12 Year Old

Updated on May 09, 2012
M.V. asks from Dallas, TX
15 answers

Hello everyone.......I need some advice...I am a single mom ....of a 12 year old son who I have been having problems with. He is a wonderful, loving kid, but for the last couple of months he has changed. He is starting to have problems at school, this is his first year in Middle School and he is doing well in most of his classes except in the class that he doesn't like which is reading. He just doesn't like to read and feels like he doesn't have to. I have grounded him from Xbox and computer until his grade got better. But that only worked for a bit. He only starts doing better when I was on top of thing and as soon as I feel like I can trust him he starts slacking off.... Also he has started having a attitude with me and says he feels like I am always on his case and don't trust him. ..

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answers from Lafayette on

When my son has trouble with grades, and a lot of times it is because he hates reading the assigned book, he gets to go to the library in a study room with no computer access and do his reading while I grab a magazine and do mine. Once the grades are up, he can read at home. Sometimes he will now ask me to take him there...

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answers from Sioux Falls on

Middle school is such a tough time of life. Be firm yet understanding with him. A really good resource is a book called Surviving Middle School. It is written for kids just your sons age. It may help him and you alot!

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answers from Abilene on

Two great book I'd like to suggest is Love and Logic for teens and Bright Minds Poor Grades. Both books concentrate on having the child "own" their problems and encouraging them in their solutions. A sample answer would be "Wow, I would hate to be in summer school while all my other friends are at the pool this summer, but that's just me." Both these books are great and will give you fresh ideas on how to reach your son without punishing or nagging. They also encourage natural consequences for your child's decisions which I think is important.



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answers from Columbus on

A different thought here, since reading is his only issue, there may be real reasons why he finds that one thing difficult, and avoids it. I am not making any excuses for the behavior (and I have a 13 year old who I have to stay on her behind all the time to make sure she is not slacking off...so I feel your pain about "trust!" just makes me chuckle...) Certainly, if he hids his work or anything like that, you have to set some concequences.

Here is a suggestion for you though. Call the closest children's hospital and ask for the Occupational therapy department. Once you are connected, ask for a referal to a Developmental Optomitrist, one that can check the efficency of his visual motor, visual perceptual, and occular motor skills. Just a hunch, but some kids with only this kind of processing issue can eventually just tire out and be unable to keep up with the reading. This is not how well he sees, he might have 20 20 vision, but this is how he processes and the effecency of how he aquires the visual information. If he has an issue, it can be helped with therapy, accomodations, and sometimes corrective lenses. (This is not the colored lenses-very different concept)

You might find something that could help.


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answers from Indianapolis on

lol, I wouldn't trust him either. But I wouldn't trust any teenager! But seriously, validate his feelings and tell him what he needs to do to earn your trust. Getting his grades up and keeping them up, no discipline issues are school or at home, etc...
There isn't much you can do about the attitude, he's trying to be independent but his brain isn't actually ready to make the right choices - and won't be for 8-10 years (or more :P)

Is his dad in the picture? If not, having him see someone might be a good idea. He needs male guidance.
Good luck:)

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answers from Dayton on

Hi M. V,

I think every mom in the world has this issue with their child in one area of their lives or another, so don't get discouraged. You have gotten a lot of great and helpful advice here.

I just wanted to toss out a couple of ideas. They are both from a mom of mine who homeschools her kids and I think they are things that any mom can do. One thing she has done when it comes to reading school books is to have here kids read a paragraph of text and then write a one or two sentence summary of that piece of text. This gives her a good guage of exactly how much and fast they are reading and it's also an excellent study tool for them. Even if you see him looking at the book and *appearing* to be reading you don't really know if he's reading or not. This helps you and helps him too because he has a chapter summary that he can use to help him study and find information he needs within the chapter when answering questions.

The other is to read with him. Not necessarily the text because he needs to be initiating reading that, but find a subject or a type of book he really likes and sit down for a little bit each night or several times a week and read with him. My son loves Manga, which is Japanese comic books, and while it isn't my cup of tea, we are reading it together over the summer so that he gets in the practice, so that we have a time that we interact together revolving around something he doesn't really like and it can be a positive experience, and so that he can see that some reading can be FUN. Just take turns where he reads for a bit and then you do.

I think reading is one of those things that, while you may not love it, you can certainly learn to like it and I think it's a really awesome gift to give someone. My mom was a perfect example. She hated to read and my dad loved it. She started reading at night because he had a book, so she went and got one and they read together. In the later years of her life she read every night, even after my dad passed away.

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answers from Dallas on

I'm not a mom of a tween, but I've been one :)

Some ideas: Have his eyes checked just to be safe. Make sure he doesn't have some sort of reading issue. If he's having trouble, not just being obstinate about it, no amount of bugging, grounding, etc. will change things.

