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Sixth-grader disruptive at home and school


My son is in the sixth grade. Though he is capable of A and B work, he is failing most of his classes. When he does finish his homework, he often turns it in late.  He is tardy between classes and says that he doesn’t care about school. 

His home life is not any better. He is demanding and disruptive, so much so that his college-aged siblings don’t want to come home when he is here.  

His father and I are divorced and share custody. One week he is with me, and one week he is with his father. He does meet with his school counselor once a week.  We have unsuccessfully tried outside counseling. He and his former counselor did not click, and there are few children’s counselors in our area.  



When a child starts to display negative behavior, it is often for attention-seeking reasons. Ask yourself these two questions: 1. Has your son recently experienced a big life change? 2. Is your son getting enough attention for good behavior? If you answer “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second, then you need to address these issues.

If, however, neither question applies to you, then consider having your child evaluated physically and mentally. A clinical psychologist can assess your child. If you need referrals for this type of assessment, call the Boys Town National Hotline SM at 1-800-448-3000.  If you are calling from Nebraska, you can also try the Nebraska Family Helpline at 1-888-866-8660. 

It is not unusual to see four ​or five counselors before finding a good fit. Let your son be part of the process in order to empower him. If he feels like he is part of the solution, he will be more open to the process. For instance, ask him if he feels more comfortable with a male or female counselor. You could also seek help from a behavioral therapist who will help him change his behavior by developing a plan that you can implement at school and at home.  

As difficult as this is, you must stay calm and be consistent. Demonstrate that you love him but that his behavior is unacceptable, and bad behavior has negative consequences. When he is good, be sure to praise him. A general guideline is to offer four forms of praise for every one negative consequence or correction.