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Ask the Experts

My Son Befriended a Troublemaker

By Dr. Ruth Jacoby, Educational Consultant

Question:

Recently my fourth-grader befriended a new boy at our school. This new boy seems to be going through some tough times. He's run off campus a few times when he was reprimanded for misbehaving. He's also been sent to the principal a few times. Now my son is starting to get sent to the principal with him.

Their teacher called me at home (for the first time) to discuss my son's behavior in class. Apparently, my son and the new boy talk and make drawings of torture chambers during class time. My son never drew torture chambers before! I'm concerned that this boy is a bad influence on my son. To complicate matters further, my son truly likes this boy and claims that if it weren't for him this little boy wouldn't have any friends.

On the one hand, I feel that the new boy is a good kid that just needs a guiding hand, but on the other, I feel that he's causing my son, who already is borderline when it comes to attentiveness in the classroom, to slip backward in his class work.

What is the best way to deal with this situation?

Answer:

The time is now to have an important talk with your child. When your son says, "This boy wouldn't have any other friends and that he really likes this boy no matter what," it is your turn to say, "No one likes to be told who their friends should be, so I understand why you are angry at me for telling you that I don't want you to be friends with this boy any more until he acts appropriately and follows the school rules. You have been getting into trouble since you have become friendly with this boy. This is unacceptable. Until you developed this friendship, you were never sent to the principal's office. Your grades are slipping and this is not acceptable. I would like to see you regain your focus on school and to have a positive behavior report from your teacher and principal."

It is also important to have a conference with the teacher and let her know that you are very concerned and would like to have an appointment with her. You know the source of the problem, so now it is time to come to a resolution. Once you have reached an agreement, call your son into the discussion and share the outcome with him.

You may want to try a behavior contract in order to help monitor and record changes that you would like to see occur.

Example: Behavior Contract

Date: ______________

Problem: Falling grades and poor behavioral choices

I ______________________, promise to make better behavioral choices, concentrate on my class work, and strive to get better grades.

If I follow this contract and positive changes occur, the following rewards will take place:

_____________________________________________________________________________

If I do not make changes and I continue to get failing grades and behavior reports, the following consequences will take place:

_____________________________________________________________________________

Date to see changes: _________________________

Follow up date to revise contract: ____________________

Parent Signature: __________________________________

Student Signature: _________________________________
Teacher Signature: _________________________________


Dr. Ruth Jacoby has been involved in education for more than 30 years as an educator, principal and currently as an educational consultant in Florida. She is the co-author of the School Talk! Success Series including Parent Talk!: The Art of Effective Communication With the School and Your Child, Homework Talk!: The Art of Effective Communication About Your Child's Homework and Test Talk!: Understanding the Stakes and Helping Your Children Do Their Best.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

09/19/2006:
"This behavior contact is really good. I do the same thing with my daughter and it really works. If I scold her, it don't work at all. But this contract works good as she know that she signs it and what will happen if she will not follow the rules. Her grades are going up. Sometime she does it in order to get a reward too. "
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