He’s Generally A Good Kid

Dear Dr. Bill,

We recently received two calls from our 11-year-old son’s teacher.  The first time, she told us he wouldn’t stop tapping the desk with his pencil, pretending that he’s playing the drums.  The 2nd time, he kicked another boy’s pencil out into the hallway.

Our son is generally a good kid, so we’re mystified by this behavior.  What do you suggest we do?


Dear Lisa,

You mention that your son is “generally a good kid.”  Are you saying that this is the first time he’s displayed this type of behavior in school?  If so, then it’s likely that there is something going on in his life that is prompting his acting out in the classroom.

Have there been any significant changes or stresses in his life in recent months?  For example, has your son suffered some kind of loss or have you and your husband been experiencing marital conflict?

Unexpressed feelings of sadness or anger could explain why a previously well-behaved child would suddenly begin to exhibit behavior such as you mention.  It’s also possible that his behavior is a cry for attention, perhaps because he’s not receiving enough of your time or attention at home.

On the other hand, if your son has been in trouble at school before, and this is simply a continuation of a previous pattern, then you’ve got much bigger fish to fry.

The best strategy moving forward is to provide your son with a healthy balance of love and limits. Partner with your son’s teacher to set up a system of rewards and punishments.  That way he’ll know there will be unpleasant consequences at home when he misbehaves in the classroom.

Thanks for writing, Lisa.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

Click here for the audio version of this article.