Dear Dr. Sylvia

Single Mom Needs Help Quickly

September, 2018


I have a nephew who is 12-years-old, extremely bright, and underachieves to fit in with his peers. His teachers have recommended that my sister pursue an alternative school for gifted kids, but she doesn’t know where to turn. She’s a disabled, single mom, which really limits her options.

My nephew is a great kid but tends to lie and get into trouble over the stupidest things. His teachers don’t think he’ll make it through middle and high school here. He’s bored and doesn’t want the stigma of being a “nerd.”

Can you help by pointing us in the right direction? Are there schools that take gifted kids on scholarship?



 Lying, getting into trouble, and underachieving suggest serious problems for your nephew. While an alternative school for gifted students may help him, and there are often scholarships available, I doubt if a change of schools will be an easy answer to his problems.

My book Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades and What You Can Do About It (Great Potential Press, 2008) and newsletters should be helpful. In addition, your sister will benefit from your encouragement and support. However, a boy being raised by a single mom also needs some encouragement by caring males.

Boys at this age push away from their mother’s protection to search for their identity as a male. While Mom is still very important and needs to be strong in setting clear limits for her son, having a male who can tell this boy that his mom is terrific and that he’d better do what she says can make a huge difference. In addition, an uncle or a coach, for example, who sees him over the summer and tells him the coolest thing he can do is to become a hard-working, good student next year can get him started. And, needless to say, if your nephew can pal around with a peer group that takes schoolwork and honesty seriously, they too can influence him.

Try to encourage your nephew to get involved in school sports and extracurricular activities. Those positive involvements can help him develop interests and self-discipline. The more positively your nephew is involved in school, the more likely he is to achieve to his potential in his academic work. Finally, if none of these approaches reverses his problems sufficiently, your sister should go for counseling.

Dr Sylvia RimmDr. Sylvia Rimm is a child psychologist and clinical professor at Case University School of Medicine, author, newspaper and magazine columnist, and radio/TV personality. For a free newsletter entitled So Your Child is Gifted!, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a note with your request to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094. Read Dr. Rimm’s articles on this topic and submit family questions online at All questions are answered.

Return to top