The Slacker Stigma

Worried parents get advice on their underachieving kids from The Saturday Early Show's Mike Riera.

Help! My Kid Is Flunking

Dear Mike,
How do you motivate a 15-year-old boy to realize the importance of his education? All that's important to my son is his music. He's good at it. But the struggle on his schoolwork is exhausting. He doesn't care. He has failed 9th grade and is in summer school and really doesn't mind repeating the grade if he has to.


You can't motivate a 15-year-old. He's probably going to be held back. Make him face the music of what's going on in the classroom. It may be a great lesson.

His mother wants him to learn the lesson without the consequences. We have to make mistakes. As Mark Twain said, good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement.

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If you have a question for Mike Riera about dealing with your child, send an email to with "Ask Mike" in the subject line. Or write to "Ask Mike" The Saturday Early Show, 514 West 57th St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10019. Your question may be featured on future shows and on our Web site.
The academic environment isn't everyone's strong suit. Many people have great careers without having done well in high school.

Keep your eye on his long-term well being. Make sure he has other things that give his life meaning and give him a sense of self-esteem. Luckily, he's already motivated about music. If he loves music and understands the experience of giving 100 percent, he has got what it takes to have a successful career. Maybe it's producing or marketing music. Being able to do algebra doesn't necessarily mean you'll be successful.

Dealing With Depression

Dear Mike,

My 24-year-old-son is depressed and was dismissed from college because he said he couldn't cope with the academic pressures. He was going to a psychiatrist while in school but he totally stopped the visits and his medication. What should I do?


Get in touch with a psychiatrist right away and get him into treatment again. If his leg were broken, you'd say, "we're going to the hospital" immediately.

There's a lot going on ere, not just school and pressure. When people stop taking medication they often self-medicate with drugs or gambling. He doesn't want to be back home at age 24.

People with depression can lead productive lives. They may have to spend the rest of their life on medication but this is something people can conquer.

Lifting The Student Spirit

Dear Mike,

What is your advice for underachieving students?


First of all, take the long view. Some people reach their highest achievement in middle school, high school or college. Others wait until they find a career. I think the key is to focus on what your son or daughter is interested in, whether it's skateboarding, community service, music or sports. Support them there because once they learn to be motivated in one area, over time -- and it may take years -- it will broaden and generalize to other areas and be part of their careers.

As parents, understand that the best and the most significant tool you have to motivate your kids is your relationship with them. Let them know it matters to you. Make it personal and be persistent. Make sure they see in your eyes the best parts of themselves that they don't yet see for themselves.