Behavior at school

Question: I have a 12 year old son. When my son is at home he is an angel. But, when he goes to school he becomes a monster. I went to his school recently and sat in a few of his classes. It was horrible the way that teachers have to do more yelling in the classroom than teaching. My son was a complete angel as you imagine because I was in the same room. I hear stories everyday just about, regarding his classroom behavior. He is arguing back and forth with other students,not completing his work assignments and is cursing and acting like a complete fool!. I talk and talk until I am blue in the face…I know I can’t throw my hands up. I try to keep telling myself that it is a faze. But is it? Any advise for a Mom who is just about out of solutions?
– Doreen

Answer: Isn’t it amazing that your son knows how to be “an angel” when he wants? I think that says quite a lot – it says your son knows right from wrong and he can control himself in certain settings. It also means that you’ve been doing your job.

Still, I applaud your efforts to follow-up on your son’s inappropriate behavior. 12 year-olds can be rebellious and challenging. Peer group pressure can also be very strong. It seems that school has provided the “audience” for much of the attention-getting behavior.

I have to admit that the description of your school visit suggests that there is a classroom management problem that needs to be addressed by the teachers. Your son’s improved behavior in your presence tells me that respects your authority and understands your expectations. The teachers really need to take control of the classrooms.

You can, however, reiterate your expectations to act properly in the classroom. It is also a good time to talk to your son about the way his peers act, whether they make good choices or poor choices, what are the consequences of those choices, and why he would choose or not choose to follow the crowd. Think of these as problem-solving discussions and a chance to hear how your son is thinking. Focus on understanding and on open communication. But be sure to share your opinions about his classmates’ behavior. This will strengthen the foundation you’ve already set teaching your son right from wrong.

As for your son’s “foolish” behavior, make a list of the problem behaviors. For example: acting disrespectful at school, incomplete assignments, and unsatisfactory grades. Let him know that you expect different behaviors from him. Prepare ahead of time a list of consequences that you can and will enforce should those behaviors continue.

Start with school assignments. Devise a checklist of the acceptable quality of work (if you like, ask his teachers to help). For example: it must be neat, must be complete, and must show a level of thought suitable for his ability. Let him know you will be checking his work and it will need to be redone if unsatisfactory. Set high standards for his school behavior as well.

If you receive reports of disrespectful or disruptive behavior, you might take away game time on the computer. Remember start with small increments of time. If you take away a privilege altogether, you’ll run out of privileges to withhold. Start with 5-10 minutes for every infraction – then he’ll “see” his privileges diminishing step-by-step and have a chance to improve his choices.

This can be a trying stage for parents – so, don’t give up! Fortify yourself with activities that rejuvenate you and help you keep your sense of perspective and humor. Find time to be with your son without conflict – work on strong communication and a strong family bond. These are tough years for him too.

Good Luck,
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.


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