Tie teen's car use to good grades

Q. Our 17-year-old son -- a junior in high school -- received two F's on his last report card. Believe me when I say that while he isn't brilliant, he's certainly capable. The problem is laziness, pure and simple. His job, his car and his friends are more important to him than school. The problem has been getting worse over the last two years. What is an appropriate consequence for something of this sort with a child this age?
A. I have some experience with this problem, given that my son, shortly after receiving driving privileges and obtaining his first job, decided that school work was low on his list of priorities. Eric is now 35, happily married, the father of three, a good citizen, and a good provider for his family, so what Willie and I did in response to the problem must have worked. With that in mind, I pass it along to you.
Close attention needed to maintain priorities
Every Friday for two grading periods, Eric carried a weekly report card with him to school. He had to obtain his current grade from each of his teachers, along with his/her signature (in ink, and we had an original of each signature). Driving privileges for the following week (Friday to Friday) depended on two factors: first, his weekly grade average had to meet a certain standard, and second, no grade could be below a C. Obviously, without a car, he'd have to quit his job. Furthermore, no car meant a severely limited social life.
He put his priorities in order rather quickly, as I recall.
From that point on, our message to both of our kids was simply this: "You have to be very responsible to be trusted behind the wheel of a car. If we can't trust you with something that does not involve life or death -- your grades in school -- then we can't possibly trust you with something that does."
And we never had another problem along these lines.
Q. The administrators at the private school our children attend have recently decided that every child will attend two one-hour classes that will teach them to distinguish between "good" touching and "bad" touching by other people. The higher the grade, the more detailed the material becomes. I tend to think this makes the kids think too much and might even cause more problems than it solves. Do you think this is a good idea, especially for young children?
A. Plenty of people are going to disagree with me on this, but I don't feel that teaching such material is the proper province of a school.
Unfortunately, state legislatures have assigned public schools this responsibility, and a good number of private and parochial schools are following suit, perhaps thinking that if they don't, they'll appear out of step with the times.
Education in sexual matters is the responsibility of parents, period. And yes, not all parents recognize the importance of proper teaching in this area, but the mere fact that some parents do not rise to a certain occasion does not license schools to appropriate this responsibility across the board.
Sex ed should be age appropriate
I also agree with you that timing is a critical issue in the sexual education of a child. In that regard, schools can and sometimes do present sex education materials prematurely and in ways that cause some children to "think too much" and other children to develop unnecessary anxieties.
In my estimation, the most appropriate way for a school to handle this, especially at the younger grades, is to send parents, by mail or e-mail, suggestions on how to deliver this education at home. At the very least, schools have a responsibility to inform parents of the specific content of such programs and inform them of their right to request that their children be excused.
XJohn Rosemond is a family psychologist. Questions of general interest may be sent to him at Affirmative Parenting, 1020 East 86th Street, Suite 26B, Indianapolis, IN 46240 and at his Web site: http://www.rosemond.com/.

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