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Disruptive 13-year-old at school


Three teachers have emailed me saying that my 13-year-old son is disruptive at school. He engages in attention-seeking behavior and is talking excessively. He is serving detentions at school. What can I do at home to reinforce that this behavior is unacceptable?



Once you know what specifically your son is doing when he is seeking attention, then you can take steps to address the behavior at home. Is he not staying on- task? He will need to learn to ignore distractions and focus. Is he talking out of turn? Then he will have to learn and practice getting his teacher’s attention appropriately.  

If he is not ​following instructions, he can learn to:

  1. Look at the person who is talking;
  2. Say “OK” or nod to indicate that he understands;
  3. Do the task immediately.

Perhaps his teacher can reinforce his good behavior by allowing him to help her or utilize a different way of gaining attention for good behavior.

Communicate frequently with the school staff, especially with his teacher. Let the staff know that you are working with him at home and that you’d like to be notified about whether he is improving at school or struggling even more. Sometimes a school card is helpful in charting what skills he has successfully implemented and which ones require more practice. 

If he does not have a good day at school, his evening should not be filled with fun activities. Rather, he should spend his time practicing the skills he is having trouble mastering so he will do better at school the next day.  

Schedule homework time each evening. If he does not have homework due the following day, he can work on handwriting, spelling, reading or math problems. Eliminate distractions as best you can. If he sees you hold education as a high priority through your actions, he will take it more seriously.  

To further reinforce education’s importance, attend school functions, conferences, sporting events, school board meetings, etc., as much as your schedule allows.