Advice from a real teacher.

Dear Mrs. James,
I desperately need your advice! My third child is beginning his teenage years and he's already hit the ground rolling. Smart mouth, rude disposition, gone "Goth," the whole kit and caboodle! He is failing, hates school, hates me for all I know, and is completely turning into someone I don't know. His brothers were nothing like this! I'm asking for your help because I think it has stemmed from school.

A Mom of a Teen

Hey there,
The first thing you're going to have to do is get over the fact that kid #3 is not like his brothers and probably never will be. He's different and that's what makes him special. You're going to have to accept him as he is and take a different approach with this child. That's first on the list. Just let that marinate for a while before you continue reading.

Now, keep this in mind. The teen years can be a very scary time for kids. Teachers don't give them the same support they're used to in earlier grades, but kids are expected to perform well anyway.

They no longer have the comfort and safety of elementary school and are now in many different classrooms with all kinds of unknown kids and teachers.

On their own in a big, intimidating world, they often feel lonely and isolated. And since they're pretty much NEVER going to come to you and express this or say, "Mom, I need you," their cry for help is often masked as belligerent, aggressive, "smart-aleck" behavior. Did you think tantrums ended in preschool? Honey, you're just getting started!

As a middle school teacher, I talk to many parents like you. My teacher friends and I recommend these few tips. (1) Create a genuine bond with your child. If you want your child to trust you, listen to you, and follow your advice, he or she must feel that bond. Yes, you may already feel that you have a bond with your son, but Bobby at 9 is usually a totally different Bobby at 15. You're going to have to create a bond with the new and not-so-improved Bobby. (2) Be a parent, not a parole officer. If you bust in and "lay down the law" you may do more harm than good. My parents would not have agreed, but I think that it may backfire on you. Practice encouragement instead of criticism and ridicule. I was going to give you a few more, but I think this is enough to keep you busy! E-mail me at if you'd like more tips.

Until then ... Keep up the good work!

Mrs. James

Dear Mrs. James,
I'm a mother of a teenager (11th grader) and I am wondering how involved is too involved. A lady in my women's group thinks I'm "extra" involved because I check my daughter's online grades, check in with her daily on how school is going, still talk with her teachers, as well as attend functions during and after school. I don't want to be "that" mom, but I just think she needs my support, you know? Maybe she's just a little too old for it? I mean, I annoy her, but I thought I was supposed to!

Jeannette Gallion

Seriously, forget that lady in your women's group. Who cares what she thinks? I always tell parents: Never stop parenting! Never. Never. Most parents think that the older their kids get, the less they should involve themselves in their education. So not true. As they get older they should have more responsibilities, but you should never stop being involved. Actually, the older they get, the more involved you should be.

So, you think you're supposed to annoy her? Amen, sister. Just keep it all in balance. Don't go overboard. But remember this one thing: Most teenagers wish their parents would annoy them. Of course, it would be, like, totally uncool to admit it, but they do. Some of her friends probably wish they saw their parents in the audience for one of their assemblies or parent-teacher conferences. And even though your child may greet you with an "ugh" and an eye-roll, deep down she wants everything you're doing. She'll also thank you for it later. I always end my advice columns with "keep up the good work," and I am telling you - I mean it more this time than ever!

Keep up the good work!

Mrs. James

Rashaun James is the founder and owner of Mrs. James' Learning Club. As a successful and innovative middle school teacher, one of her many professional achievements includes the OCTELA Teacher of the Year Award. She lives in Columbus with her husband.