Responding to Your Teen’s School Troubles
Tip—Take the time in the “tween” and early teen years to address minor discipline problems before they become an entrenched pattern of behavior during high school.
Say your 14-year-old son comes home with a notice of in-school suspension. “How did this happen?” you ask. “I left my math book in my locker” is the answer. But when you call the principal to protest this seemingly unreasonable consequence, you discover that this was the seventh time your son left his math book in his locker during math class.
Or suppose your daughter comes home with stories of four lunch detentions in a row because, “The art teacher hates me.”
While you are thankful that these are much less serious problems than drug use, sexting or theft, you are naturally concerned that your child is paying less attention to his schooling than he ought. Minor discipline problems, like talking out-of-turn, forgetting necessary books and supplies, using shop tools inappropriately, talking back may establish a pattern of misbehavior that can set a child on the road to academic failure, asserts John Lazares, M.Ed., school administrator and author of “Please, Don’t Call My Mother!” How Parents and Schools Can Team Up to Get Kids Back on Track.
Tools—Lazares recommends taking such minor issues seriously. He says it is the combined responsibility of educators and parents to show children they will not be allowed to disrupt their own or others’ education in small ways. An intervention in the early teen years can prevent greater problems later. Here is advice about this drawn from his book.
- Realize that there never was a child born who didn’t, in his or her secret heart, want to please his or her parents and make them proud; there never was a child born who wouldn’t rather be an A student rather than a failing one. Although teens can do an excellent job of portraying an uncaring or flippant attitude, what their parents and teachers think does matter to them. Keep this in mind when dealing with them.
- Consider addressing the school problems with a “Parent Intervention Plan.” Pioneered by Lazares, this is where a parent attends classes with the child for an entire day. This surprisingly effective tool has an almost unbeatable success rate for students who are misbehaving in minor ways. For those parents who dismiss this idea due to their work schedule, Lazares responds, “Employment is not an excuse not to parent. It’s a far better use of your time than worrying about what your 13-year-old is doing at home, unsupervised, during a suspension.”
- Say less, do more. Lazares recommends keeping your verbal responses to your teen’s school problems short and sweet. “Action speaks louder than words,” says Lazares. “Real power consists of quick actions, not long speeches. Our kids may tune us out, but they can’t ignore what we do. One day-long visit to your child’s school, following your child to each of his classes, will make more of an impression than hours of emotional tirades.”
You’ll find more practical tips you can use right now in “Please, Don’t Call My Mother!” How Parents and Schools Can Team Up to Get Kids Back on Track by John Lazares and Coleen Armstrong.