Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 10 Jul 2008

Help! After a year at secondary school our 12-year-old daughter has become a rebel whose work is going backwards.

Hillary's Advice

I imagine many readers shrugging at this point and saying: so what? That’s normal. But I don’t believe that adolescents inevitably turn into snarling, antisocial monsters. In fact to assume so is highly damaging all round
Yes, teens can be moody and difficult, but basic social codes must still apply. If young people receive respect from their teachers and parents, then adults have every right to expect the same thing back.
In this case, this girl’s father writes that she has become “popular, super-confident and a handful for teachers. At home she is cheeky, sarcastic and full of backchat.” He does not know what to do.
Well, for starters, take a very tough line on the backchat and tell her that you find this rude and upsetting and expect better of her. Then talk to her. Talk about how genuinely confident and popular people don’t need to throw their weight about like this, and about how the way that people approach their work shows how much – or little – they respect themselves. Talk about how you’re worried about how she’s behaving at the moment and are wondering if there is anything about her new school that means she feels she has to act like this. She may not appear to listen, but carry on anyway.
Then, at the beginning of next term, make an appointment to see her new form tutor, outline your worries and agree on a common approach to helping your daughter move on. If you do all this with love and firmness, confidently expecting that things will get better, they almost certainly will.