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Sixth-Grader Turns Disrespectful

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: During the past three weeks my sixth-grade honor student has received four reprimands from his teachers regarding disruptive and disrespectful behavior, and his team teacher has contacted me about the change in his attitude. I am at a loss to explain it. There have been no changes at home, no evidence of drug use, no known losses of friends or girlfriends. When we try to talk to him he blames the incidents in class on others, and says nothing is wrong. This is nothing like his usual behavior.

A: Congratulations on your prompt response and your looking at behavior at home. Your son may be pushing the envelope in the classroom just because he is a sixth-grader. There is great pressure on adolescents by their peers not to conform and to be tough.

Since his acting out is taking place at school, I encourage you to talk with his teacher about imposing consequences at school for his inappropriate behavior -- detention or whatever the policy dictates -- and that you will support that consequence. There's really no effect when parents punish for school behavior, but results are good when parents support consequences imposed by the teacher and the child must take responsibility.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.


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