DEAR HARRIETTE: My son has been hiding his homework assignments from my wife and me for several weeks now, something we learned from his teacher, who called me the other day to ask what was going on. We have always considered our boy to be a good kid. When I asked him about the missing homework assignments, he did not reply, he just shrugged it off. My wife thinks it is a good idea to ground him so we can teach him a lesson. I disagree because we have not figured out why he has not turned in his schoolwork. What do you recommend? -- Need to Take Care of Business, Charlotte, North Carolina
DEAR NEED TO TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS: Continue the conversation with your son's teacher to learn everything you can about his behavior at school. Ask questions so that you can learn about his social life, his other studies and if there is anything unusual going on in his life.
If you believe you can get your son to talk to you, create a safe space for the two of you to be together. Without passing judgment, ask him how things are going and what happened that led him to not do his homework and hide it from you. Find out if he needs help understanding the assignments. If so, tell him you can get him a tutor. Sometimes students who are well-behaved are promoted without much difficulty, even if they are experiencing academic challenges. Your good boy may need support.
I recommend figuring out the problem before punishing him. At the same time, I would not reward him with anything extra. You need to figure out the source of his struggle.