Question: MY 13 YEAR OLD SON HAS RECENTLY BEEN IN PROBLEMS IN SCHOOL. HE HAS BEEN DISRUPTIVE IN CLASS, SIGNING MY NAME ON DETENTION SLIPS AND NOT DOING HIS HOMEWORK. HE USED TO DO ALL HIS HOMEWORK
(OCCASIONALLY FORGETTING), NEVER GOT IN TROUBLE AND WOULD NOT BE DISRUPTIVE IN CLASS.
I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY ALL OF A SUDDEN HIS BEHAVIOR HAS CHANGED. I HAVE TAKEN THE COMPUTER, THE T.V. HIS PHONE AWAY UNTIL HIS ASSIGNMENTS ARE TURNED IN. I JUST DON’T THINK THAT IS GOING TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. CAN YOU GIVE ME SOME ADVICE ON HOW TO HANDLE THIS SITUATION?
Answer: Dear Marie:
Okay a sudden change in behavior with a 13 year old can be a couple of different things. However, have you asked him what is going on? I don’t see an answer to what he thinks is going on.
Teens are experiencing numerous changes in their bodies chemically and all sorts of behaviors that disturb parents start to come up during the teen years. Some more dramatic than others especially if the parenting style has been one of compliance and control.
Teens begin to socialize and pulling away from their parents to establish their independence and separateness from the family. This is a normal developmental stage of their growth. However, we as parents are often not ready to let them go.
What you are describing is not a productive way for him to accomplish this developmental task and you are right to be concerned about him.
I am concerned you and he not go down a path of negative, punitive interactions as this is only going to produce more of the same behavior. Positive or negative reinforcement is only going to increase the behavior.
Make sure he is getting positive attention from you more than negative attention. Children do not care which they get they only want your attention.
Also, as to the question of asking him what is going on remember to LISTEN rather than to lecture. Also, teens often will have more open and honest communication when they are in the middle of an activity with you even if it is just taking a walk.
Something could have happened which has sent him off into a negative cycle. My overall point here is that your description of his behavior changes is dramatic and all I read here is what he was doing and what you did. This is all surface information. We need more information.
1. Ask him and see what he tells you is the problem.
2. If this gleans no information then consider some counseling now while he is young.
3. Make sure you focus on your relationship with him by setting up positive interactions and opportunities for communication.
4. Remember to Listen more than you talk. Be comfortable with long silences, eventually the do talk. Also, when he does talk, do not interrupt, let him get it out. You are better off hearing something you don’t want to hear than letting him keep whatever is bothering him inside.
Children do not take such a dramatic turn for the worse without something changing in their lives, whether it was you, them, something that happened to him it needs to come out. ( I wonder if it is an event at school.) I encourage you to get to the bottom of it now while he is only 13.
M Kay Keller