Dear One Tough Muther,

My son is 11 years old and he has always been a well-mannered, sweet, loving kid. He is the light of my life and so intelligent and smart in school, but recently I have seen a change in him. He had started playing baseball with a couple of boys that are known for their trouble making in class, and they have become friends. My mommy red flags are popping up and to my dismay, my son has started to pick up on these bad boy attitudes. He is talking back more, doing less around the house and even had to stay after school for back talking a teacher in front of the class! I have tried everything I can think of to get him to stay away from these boys aside from forbidding him, I am afraid if I do that he will just want to hang around with them more while my husband and I are at work. What can I do to prevent the bad attitude he’s picking up from getting worse?

One very upset mom

Dear One Very Upset Mom,

Yup, around this age 11/12/13 years old when boys really start to assert their individuality and independence. They mimic the “tough guy, cool kids” and will push boundaries as far as they can. This usually is to get attention from the other guys, AND impress the girls as well as to get praise from their peers for being cool. All a huge recipe for disaster and self destruction.
Mother I have to think you are doing the right thing not forbidding your son to play ball with these “bad boys.” Seriously not that you could control who he hangs with in school, so Mother it is time to get tough. Draw the line in the sand with simple, clear, direct and easy to understand action and reaction scenarios.
Example: Action-your grades slide, Reaction-a consequence/punishment. Action-you mouth off, Reaction-a consequences/punishment. Action-you get in trouble in school, Reaction-a consequence/punishment. AND stick to it. Consistency is key. Next I would keep him very busy with organized sports, martial arts or clubs of interests he loves after school. Bored kid-Big trouble. Keeping his time tied up and him involved with lots of other boys, the better off you will be.
I know it is tough when you work but I did it with 4 you can figure it out.
Last, time for Dad to step up and really get super involved with your son. Maybe Dad could coach or assistant coach his team, take him fishing regularly or join martial arts or a gym with him. Dad could show him there are better ways to look tough, get noticed and find his place in the hardest time of his young life so far, becoming a young man.
Good luck Mother, I’m passing the torch to you, the time has come to become One Tough Muther!

Huge Hugs,

One Tough Muther

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