing oxygen through a plastic tube.

Annie, I felt sorry for him and reported the situation to our local Adult Protective Services. These people are in serious need of help.

—Appreciate it Now

Dear Now: Compulsive hoarding is a psychiatric problem. There was a recent case in Chicago of an elderly couple whose home was so filled with trash that they became trapped beneath fallen towers of garbage. Fortunately, neighbors called the police and fire crews rescued the couple before they died of starvation.

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