Does he like to read outside of the class? Maybe finding out why he doesn't like the class could help (annoying teacher, boring work, etc.) It could be the opposite of a learning issue - maybe he's beyond what they're doing and bored? Just a thought.

Try to involve him in solving the problem. See if you can connect what he's doing to real world stuff that matters to him. What adults see as important often makes no sense to kids :) It sounds like he's a good kid otherwise. He's going through puberty, too, so his hormones are going crazy and could be making things more difficult to deal with.

Good luck~

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answers from Orlando on

I don't care what anyone says about the terrible twos and threes--- By far, raising a 12 year old boy has been the hardest age yet! I spoke with his pediatrician for some tips (he has a 12 year old boy, too). He said you just have to find that fine line between giving him his space and keeping the lines of communication open. Starting to do poorly in school, at least for my son, has been revolving around lack of organization. I haven't found an answer yet, but I do try to stay on top of him as far as constantly checking to see if he has homework and that he gets it turned in on time--- his school district has an online service where you can log in and check their grades and especially check to see if there are any zeros for missing work. Just know that you are not alone in this. Let him know that he will not get away with being disrespectful to you, but that in return you will show him some respect by giving him some space/privacy. Let him know you will try not to pry into his personal life but that you feel school is very important for his future and you want him to have good habits NOW so high school will be easier for him. Does he have goals for reading? Like, does his teacher say he has to have so many books read each month, or something like that? Email his reading teacher and find out, and ask for ideas on what he should read if the books aren't already assigned. Instead of taking away ALL video games until the grades come up, how about a compromise of X amount of time reading earns X amount of time on video games. He'll have to prove that he has read, though, so he either has to tell you out loud a summary of what he has read, or maybe he can earn some time on video games when he has completed an entire book and there is proof from the teacher that he read it

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answers from Dallas on

M. V.

First of all what Ree Al Uh T. said is right on! The terrible two's have nothing on a 12 year old boy! Whew! I am going through the exact same thing with my son now. He too is a good, loving child but this year he has done a 360 - a complete change from who he used to be. I am going to touch base on the behavior and attitude since the reading is not where my experience is.
A counselor friend of mine gave some very similiar advice about letting them own there mistakes and advised me to use "Choice Language" when talking with him. Example, "Joe if you choose to not do your homework then you are choosing to not play your XBox." This way it makes them decide if they want their privileges or not. Also to say it very matter of factly, like you don't care and it is up to him.
We are using that right now and to be honest, some times it works and other times it does not. I am no expert, but I feel for you so much. This has been a very rough year for us and sometimes I feel like I am at my whits end. It is tough. If you find something that works good for you - I would love to hear about it. Sorry for such a long reply.
My best, A. S. Denton



answers from Dallas on

I am also having trouble with my 12 yr old almost 13 girl. I had trouble with all my girls at 12 and my son was just more sneaky. It is the age. Disrespect and took her to a therapist and she said get her a cell phone and that will cure all. Give me a break. I will get her one when she can keep her room clean and treat me nice. We have battles seems all the time. Today I told her no tv for two weeks or talking on the phone if she did not make her bed and she left without doing it. She mouths off at me and will not quit. The therapist said when we get upset or feel the other one is we have to call time out. At first it was working and that is what I wanted her to do was remove herself so we could both calm down but she now refuses to do the time out. Kids today are just too spoiled. They have no idea the struggle life is later on and right when they become people we can not even talk to them. They do not want to be seen with us. I am sure the plan is to ween us from them but hard feelings come when kids move out early, get pg, do drugs. They do anything to not be like us at this age. From clothes to whatever. Friends that are not nice kids. Right when a lot of moms are going through menopause and the kid is acting out. Setting limits and boundaries but praise every thing they do right. It is a faze and they come back at age 32, At least that is when mine are not human again. In the mean time I really think drugs should be for parents. At least something to make us not care so much. God Bless and reel in let go reel in let go. G. W



answers from Toledo on

Trust is earned, and he blew it. Now he has to prove that he can be trustworthy again, and that takes time. Sit down with him and together make a list of his responsibilities, including schoolwork. Then, together, make a corresponding list of privileges to be earned, and punishments if those responsilibilities aren't met. Family therapy taught me that you don't take away for punishment, you give. Once you take away everything he has, then what? So give, give. Get creative-- toilet cleaning, for instance, or picking up dog poo. The main thing is that you negotiate until you can agree on each punishment. He'll surprise you ---he'll suggest things that you'll think are too harsh! Then you can "negotiate" some back and he scores a point. This is a great lesson for him, and a great age to learn it. All choices have consequences. No pressure on you to stay on him, and no yelling when he choses badly. Punishment's set and agreed to. As he grows, so do his responsiblilties and his privileges. It's a simple system that really works. Good luck.



answers from Portland on

If you have any reason at all to wonder whether some vision or processing problem could be making reading hard for your son, check that out first. It could just be such a struggle for him that there is no pleasure in it. If your son has a problem, he may not even know it, because has only ever looked at words through his own eyes and processed words through his own brain, and doesn't have anything to compare his experience to.

