How to Help Male Teenagers Behave in School

Teenage boys sometimes engage in disruptive behavior as a cry for help.

Because the teenage years mark a shift in the behavior of male children, some new behaviors, such as acting up in school, emerge. Effective parents and teachers must acknowledge these misbehaviors as stemming from changes in biology and self-identity. More often than not, parents and teachers can effectively guide male teens away from misbehaving in school by setting clear limits, showing interest in teenagers' activities, and empathizing with teens.

Set clear limits. Do not make the common mistake of believing that teen boys automatically reject all rules; often it is the case that they simply do not understand the rules. Parents and teachers should set clear limits on what is acceptable in school and explain to their teens why such rules are beneficial. At this time, you should also clearly state the consequences of breaking the rules. As many of the problems for teen boys have to do with aggression, assure that you address this topic, which includes verbal aggression as well as physical aggression. An example of setting a clear limit is defining what constitutes taunting and then explaining why taunting in school is unfair to all students. A teacher might explain, “provoking verbal or physical fights in the classroom is disruptive to those who want to learn; this rule is fair to everyone, and I will not put more focus on anyone in particular. Anyone who taunts others will be held after class for discussion.”

Emphasize the future. Take steps in highlighting that there are only a few years left before your children or students enter society. Making this fact pertinent and putting their future plans in the foreground will push teenage boys to focus on their academic performance. Because teenage boys tend to keep distance from parents and teachers, having a heart-to-heart talk is difficult. But you can still show your concern for their future by stressing that these last few years of childhood are crucial to determining where they will be when they reach adulthood. This means talking to teens about their interests and plans. Even research shows that eliciting such information from teens can improve their behavior. T.W. Boyer, scholar and author of the journal article “The Development of Risk-Taking,” mentions that when adults monitor teen interests and activities, teens are less likely to rebel or act in an aggressive manner.

Show understanding to your teens. Help your teenage boy or student turn disruptive expressions of negative emotions into clear statements of what he is feeling. As Edward Dragan, Doctor of Education, states in “The Bully Action Guide,” many instances of antisocial behavior in the school are actually cries for help. As you are likely to understand much of the stress teens are going through, you can help your teen express it in a more positive way. Sit your teen down privately or after class and begin a conversation that shows you understand how he feels, such as by saying, “I understand you feel angry.” You can then shift the conversation into alternative methods of expressing his anger. Set the context of the conversation under a feeling of understanding and emphasize that the teen is the ultimate decision maker, as this will relieve him of the feeling that you are attempting to control his behavior. Let him make the next move by saying, “Releasing your anger by vandalizing your desk is unfair to the school and to other students using your desk. What do you think you could do next time you feel angry?”