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Failing in School


I am having severe problems with my 13-year-old son. He is failing in school, and no matter what we do to help him, he falls right back down. He has been in fights already this year, and the sheriff has been involved. His next screw-up will land him in juvenile detention.

We have tried counseling, medication, punishment, etc. Nothing is working with him. He is putting such a strain on our family that no one wants to be around him. I get calls from the school every day about something he has done or about his bad behavior. He is so disruptive in his class that he has been removed many times. Toward the end of last year, it even went as far as having the school resource officer sit in choir just so the teacher could teach the other students.

I am at the end of the rope with him. I have to hold back from physically punishing him. I have smacked him in the mouth a few times for talking back, and I don’t want to be that kind of parent. He just frustrates everyone so much that right now the best option is to put him somewhere where he can get the help he needs before this whole family self-destructs. If you can help or have any ideas, please let me know. Thanks.



Thanks for writing in for help with your son and family situation. Parenting is a tough job, and unfortunately we can’t buy insurance to assure that our children will turn out all right. Hopefully your other children are doing OK in spite of this disruption and that they are receiving lots of reinforcement for doing the right things.

It sounds like your son’s bad behavior has been going on for quite some time. If you have tried the teaching and consequences, counseling and medication, and intervention by as directed and have given all of these things a fair amount of time to be effective, then you must have been dealing with these behaviors for years.

If you feel that out-of-home placement would be the best for him and for your family, then we suggest you explore some facilities. Of course, we recommend the Boys Town residential program. You can learn about this program and the admissions process by visiting the website at If you would like to call or provide us with your location information, we will be happy to refer you to our nearest facility.

Meanwhile, your fear that you may physically strike out at ​this child is valid and would be regretful. We recommend that you develop a plan and use these parenting tips for staying calm:

  • Identify what your son does that pushes your buttons the most.
  • Recognize what happens to your body when he pushes your buttons.
  • Come up with something you can do when he upsets you. This is something that will distract you so you can calm yourself. You might say a prayer, take a breath and let it out slowly, or walk away and splash your face with water.

We also suggest developing a safety plan for the other children. This is what they can do when their brother gets angry or blows up. This plan will help them feel safe during this chaotic and disruptive time.

The website will provide you with numbers to reach our staff at the admissions department. Don’t hesitate to call if you have questions.