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Ask Rosalind: How to Talk About Peer Pressure and Friendship Feuds

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Q. Lately my 13-year-old nephew can't stay out of trouble. He had five detentions this year, picked on kids at school and is constantly lying about small things. His parents have tried every form of discipline and are out of ideas. What will turn their son around?

A. There's always a good reason why kids do what they do. If you can determine the reason, you can usually come up with a solution. Because he started acting out suddenly, I'd say his behavior was sparked by a specific incident. Something is going on in his life (like being bullied or struggling academically and having an unsupportive teacher) that's causing his to lash out. His mom and dad must tell him, "Look, we love you, we've been thinking about this, and there has to be a logical explanation for your behavior. That doesn't mean you're allowed to harass other kids, it just means we want to know why you're doing it. I don't expect you to tell us about everything that's hurting you, but perhaps a starting place is sharing 10 percent. That way, we can begin to understand where you're coming from." The key here is to express empathy and give him the space to explain why he's so angry but still be clear that he is accountable for his actions.

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