Then I hope you'll read the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk. The authors have a long history of leading parenting workshops, and teach parents how their children can propose their own solutions to all sorts of classic problems, including attitude, responsibility and trust issues.

From your son's age, comments, and the fact that the consequences you've been trying seem to be working poorly, I suspect that he doesn NOT feel you really understand or care about his needs and his objections to reading. Two of a kid's greatest needs are to be understood and to know his parent is on his side. Your son isn't getting much reassurance on either count where his reading is concerned.

The wonderful book I'm suggesting will show you how to really let your son know you care and you're listening to his side of it. You can draw him out with open-ended statements or questions. "So, you are bored with reading. That's a problem, isn't it?" Then be silent, and leave space in which he can respond. Or, "I hear that you don't think reading is necessary. Can you say more about that?" And leave space for his response. Or, "You're feeling that I don't trust you. Hmmm. I'd like to understand what you mean."

If you can listen with deep compassion and real curiosity, your son is likely to feel more connected with you, and give you glimpses into his reasoning, his changing relationships with people and school, his emerging sense of what his future looks like. And most interestingly, once a child feels that sympathetic connection with a parent again, he is very likely to start proposing his own solutions, and take a new interest in the parent's needs and concern.

This is a wonderful age at which to introduce these techniques, because he'll be going through a lot of changes over the next several years. I am already using this approach with my 4yo grandson, and I am surprised and delighted to learn that even as young as he is, he's very clever about understanding the dynamics of even complicated situations, and proposing his own original solutions to problems.

You'll be glad you've read this book. Here's a sample from the first few pages: http://www.amazon.com/How-Talk-Kids-Will-Listen/dp/038081....



answers from Dallas on

I don't have an answer for you but you may find some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. I signed up for this website after doing a search for behavior of a 12 year old girl. I am going through the same thing we my daughter. It has nothing to do with you being a single parent. My husband and I have been very happily married for 20 years. We are on our daughter's case because we don't trust her... this was after catching her having very inappropriate text with two boys. She was forbidden to talk to one of them and found out that she is still doing it and they are using another name. I told my husband just this evening that I have really seen the change in the last two months. She stays in her room, avoids us, grades are dropping. We are very family oriented and taking her one of her friends to Disneyworld when school is out. She doesn't even act excited at all. Most kids would be thrilled to fly on a plane with a friend but like everything else she is just not interested. I wish we both and an easy solution. I'm sorry I didn't have any answers just confirmation you're not alone. Maybe it's the Texas air... not really funny... but I am not far from Dallas.



answers from Dallas on

I think you have been given some great advice. I would just add a few things, assuming he has no learning or reading problems, but just hates to read. My son also hates to read, especially things that don't interest him. He prefers magazines and short stories to long books. He also likes the Manga books, so I try to get those for him to read. IF your middle school is like mine, then 6th grade is the last year he will have reading as a class, unless he does poorly. So, that might give him some incentive to do well in the class. Also, I wish I had gotten this advice at that age. Let him fail and suffer the consequences! Instead of you nagging and fussing at him, make it his responsibility. If he fails, then he will have to take summer school or continue to take reading as a class. Middle school grades don't really matter that much in the scheme of things. Let them fail now and learn to take charge themselves, because high school grades really matters!



answers from San Francisco on

Can he read out loud to you instead of alone?

It may be just the material he doesn't enjoy, the style of it--too much description, too much dialogue, not enough action.
I think sometimes kids don't get the whole idea of studying literature. They think, I already KNOW how to read, why do I need to do a reading class?
Some kids read Shakespeare and they think it's just a bunch of weird old language, and they miss all the stuff that is going on in the story...
If things don't get better, how about a tutor?
If you can make him see that avoiding his work leads to a lot of problems for him, maybe he will find motivation to keep his grade up.
Also, if lack of interest in the material is the problem, maybe he can ask the teacher if he can do alternate assignments to make up his grade (showing the teacher that he will read and do the work, if he has material he can relate to.)
Attitude is tough...I think some kids get the idea that all we do is boss them around, or "treat them like babies", and so of course they rebel. They don't see the other side of it.
The best I can suggest is to give him more "adult" household tasks to show that you think he is capable and smart and that you can trust him ("man of the house" stuff, since you are a single mom), which should make him feel more confident and proud and gown up. But if he fails to do those tasks, let him know how that makes you feel, and how it makes you look at him like he is maybe not as grown up as you thought, and that you feel like you can't depend on him when you need help.

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