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Sixth-Grader Has Attitude Problems

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My 12-year-old son is in sixth grade and he takes forever to do his homework. I feel he does this so he doesn't have to help around the house with chores. I put together a list of small things he could do so he could get an allowance at the end of the week. He only does some of things, but still asks us for money for church offerings and candy, or asks us to buy him things. He has a very bad attitude when I tell him to change his pants because he always wants to wear the same ones or baggy ones. His teachers have complained of his behavior. He has B and C grades. I have punished him by not letting him watch TV or using his skateboard for a month, but it doesn't help. My husband's work keeps him from getting home until my son is asleep. My husband takes him to school in the morning and they talk on the way, but it still doesn't work. Please advise.

A: I encourage you to take some time with your husband to decide what the rules will be for your son. What I am hearing is that you set up the rules and you are the enforcer. Your husband's talking to your son is not working. What works best for kids is consequences. They tune out talking adults. I would also encourage you to enroll in a parenting support group where you can learn skills about setting up consequences with teens. If there are no such groups in your area, go to the public library and check out some of the very good books on this topic. This website also has many articles on disciplining children.

You have set up some consequences (taking away his skateboard and TV privileges), but they aren't really related to his misbehavior. I am going to give you a few ideas that you and your husband could use or adapt to your situation. Once you and he have decided on what you want to do, meet as a family and explain to your son (and the rest of the family) what the rules and consequences are and then follow through -- both of you.

Chores: Decide what they are, who is doing what, and that they will be completed before study time. If not completed, then your son has to complete them after homework time -- perhaps during his TV or playtime.

Homework: Set a time that homework is to be done. For example, from 8:00-10:00. If the work is not complete, your son may not stay up. He can get up early the next day or take a lower grade on it.

Allowance: Set up conditions -- if chores and homework are completed every day without your having to nag at him, give him the allowance. If he has not followed through, do not give him money for candy or church offerings. Calmly but firmly say, "You chose not to do your homework (or chores). Maybe next week."

Clothes: This might be a losing battle and battles with teens need to be chosen carefully. Decide if this is worth fighting over.

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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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