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Dear Abby: Stepkids fall behind in school

Dear Abby: A year ago I remarried and gained three great stepkids. I'm worried about the oldest, who is a senior (18). She doesn't care about school anymore. She's smart enough. When she tries, she gets A's. But when she doesn't want to do the work, she gets F's. There is no in-between. She's capable, but lazy.
Her youngest sister (12) is doing the same thing now, too. Neither one is using drugs or alcohol or skipping school. They are fundamentally good kids. I recognize that it's laziness because I did the same thing 30 years ago. What turned me around was the U.S. Navy. I literally grew up on an aircraft carrier.
Abby, until now I had only sons. I understand boys and men. Having daughters now is a very steep learning curve. I need suggestions on how to help their mom parent them through this rough period. I love our children deeply and want to be the kind of stepdad God wants me to be for them.
- Clueless Stepdad

Dear Clueless: For a man who signed himself clueless, you have clear insight. You and your wife should schedule an appointment with the oldest girl's school counselor and find out to what degree her grade point average has been affected by her "laziness."
Then ask your stepdaughter what she plans to do after high school. Does she plan to go straight into a minimum-wage job - if she can find one - with little chance of advancement? Trade school? College? If she wants to further her education, she needs to understand that schools pay attention to applicants' high school records. At 18, she should be treated like the young adult she is, and you and her mother deserve some answers.
The 12-year-old is another story. Find out from her teachers whether she has fallen behind in any of her classes and see that she gets tutoring if she needs to catch up. Make sure she completes her homework assignments. You and her mother should impress upon her that you expect the best she's capable of, and for good grades there will be rewards just as for poor grades there will be consequences, such as reduced privileges. Then practice what you preach.