Q: Every day, my 12-year-old forgets his homework or says he doesn’t have any. His teacher tells me he disrupts the class and talks out loud when he’s working. Taking away privileges doesn’t work: He doesn’t care! We’ve taken him to a paediatrician, but he’s never been tested for anything. What’s going on?
A: Taking away privileges only works if the child has the capacity to behave differently. Your son gives the impression that he’s not affected by your efforts to discipline him, but this may be his way of letting you know he feels powerless to change things. Consider that your son may be experiencing learning difficulties. Paying attention and concentrating may be difficult for him, especially as academics become more challenging. Ask for a meeting with your son’s teacher to discuss whether he’d benefit from a psycho-educational assessment to identify learning problems. Consult a mental health professional who is experienced working with children to rule out depression and anxiety, which can sometimes go hand in hand with learning difficulties. Your son is entering puberty and he may be preoccupied with changes in himself and how he relates to his peers.