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My Young Brother Is Struggling in School

26 January, 2018
Q As salamu `alaykum. My youngest brother who turned 14 just recently is struggling at school -- well not struggling because he doesn't even try. The thing is he's in the 8th grade, and his writing is like a 2nd grade student's. He gets really angry if any of us siblings try to talk to him about studies. he gets out of control - even with our parents and this is very disturbing. His mid-term results was real bad. He failed in 2 subjects and in the rest he got E's. All the teachers had the same comment about his grades that he's not focused. We checked his notebooks and he doesn't even do his class work, let alone his homework. He goes to school very enthusiastically, wakes up early in the morning, gets ready before time, wears the best of his uniform, but he doesn't do anything there I guess other them talking to his friends. Can it be because it's a co-ed school? Also he talks to girls not in any bad way, but I fear as he studies with these girls it might become a bad influence. I try to explain it to him, but I fear my way isn't right. My mother says it's natural, and if we push him too much he might get into it deeper. Here I must say my mother does discourage him. If I try to tell him the Islamic way he gets irritated, and asks me to shut up - I am 6 years older then him. Other than all of what I have said, if you look past this he is a very nice boy with a good sense of humour. Sometimes I fear it's us older ones who have made him down, by not giving him constructive advice, and playing with him when he was younger. So I ask you, how to calmly explain to my brother to study or help him with it (I think I get angry too and retaliate when he gets out of control). He wants to be doctor when he grows up, but the way things are going the chances seem quite bleak. I am really concerned about him. It seems like even though I have the means to help him I still can't. His school has said they'll fail him in the 8th grade. There is one thing more. I have 4 brothers, al hamdu Lillah ages 23, 21,17 and 14, and I am the only sister. My brothers don't pay much heed to praying. Our parents have always inculcated this in us even now. Even though my father al hamdu Lillah prays 5 times a day (my mother as well), I try, but my Fajr prayers are often not done. My mother tells them to go to pray in the mosque, but they don't, especially the eldest although the mosque is very close to our house. They say we'll pray at home, and then my mother ends up shouting. We are very concerned about it. Because 2 of my brothers are older than me, it would be too hard for me to tell them to pray. I need you to guide me how to encourage them to pray without offending them, and without nagging. Should I just tell them to pray at home if not at the mosque?

Answer

In this counseling answer:

“Keep an eye on him when he is studying, just in case he might need company, or someone to study with. Cut out T.V. watching. It is a big distraction, and because of its entertainment value, it has the effect of reducing attention-span. Provide an area in the home to be his study area, and is respected as such.”


As salamu `alaykum my daughter.

 

You are a very caring, and diligent sister, and one day, your brother will appreciate you for your concerns, insha-Allah.

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Although there are many children who do quite well in the modern education system (which is only 150+ years old), equally there are children who do not for various reasons. One of the main reasons why some children do not do well is because the modern education system has a single-minded approach to learning, which all children regardless of their learning needs, have to go with the flow.

Then add to this the fact that boys need physical activity no more than girls, but it becomes a risk factor from boyhood – manhood. They might tend to take on risky behavior in order to meet the missing challenge in their lives. If you take a look at yourself and the way you learn best, you might find that you do have a particular style of learning that suits you, especially in situations whereby you are expected to learn something completely different.

Learning Styles vary from child to child. Some children learn:

Visually: These children learn best from being able to picture what they learn e.g. it is difficult to expect a child to know what snow is when they have never seen or experienced it! For these children abstract learning from books/the blackboard/lectures (some lessons are like lectures – flat!). This goes for 40% of the school population!

Auditory: These children learn to read phonetically, and absorb information when the information is presented in an expressive manner.

Kinesthetic: For these children, learning is an active process, which can not be achieved simply from sitting behind a desk. Physical activity is important and this represents about 50% of secondary school students! That makes sense if you look at the level of activity in a secondary school classroom!

Now how can you know if your brother has a particular learning style. Well if you look on the side bar to your right you will see a link that can help you and your brother work out what his learning style is. To get a better idea of what I mean right here and now, you would sit with your brother and ask him the following:

Auditory – listening

I prefer to follow verbal instructions rather than written ones?( )

I find it comfortable to add spoken numbers mentally. ( )

Visual – seeing, reading and visualizing 

I score high on tests that depend on reading comprehension. ( )

I can read formulas and understand them. ( )

I prefer maps to verbal directions when I am trying to find a place.  ( )

 Kinesthetics – moving, touching, writing and doing. 

When I write things down, it clarifies my thoughts. ( )

I have to manipulate formulas in order to understand them. ( )

I like to draw pictures. ( )

I am good at using my hands. I enjoy lab classes. ( )

The Two Reasoning Types

 

Then the following might help with other aspects of your brother’s learning:

 

Deductive reasoning

I like to look at the big picture first, then get the details. ( )

When learning a new game, I like to know all the rules before playing.( )

In an argument, I state my premises first, then draw conclusions. ( )

Inductive reasoning 

I like to see some examples when first learning a new ?subject, before developing an overview. ( )

I prefer to learn the rules of a new game “as we go along”.  ( )

The Two Learning Environments

Intrapersonal – working alone.

When solving word problems, I have to figure it out for myself.  ( )

Doing school work with a group often wastes a lot of time. ( )

Interpersonal – working with others. 

Before making a decision, I usually discuss it with my family or friends. ( )

I like to do my homework with others. ( )

 

Once you have ascertained what your brother’s learning style is, depending on how flexible and accessible his school is, try to make an appointment with his headteacher to see what might be possible. If this presents a problem, then try to look at ways your brother can be helped at home. For instance:

*Organize set times for meals, relaxation, and studies will help your brother to get into a routine. Too much studying can make Jack a dull boy.

*Keep an eye on him when he is studying, just in case he might need company, or someone to study with.

*Cut out T.V. watching. It is a big distraction, and because of its entertainment value, it has the effect of reducing attention-span.

*Provide an area in the home to be his study area, and is respected as such.

 

Another consideration is the possibility that your brother might have dyslexia. Dyslexia is a reading impairment disorder, which has nothing to do with intelligence. Certain letters might not be seen, or words appear jumbles, or words appear to be joined together for example. To find out if your brother has dyslexia can be done through a school specialist. Having no idea where you are, if your brother is diagnosed as having dyslexia, the school can arrange for your brother to have the support that he needs to continue his education.

Whatever you do with your brother, be mindful that he has tried to avoid the issue for a long time, so he might have his own reasoning as to what is wrong, or he has chosen not to face up to something being wrong, so try not to make him feel awkward in any way.

Pertaining too your brothers who do not pray, adolescence is a period of sociability, driven by the changing levels of hormones that occurs throughout puberty. However, adolescence is also a period where guidance is needed without being to head-on about it. So give your brothers the space they need, but within boundaries. Those boundaries has to be recognized by the whole family so that your brothers can be reminded of the limits.

One way of doing this is to pray together as a family, as in this way one is reminding them of their relationship within the family, and in relation to Allah (SWT). The best times of course to pray together is Fajr, Maghrib, and ‘Isha. The best thing to do to wake up for Fajr, Is to go to bed at a reasonable time.


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About Hwaa Irfan
Late Hwaa Irfan, may her soul rest in peace, served as consultant, counselor and freelance writer. Her main focus was on traditional healing mechanisms as practiced in various communities, as opposed to Western healing mechanisms.