Mouthing Off Middle Schooler

As some of you many know, I blog for the Clayton/Richmond Heights Patch.  Here is an interesting question posed by a middle school parent:  Suppose your son just got suspended from middle school for three days. He was impudent and talked back to his teacher in front of everyone.

 So onto this week’s question: What do you do now as a parent to make sure this never happens again?

As the parent of a tween and a teen, this one hit close to home.

Concern & Respect: Of course it is essential to immediately express your concern for your child while making it clear that disrespecting adults in this manner is unacceptable. Clearly the child is experiencing something he is unprepared to handle.  Listen to your child’s side of the story, pay attention to your child’s perception of the “incident”.  Validating your child’s feelings is important.  Once you have taken care of your child’s needs, ask your child how the situation could have gone better.  Encourage him to come up with alternative strategies for dealing with this and similar situations.

Consequences: The school probably instituted a quick and logical consequence (notifying parents, lunch or after school detention).   You may not need to add a further consequence unless you feel more is necessary.  As always the consequence should be as logical as possible.   For some children the public format of the school consequence is plenty.  You may enlist your child in creating an appropriate consequence.  I am always surprised at how thoughtful children are when creating their own consequences.

Future Strategies: If mouthing off to adults is way out of character for your middle school child, I suggest that a total reconnecting with your child is in order.  Our tweens and teens are so independent these days that it is easy to forget that they are still learning how to navigate the wider world.  We all have busy lives and tend to let the little things slide like dinner together or hang out time together. Take the time to reconnect through some seemingly mundane activities.  Tweens & teens are more likely to share what’s going on with them while doing a parallel activities like raking leaves.  Nonchalantly schedule some one-on-one time with some sort of parallel activity. Make the space for conversation without the intensity of having a “big” talk.  Once you understand what is going on with your child you will be able to help him advocate for himself in an appropriate manner in the future.

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