The Problem: I overheard my middle-school age son talking to friends about ditching a class. I absolutely do not want my child thinking that is OK or cool, but also don’t want to overreact to teen talk. How can I approach the subject and make clear that it’s not OK, without driving him closer to doing it?
The Expert: Christa Jimenez is a former high school teacher who now blogs about raising bilingual kids at puravidamoms.com.
The Solution: No matter what, your two main goals are to strengthen the relationship with your child and to help them identify positive and negative choices. This is the perfect opportunity to do so in a fairly low stakes scenario—ditching a middle school class is not a good habit, but it also isn’t the end of the world. Here’s how to have the conversation:
1. Check your assumptions. Since you didn’t hear your child agree to ditch, be careful not to assume that he’s on board with it or he could feel you lack faith in him. Instead, use this as an opportunity to open up a discussion about ditching.
2. Find the right time and place. Choose a situation in which you think your child would be most comfortable without feeling threatened—a car ride, taking a walk, or face-to-face. He shouldn’t be stressed, tired, hungry, or sad.
3. Summarize and listen. After briefly summarizing what you overheard (no judgment!) ask him what he thought about the conversation. There are probably two scenarios he will come up with:
- He doesn’t agree with what his friends did. (Great. But you aren’t done yet.)
- He might be curious about what it would be like to ditch. (This is natural—don’t freak out. If he knows ditching will get a rise out of you, he’s more tempted to do it.)
4. Ask questions. Has he ever thought about ditching? Does it seem cool? Why or why not? What does he know about the consequences of ditching?
5. Talk about you. Give an example from your own life of when you did something that wasn’t the best idea and you had to suffer the consequences.
6. Outline the consequences. Find out what the school’s consequences are for ditching. Then, walk through them with him, and add your own if necessary.
Chances are, your child will ultimately make the right choice not to ditch classes. By taking the time to talk through it, you’ve taught your son how to handle a tough situation.
The hope is that your son keeps coming to you for advice. If he thinks you’re unreasonable when he shares his burdens, he’ll go to his peers instead—and that’s not the best scenario for you or your child.